Sonic Boom Focuses on Local Involvement

Posted on for Class Assignment:

Along NW Market Street lies Sonic Boom Records, know by many Seattleites as the premier record store for all things Northwest and musical. Sonic Boom Records first opened in Freemont in 1997 then moved to a larger space in Freemont and by 2001 had moved to Ballard followed by Capitol Hill in 2003. The Ballard location is the only store that remains as result of a lack of demand for record stores, a feeling commonly found in Seattle and the digital age.


Jason Hughes and Nabil Ayers, co-owners of Sonic Boom, met working at Easy Street Records and bonded over an appreciation of music. Both were involved in various bands, Ayers most well known for his involvement with The Long Winters and Hughes for Carmine and Six Minute Mile.

Hughes is passionate about local businesses, in past years he organized a shop local campaign, and involved more than thirty local businesses in promoting thinking locally.

Hughes also administers a Facebook page in which Ballard storeowners report shoplifters and update each other on neighborhood activity. “Owners usually find a picture from their videos of the shop-lifter then post a picture of the shoplifters face on the Facebook page, so that other owners know who to look for.” The group has expanded so much that the group now has ‘eyes on the street’, otherwise known as the owner of Ninja BBQ, Siam Sukrachan, who can spot shoplifters on the street and post updates on his phone.

All business aside, Hughes is driven by music. He describes Sonic Boom as “a store with a well curated selection that is customer driven.” The store conducts house calls a few times a month, which involves Hughes and various staff traveling to a potential sellers house to buy their record collections. “Sometimes we leave the house with two cars full of records.”


Matt, an employee at Sonic Boom, works at Sonic Boom for his love of music, and through his job has come to appreciate every genre of music. “There’s good in every genre if you look for it,” he says. As with many of the employees at Sonic Boom, Matt is unsure as to what brought him to Seattle. “I just came here in 1997 and I’ve been here ever since.” Hughes’ experienced a similar observation, after graduating Berkley College Hughes “jumped on 1-5 and never stopped until Seattle.” Another employee, Greg, moved to Seattle because his car broke down here as he was heading down the Pacific coastline.

Most employees at Sonic Boom have a history in music, whether it be in performance or industry. Greg “dabbled in various instruments” but now resides to a sideline appreciation for underground rock. Matt has no experience preforming, “other than the clarinet in my middle school days,” he chuckles.

Sonic Boom is all about music. It’s employees love music, the owners have a history in the industry and the company focuses on local and small labels for stock. The shop is a Seattle classic that brings Seattleites from all neighborhoods to Ballard.


Students Advocate for Disabilities on Campus

Published in the Spectator:

Shandra Benito uses two words to describe her day: educate and advocate. These words consume her days as a student at Seattle University. As a part of Coalition for Students with Disabilities, Benito fights ignorance–which is surprisingly common on campus.

Many might argue that Seattle U is one of the least ignorant campuses in the PNW but ignorance can be broken into so many categories. The ignorance, of which Benito speaks, is that on disabilities. One would never guess that Benito was born Deaf, or that she reads lips to understand what in the world you are blabbering about.

When Benito came to Seattle U in 2009, she felt lost. “There’s no community for people with disabilities,” Benito said. “There’s no space for people who understand.” For this reason, she along with three other students are forming this Coalition for Students with Disabilities as well as the Disability Services Student Advisory Board.

CSD logo“We have three goals; the first is to create a space and voice for students with disabilities. The second goal is advocacy.” According to Benito, there is no organization on campus that can hold someone or a group accountable for when something regarding the disabled community goes wrong.

“Our final goal is education, the education of students and faculty in disabilities and to show them the gifts that these disabilities bring but also the needs.”

It goes without question that Benito is passionate about advocacy for disabilities. But her passion is even greater fueled by encounters she has had at Seattle University. An interpreter accompanies every class, lecture and meeting she attends.

Interpreters provided by Disabilities Services Office will then situate themselves across from Benito, and translate English to American Sign Language (ASL). This seemingly common and usual event has been difficult at times though. Professors used to ask Benito if the interpreter was her parent, a strange question to ask a junior in college.

When Benito explains the interpreter’s purpose, some professors begin to believe that Benito herself needs more help in the classwork, or they raise their voices when speaking to Benito—regardless of her being a Sullivan scholar. Other times professors have asked interpreters to move or “be less distracting”.

“They just have no idea have to act around a student with disabilities.”

Another student involved with the coalition is Alex Stoffel, a sophomore journalism major. Stoffel and her parents were faced with a decision to have a life changing surgery 13 years ago, that left her paralyzed. She sees this change as “not a loss of two legs, but a gain of four wheels.”

Her gain of wheels has also provided for frustration. With on-campus events and OAR trips, it is never a question of whether or not Stoffel can make time to attend, but also are these college experiences accessible, and what facilities define as “accessible”.

Every person is “temporarily able-bodied”, according to Stoffel. Circumstances can change in a second. An accident, spontaneous cancer or other illness can arise in a minute, a few weeks, a year. Once a person breaks their leg, is diagnosed with a form of cancer, or has an ear infection, their access to the world changes. One might not consider the difficulty for someone to go from the lower to upper mall on campus, unless they are in a wheelchair, or on crutches. Elevator access between malls is time consuming and limited. Printers, a basic in college lifestyle, become inaccessible if they are placed on high tables.

