Tucked behind Totem Square is a treasure trove of items any collector of memorabilia from World War II would love.
“(World War II soldiers) had the time of their lives while they could,” The War Front store manager Marie Samson said, adding many people become collectors as a way to remember their parents or grandparents who joined the war effort. “That generation defines what it means to be an American.”
Instead of just consigning and selling the items in the store, Samson takes the time to learn and share the history behind the pieces.
“There’s a mix of history and human stories here,” she said. “I’m here not just to sell but to engage with people and have dialogues.”
Some of the items, including Nazi memorabilia, can be controversial, and she said it’s important to share the stories of both the Allies and the Axis powers, relaying a story about an uncle of one of the store owners being recruited as a Hitler Youth, befriending American soldiers, moving to the United States and later joining the U.S. Navy.
“(World War II) is more complex than what you learn about in school,” Samson said, adding she is careful not to sell any of the Nazi items to people who might use them as propaganda.
The War Front opened a couple months ago in Kirkland, and it is the second location for the business, which has its first location in Portland. “There’s a big market in Seattle (for war memorabilia) as well,” Samson said.
She met the store’s owners, Lawrence Martin and Andrew Merget, through participating in living history events.
“The three of us are long-time history buffs,” Martin, who is a U.S. Army veteran, said. “All of us got bit by the bug.”
In addition to World War II items, the store also sells memorabilia from World War I and the Vietnam War. “Something about those eras speaks to us, and a lot of other people are into what we’re into,” Martin, who has been collecting war memorabilia since he was 12, said.
Samson also hopes to add a section for other pieces from the World War II era to a room at the back of the Kirkland store, which they have yet to utilize. “I want to expand our vintage homefront collection,” she said.
The address for the Kirkland location is 11925 124th Ave. NE, No. 5, near Ryan James Fine Arts and Northwest Cellars. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. These limited hours give Samson and the owners the time to go out and visit collectors to consign items for the stores.
“It’s a little bit of a labor of love,” Samson said of the work put in to find items to stock the stores with unique items. “It makes it fun to come to work every day.”
In addition to managing the Kirkland store, Samson also manages the company’s website, thewarfront.com, and does marketing and communications work for the business.
“We would not be where we are without Marie,” Martin said. “She’s a real hard charger in this company.”
The three of them continue to go to various events and museums as living historians, something Samson’s been doing for four years now. “I owe this hobby to many people,” she said. “It’s been a great journey, and it’s not over.”
For more information about The War Front, call 425-553-5400, visit the store’s website or find the store on Facebook.