In 1930, Rachel and Raphael Capeluto—Jewish immigrants from the island of Rhodes—founded the Seattle Curtain Manufacturing Company, which was to play a major role in the local Sephardi community, then as now one of the largest in the U.S. Their factory, having ceased operation some time ago, was sold last year, and recently demolished. As Hannah Pressman writes, it was located in a neighborhood known as the Kosher Canyon, which was “the original commercial and religious heart of Seattle’s Jewish community.”
Between the 1920s and the 1960s, this vibrant corridor of kosher butchers, bakers, and grocery stores offered everything from special Purim candies to arroz molido, the finely ground rice used to make sutlach, a sweet rice pudding beloved by the many Ottoman Jewish immigrants who resided nearby. On Rosh Hashanah kids would synagogue-hop among the different houses of worship lining East Fir Street, before the two Sephardi synagogues moved south to the neighborhood of Seward Park and nestled near the shores of Lake Washington.
During its long lifespan, Seattle Curtain—known to the community simply as “the factory”—witnessed [many changes] in Seattle’s Jewish orientation points, yet the company’s founding principles remained the same: work hard, treat employees like family, honor your religion, and give back.
The business’s Jewish identity was always integral to its operation: the factory closed for Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, and workers exchanged Ladino expressions on the floor. . . . In addition to curtains, [it] created wraparound vinyl coverings for the sukkah walls at local residences and synagogues.