Hillman City’s Karl Hackett, of Jacob Willard Home, started his mid-century collectibles business out of his home in Seward Park in 2011 after leaving the mortgage business. He caught the collecting bug early, while still a boy, but it wasn’t always vintage mid-century furniture and the like that struck his fancy. In fact, he grew up in a mid-century modern style home and was inspired by his father’s taste in home decor, but Karl says he didn’t appreciate the unique look and feel of the style at the time, it was just what home looked like. 

A peek inside Jacob Willard Home just inside the storefront windows

Karl’s early collections were of stamps, marbles, silver coins, pretty much anything a kid can collect. He started collecting vintage furniture in his 20s. Pondering his taste in mid-century modern as an adult, Karl wonders if it has something to do with his childhood home. “Some of my best memories as a kid,” he said, “were when we lived in that house,” speaking of the mid-century-style house he and his family lived in. Karl thinks that perhaps the aesthetics of the house, its original finishings and the like, inspired his affection for the period and style. Jacob Willard Home is named after the Hackett’s son, Jacob, whose middle name is Willard (Karl’s father’s name). 

A pair of arm chairs await the future home they’ll decorate with mid-century charm

While the Hackett’s son Jacob was in his infancy, the home business made for a good side hustle and outlet for Karl’s perennial need to collect rare items. Karl stayed home with Jacob during the day and ran the small business while his wife worked and he went to work in the building maintenance industry at night. The Hackett’s sold vintage furniture, bicycles, lamps, and more on Craigslist, posting some smaller items on Ebay. “We did anything and everything I had an interest in,” says Karl of the home business.

The family leveled up when they decided to host a series of yard sales one summer. The sales were an instant success. They hosted the sales again the following summer and they were met with the same eager customers and connoisseurs of vintage modern items. During this time, Karl says their home turned into something of a warehouse. Taking the business to the next level with a brick and mortar shop was the obvious next step. Karl stockpiled his goods for over a year before leasing his shop on Rainier Avenue in April, 2014. The family moved to Hillman City to be closer to the store. On living and working in Hillman City, Karl says, “As a resident and a person of color, it’s hard to understate the value of the diversity of culture that exists here and what that means for my family.”

Five and a half years later, Jacob Willard Home is still going strong and the business model has evolved to include a variety of services. The store not only offers an eclectic stock of primarily mid-century modern furniture, but also lighting of the same era, and even some art and other fun stuff. Additionally, they offer upholstery and refinishing services. When customers come in looking for specific, hard-to-find vintage items, Karl makes it his job to probe the market, using his connections to scout out and acquire rare pieces. The store also has a vintage record store annex and sells record players and home audio equipment. There’s even a sound booth. Jacob Willard Home is the sole retailer of hyper-local custom audio gear made by Sick Tree Audio who build their custom audio gear out of an in-home workshop in Columbia City. 

A custom-built Sick Tree Audio record player

Living in Seward Park before moving to Hillman City, the Hackett family has called Southeast Seattle home for some time. All three of Karl’s children went to Orca Elementary, his youngest, Jacob—who the shop is partially named for—still attends the school. His two older daughters went on to graduate from Franklin High. 

Karl says it didn’t take long after he moved his business into Hillman City’s commercial core that he recognized that “We, as small businesses, needed to organize if we were ever going to effectively advocate for ourselves.” Fortunately this was an opinion shared by others and he soon embarked on an initiative to resurrect the defunct Hillman City Business Association (HCBA) along with other business owners—Matthew Stubbs, owner of Big Chickie restaurant, Alyssa Royse, owner and trainer at Rocket CrossFit, Joya Iverson, and former owner of Tin Umbrella coffee shop (sold to Onda Origins). Hillman City, Karl says, had long been lost in the city’s blind spot and “We, as small business owners, could not afford for it to remain there.” 

Karl takes a call at Jacob Willard Home on Friday, September 6, 2019

Karl’s continues that collaborative work for the betterment of Hillman City today as chair of the HCBA and member of the Rainier Ave Business Coalition, a partnership with the neighboring Columbia City Business Association (CCBA). The two groups saw the value in joining forces and formed the coalition, whose work they hope will benefit not only Hillman and Columbia City but the pockets of businesses between and around the two neighborhoods that are not currently being served by a business association. For Karl, it’s not just about ensuring that his own business is poised to survive, indeed thrive—it’s also about fighting for what’s right. He has a natural inclination to advocate for others. He and the members of both business associations believe in the notion that they are stronger together. Learn more about the Rainier Ave Business Association here

In an effort to keep up with demand and growth at his store, Karl has created Facebook and Instagram pages for the shop where he can not only show off his refinishing and refurbishing skills in before/after photos, but also keep the public apprised of his inventory. Jacob Willard Home specializes in vintage furniture, lighting, records and audio gear, but they also occasionally acquire contemporary pieces. Their Facebook page sums up their inventory at any given time: “Ultimately, if it’s cool, interesting, collectible, and we can get our hands on it…you may just see it here.”

Classic and contemporary lamps give Jacob Willard Home a warm glow.  

The shop’s mission is a testament to Karl’s high standards for quality work and matching services to needs as well as outstanding customer service. It reads: “At Jacob Willard Home we focus on matching your need with our commitment to provide the highest quality customer care. Whether you’re in need of one of our concierge services or you’ve found a piece in our growing inventory that you simply can’t live without; our objective is to find a way to exceed your expectations.”   

Visit Karl—and son Jacob after school lets out—Tuesday through Saturday, 12–7 PM. Find Jacob Willard Home in the heart of Hillman City at 5600 Rainier Ave S. (Suite D). Give Karl a call on the shop phone at 206-290-8619 if you have questions about his services.

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