clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

RIP Gary Snyder of Heyday and Geraldine’s Counter

The “unofficial mayor” of Columbia City has died of lymphoma

The storefront at Geraldine’s Counter Geraldine’s Counter
Harry Cheadle is the editor of Eater Seattle.

Last week the Seattle Times reported that Gary Snyder, the longtime owner of Columbia City institution Geraldine’s Counter and Mount Baker burger bar Heyday, had died from lymphoma at the age of 57.

Snyder is remembered for the larger-than-life personality and magnetism that he possessed even when he was a young waiter at Duke’s Seafood, where, the Times says, he was so charming that men and women thought he was flirting with them. He worked at Belltown hotspots Queen City and Palace Kitchen before buying Mediterranean restaurant El Greco with his business partner Stacey Hettinger in 2002, which they later turned into Table 219. “Snyder, Hettinger and their likable staff have honed the art of hospitality to a fine edge,” a Times food critic wrote in 2008 before relaying this story about Snyder:

When a couple dropped in for a drink just before closing on a Saturday night, Snyder suggested a glass of Januik red, one of the priciest wines on the short list, but said he’d charge half the $12 price. “The bottle’s already open, and we’ll be closed for the next two days,” was his smart rationale. “It won’t be much good by Tuesday.”

(The days when an expensive glass of wine was $12!)

Snyder and Hettinger went on to open Geraldine’s Counter — named for Snyder’s mom — in 2005, and Snyder launched Heyday with Dang Nguyen in 2015. Geraldine’s Counter has since become a neighborhood classic in Columbia City, justifiably famous for its French Toast but it was about more than the food — Snyder and his team helped cultivate a welcoming atmosphere that customers could clearly feel. He was so well-known around Columbia City that some people called him the “unofficial mayor” of the neighborhood.

He made people feel seen and heard and he was genuinely interested in them,” Sherwin Tolentino, Snyder’s life partner, who met Snyder at Table 219, told the Times.

On Instagram, Hettinger shared her remembrance of Snyder:

Gary had a way of making you feel special and seen. He was flirtatious and caring, asking you how your family was and connecting with you in a way that made you feel like you were the only one in the room. Over the course of 22 years his staff became his friends and an extension of his family.

Snyder is survived by Tolentino and his twin sons Jake and Luke.

Geraldine's Counter

4872 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118 (206) 723-2080 Visit Website


3612 Southeast 82nd Avenue, , OR 97266