Few buildings in Tacoma can rival what is now Jazzbones for serving up more things that sizzle, pop and groove as the wood-framed, two-story building. The otherwise nondescript shop has been a pharmacy, a grocery store, an electrical repair shop, a dance hall, a landmark pizza shop, a pub and a musical venue that now anchors the 6th Ave Tacoma entertainment strip.

Built around 1900, it was first home to the Roice Pharmacy and Bell Drug Co. Edward Roice had already operated drugstores for a decade – moving twice along that stretch of Tacoma before then settling into the 2801 6th Avenue location. He had arrived in 1890 and worked as a drugstore clerk for W.P. Bonney before he set out on his own three years later. He would find success and then leveraged that business knowledge into a political career when he was elected to serve as the city’s representative for Tacoma’s Seventh Ward in the election of 1901. Of course, Bonney would go on to write the definitive “History of Pierce County,” which is a must-have collection for anyone interested in local history. That’s a story for another time, however. Now, back to the building.

Roice Pharmacy
The first business in the building was a drugstore operated by Edward A. Roice. He had three along 6th Avenue during the early years of Tacoma, so this photo could have been from either of those other locations. Photo courtesy: Tacoma Public Library

The structure would see the retail and residential neighborhood largely grow up around it during the passing decades. It would then become a Victory Grocery Store. The grocer had started in 1919 as Victory Ice Cream Co. from a shop down the street only to then outgrow it. The building became a grocery store when the dairy operations expanded further and required a new production and distribution facility on what is now South Tacoma Way. All was fairly quiet, although there was a rash of three robberies in less than a year in the early 1950s. Maybe it is because of those crimes that the shop changed hands to then become Cunningham Electric in 1952.

Puget Sound old-timers might remember the pizzeria’s slogan “Got a Pizza Cravin’, Call Pizza Haven” that aired on radio stations around Puget Sound in the days when pizza delivery was a novelty. Pizza Haven would even sell pizza from trucks much like ice cream trucks do today. The fourth pizzeria in the Washington chain would call the 6th Avenue location home for generations.

“The pizzas that were made there in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s would rival any independent pizza today,” former Pizza Haven manager Phil Blackledge said, noting that the ingredients were prepped daily and the quality standards were the tightest in the industry back then. He said the trick was using fresh ingredients and the right amount of corn flour so the crust was firm and watching over the pizzas as they cooked.  

Jazzbones
Alongside being a music venue, Jazzbones hosts artists markets and other community events. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger

The Seattle-based chain started in 1958 and would grow to a peak of 42 stores. The 6th Avenue location would consistently outsell higher-profile locations in the Emerald City. The rise of discount pizza chains, however, meant quality suffered in the latter years. Local pizzerias battled for dough against larger chains moving into the area. Margins shrank, so the chain cut corners. Pizza Haven would disappear into bankruptcy by the late 1990s, but Tacomans of a certain generation still talk about their Pizza Haven experiences as customers or employees.

“There is a nostalgia element to it,” Blackledge said, ranking Pizza Haven alongside the memory-inducing Cliff House, Frisko Freeze and Harbor Lights.

The location’s Victory Music Hall storefront would lumber along with folk music acts to then become the Victory Pub following a 1995 remodel. It would become Jazzbones at the Victory in 2000, then Jazzbones Jazz and Blues Club in later years and then just Jazzbones today.

jazzbones Vicci Martinez
Singer-songwriter turned Orange is the New Black star Vicci Martinez got her start at Jazzbones when she was still in high school. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger

Rachel Hogan bought the place in 2017, after years of shilling drinks there as a bartender. She hadn’t really plan on owning a bar. The former owner wanted to retire but also ensure the new owners kept it a venue for live music and convinced Hogan to make the leap. The building then got a new coat of paint, new sound system and new menu, but music continues.

“We’ve been keeping it the same,” she said, noting that keeping a heavily trafficked, century-old building running property is an everyday challenge. “It’s pretty extensive. It seems like every day, something breaks.” Jazzbones is located at 2803 6th Avenue, Tacoma, Washington 98406. For more information, visit their website or Facebook page.

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