“It’s exhausting to have a disability,” Stoffel says. “It’s understandable why some people are bitter [when they have a disability].” But Stoffel is the opposite of bitter, and one of the most positive people at Seattle U. But she is tired, tired of the lack of advocacy on campus and the ignorance that she faces. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t had this happen to me,” she says.
Disability Services, located in Loyola 100, serves about 700 undergrad students at Seattle U campus, which is roughly 17 percent of undergrads. Rich Okamoto, Director of Disability Services, is well-aware of how thinly stretched the office is. He has worked closely with Benito, Stoffel and Natasha Hansen-Day with forming the Coalition for Students with Disabilities.

Okamoto hopes that the coalition will close the gap in the education of the community concerning disabilities as well as faculty members. The Disability Services office provides mostly academic and housing support for students with disabilities, which is in accordance with Act 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which requires public and private colleges that use federal funds must make their programs accessible to students with disabilities[1].

Okamoto, who has worked at Seattle U since 2000, understands the difficulties students face with identity, and thinks the coalition will help students with disabilities develop a voice on campus and also gain self-acceptance of themselves and their disabilities. “Its important that there is a place for students to interact with other students who have had similar experiences.”

Natasha Hansen-Day, a sophomore at Seattle U, could not agree with Okamoto more, “I only became more accepting of myself after talking to Shandra [Benito]. Through her I found that it was okay to be Deaf.” Hansen-Day was not born Deaf, but as a result of a cyst-removal in her right ear, she lost most of her hearing. Here at Seattle U, she alternates between lip-reading and a professional ‘real-time captioner’ to type out what is being said in the class. Before meeting Benito, Hansen-Day was unaware of Disability Services, and accordingly went without services her freshman year.

Hansen-Day is leaving Seattle U and transferring to University of Washington (UW). The disability services offered at UW far exceed that at Seattle U. They offer students the whole package of services, both academic and social. UW also offers a Disability Services major and minor. But Hansen-Day’s journey with Seattle U will not end when she transfers to UW next year, she is still excited to work with the coalition at Seattle U. Hansen-Day hopes to bring successful ideas from UW to Seattle U, as well as resources and overall excitement.

Along with the Coalition that will be forming is a Disability Services Student Advisory Board, which will allow users of Disability Services to directly inform the office what is needed and what is not.  The Board hopes to expand Disability Services towards what students need, and hopes to do so through sharing issues and ideas with the office.

The Coalition for Students with Disabilities is hosting a forum on May 30th at 4pm, in a location to be determined, to introduce itself to the community and also hold a campus climate to discuss disabilities and issues.

The members of the coalition are hopeful of the affects the group will have on campus, with education as well as widened access. Benito hopes when she graduates next year that Seattle U will have a structure, community, and place for students with disabilities.

If you have questions regarding the coalition, please email Shandra Benito at

If you have questions regarding the student advisory board, please email Alex Stoffel at

[1] “Publications.” ADA Q & A: Section 504 & Postsecondary Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2013.

Change in Ballard Leads to Mixed Feelings

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Maxx Follis has made Ballard her home. She has lived and worked in the Seattle neighborhood for over two years now, she is one with the locals. Follis knows the best places to eat, where you might be able to find a parking spot. She also knows that Ballard is experiencing uncontrolled expansion. “New apartment buildings keep getting built, but no one is living in them. Stores keep cycling through because no one is shopping there”

An employee at Second Ascent, an outdoor and adventure store located on Ballard Avenue, had made the same observation, “these new apartments don’t fit in with the theme of Ballard, which is historic and traditional.” The employee asked to anonymous but was clear about their thoughts on construction in the neighborhood, “Ballard is full of restaurants, most of which are new within the last few years. It’s become more of a restaurant neighborhood than anything else.”

The result of this rise in restaurants is a parking conundrum. Even during the lull hours of a Tuesday mid-afternoon parking is sparse among the streets.

2013-05-01 16.35.57To counteract this problem one local business, the Olympic Athletic Club, located at the intersection of NW Vernon Place and Ballard Avenue, has taken an old dirt lot adjacent to the club and built an expansion of the gym, featuring a hotel and three floors of underground parking.

This change has angers some locals, like the staff at Second Ascent, but Follis is grateful for the parking-relief. “Many of the spots are taken by gym members, hopefully now with the new lot installed parking can open up for everyone else.”

Jenny Monroe, owner of Jax Joon and longtime Ballard resident, isn’t concerned about the new parking and hotel complex. She is too focused on the loss of the Viking Tavern, which was one of the only Scandinavian businesses remaining in Ballard that recently closed to make way for a new apartment complex in it’s place.

Monroe is questioning how locals can allow the Ballard’s Scandinavian roots to fade into a distance and yet be so concerned about parking in the neighborhood.

Long-time residents of the Viking Tavern were shocked when they learned of the closing of the local pub, many shared fond memories of nights spent there.

“The dynamic is changing, as well as the local crowd,” Monroe observes. The nightlife in Ballard consists of twenty-somethings from the U District as well as Capitol Hill, causing many locals to stay away from main streets on the weekends.

Residents of Ballard are slowly realizing the affect that comes with new apartments, parking garages and lost gems. Time is the test to see if Ballard can hold sacred to it’s heritage as a neighborhood.