What was the first really big retail store in Gig Harbor? It wasn't Ernst. Nor was it Target, Home Depot, or even Costco. In 1915 the Atlantic Trading Company general store (possibly also known as IXL Hardware) was established in Gig Harbor, instantly becoming the biggest retailer in town. Backed by one or more of the wealthiest people in Gig Harbor, described by The Seattle Daily Times as the "'Wall Street' interests of the hamlet," the store had such an unusually large variety of goods that the newspaper called it the Wanamaker's of Gig Harbor, in comparison with one of the most famous department stores on the East coast. Where in Gig Harbor the store was located is not known ... yet.
As grand and ambitious as the enterprise was, it turned out to be a colossal failure, going out of business before the year was out. The owner claimed he could make more money lending cash to Allied countries involved in what would come to be known as World War One than in retailing locally. (The U.S. was not yet involved in the war.) Regardless of the real reason for the closing of the business, in October the entire inventory of the store was loaded onto barges in the harbor and towed to Seattle where it was liquidated at bargain prices. The liquidator, Russian immigrant Israel Myer (Meyer) Aronson, in his first retail experience in Seattle after moving from Pennsylvania, was so successful with the sale (held half a block south of the Pike Place Market) that in December he announced he would continue to sell similar merchandise at similar prices at the same location. The Aronson Mercantile Co. quickly evolved into Aronson Hardware and would be a fixture on the same block for fifty years. The family eventually switched from retail sales to industrial sales under the name Aronson Industrial Supply Company. The business still exists today as Aronson-Campbell Industrial Supply Inc., located in Bellevue.
The Northwest Room at the Tacoma Public Library responded to my request for information:
We have found no reference at all to an Atlantic Trading Company after a thorough search.
Special Collections/Northwest Room
Tacoma Public Library
253.292.2001 ext. 1605
I am still awaiting the response from the Washington State Archives.