This anonymous post about the Yardbirds store was originally posted on the Olyblog.net site in 2006 and was captured by the Wayback Machine.
“It was like Wal-Mart on acid,” is the way I’ve heard the old Yard Birds/Sea Mart explained to those who never had the pleasure of shopping at the Olympia landmark that held our fascination for over three decades. Being from out of town, Evergreen students were particularly spellbound by the place that local people had pretty much accepted as normal. It was a frequent topic at parties when local eccentricities were discussed.
Yard Birds/Sea Mart filled three city blocks in the area between the present Farmer’s Market and the Phoenix Inn. It consisted of two buildings (connected by a staff-only sky bridge over Capitol Way) and an enormous parking lot. On more than one occasion it had been said in Evergroove circles that Hell was probably being condemned to sit on a sheet of tinfoil in the Sea Mart parking lot on a hot August day.
The outside of the buildings were adorned with huge cartoon murals of pirates, deep sea divers, and ocean creatures. They also had the Yard Birds mascot, an oversize statue of a cartoon black crow with a yellow beak and gloves. Sometimes this statue would find itself in odd places, like the roof of the Olympia High School administration building.
The Sea Mart building on the east, as I recall, was the grocery end of things. The Yard Birds side on the west was sort of a home improvement/Army surplus blend. It smelled like canvas and popcorn, evoking the circus it really was. They also had a restaurant with a maritime motif and giant crabs displayed on the walls.
Just to add a little twist, next to Yard Birds was Harvey’s Pet Store. This place was an overcrowded, smelly cacophony of an animal prison. I don’t think Harvey sold any caimans, but he did have a lot of exotic pets for sale. If it hadn’t burned down, I’m sure Harvey’s would’ve been a big target for animal rights activists in later years.
The building that became Sea Mart had originally been some sort of packing plant, maybe for fish. When Sea Mart first opened they had a promotional indoor carnival. I have this memory that reaches ‘way back to 1959 or 1960 where my Dad and I are going to the Sea Mart building at night and inside are neon lit rides for little kids. Far from being the delightful treat it was meant to be, it made my hair stand up on end (Well, since I had a crew cut, the mandatory haircut of the era, my hair was up on end anyway, but you know what I mean). It was like a scene out of Carnival of Souls.
And that weird feeling never went away. I still get it just by driving by the area where the store used to be.