Historic cafe in Ketchikan demolished

KETCHIKAN — A Ketchikan cafe that’s been in business for about 80 years has been torn down to make way for retail and living space.

James “Jimmy” Tanino and his wife, Hide, both from Japan, opened Jim’s Cafe in the 1930s. The building was once a popular hangout for mill workers, cannery hands, fisherman and patrons of nearby brothels, The Ketchikan Daily News reported.

The building was brought down by work crews over the past week.

George Tanino, 78, ordered the demolition, saying he couldn’t do much to resurrect the dilapidated building that housed his family’s business for most of the 20th century.

“I think it was time for it to go. I just didn’t have my priorities correct in order to save it,” Tanino said.

James Tanino died in 1971 and his wife passed away nearly a decade later.

“For them, they were one of these immigrants who constantly worked, I mean, there were no holidays; whether it’s Christmas, they were open; Thanksgiving, they were open; Fourth of July, they were open,” George Tanino said.

Tanino’s plans for the new two-story building include street-level shops and living quarters on the upper level.

“Upstairs will be one apartment that I’ll be living in,” Tanino said. “I’m comfortable living in Ketchikan, so I think it’s going to work out fine.”

He said construction crews will work to make sure it complements the Stedman-Thomas Historic District, which is a concern for Stephen Reeve, executive director of Historic Ketchikan. Reeve said he wished the building could have been saved.

“In this case, it got to the point of really being beyond the point of its useful life, just because it needed so much maintenance and other things,” Reeve said. “I don’t think there was really any choice, sad as it may be.”

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