West Seattle businesspeople start a conversation you’ll want to join

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

With new development projects going up, more people moving in, our changing community is a perennially intense discussion topic, whether you’re talking with friends over coffee or commenting here on WSB.

What we don’t talk about nearly as often are the ongoing changes in the West Seattle business community, and how they affect your quality of life.

Right now, local business owners from Admiral to The Junction to Morgan Junction, north to south, east to west, are launching an effort to get the conversation going – and to get you involved – before waves of change sweep away so much that it’s too late to talk, to plan, to collaborate.

This isn’t just about another “shop local” slogan or exhortation. An initial meeting last week involved more than a dozen local business reps, according to Susan Melrose from the West Seattle Junction Association, who convened that first conversation, and with whom we spoke afterward. (Keep in mind, though, this is not a Junction-specific situation – it’s West Seattle-wide.)

The good news is that unlike many neighborhoods in the U.S., West Seattle still has independent businesses with character and variety, many with history, too.

The challenges to their sustainability include ones plaguing independent businesses nationwide, like “showrooming” – treating independent local businesses as “showrooms” where you can go, check out merchandise in person, use their phone to compare pricing, then buy it online from a non-local business to save a few bucks.

As the old saying goes, that may be penny-wise but pound-foolish, in ways beyond your, and their, direct bottom lines.

What local businesses don’t often get credit for is the other ways in which they contribute to the community. You might think first of the jobs they create, not just for employees, but for the business owners themselves, many if not most of them local residents, often raising their families here in West Seattle.

Something not as obvious: Consider, for example, school funding, and the need for PTAs and other groups to raise money for what used to be the basics. So often, that comes through benefit events such as auctions. Most of the items that are auctioned are donated by local businesses, who give generously and frequently to other types of nonprofits as well.

Also: Community events enjoyed around West Seattle every year are supported by sponsorships which again come mostly from local businesses, contributing money and materials.

The initial discussion, according to Melrose, also touched on how independent businesses help give the community its character. It’s not just in the items they sell, but also storefronts’ appearance – remember the recent awning uproar at Easy Street Records?

And in smaller ways – consider the “people” in the phrase “independent local businesspeople.” People you know. People who greet you. People you can talk with.

Melrose says the early conversation is about “connecting the dots” to our quality of life, and the roles local businesses play, as more than providers of items you want and/or need.

Again, it’s hoped this will go beyond the type of “buy local” campaign you’ve seen a million times before. It’s just not that simple. It’s educational as well as inspirational. It’s about community pride, community strength, community sustainability.

So, there’s no ending to this story, really – it’s meant to let you know that this conversation is beginning. And it couldn’t be a better time, since summer is on the way, along with the events that bring us all out to see each other, especially in the business districts (the Morgan Junction Community Festival is June 22nd; West Seattle Summer Fest in The Junction is July 12-14; that’s just two of many). It’s the perfect time to think – and talk – about what independent local businesses mean to you.

ADDED 12:42 PM: Want to join an e-mail list related to this? Signup information is here.

14 Replies to "West Seattle businesspeople start a conversation you'll want to join "

  • sandy June 3, 2013 (11:22 am)

    This is a great effort–but it puzzles me that more discussion about the “Whole Foods” project isn’t ongoing. If one really looks at the design, it is apparent that the token space given to small retail is in a poor location–right on Fauntleroy rather than on 40th, that the relocated alleyway between Fauntleroy and 40th is supposed to be a pedestrian “walk through”, but that it also serves as a loading dock for Whole Foods and the drug store, so will be a pretty unfriendly walk.

    How would the project look if Whole Foods was on the south end of the design rather than the north? And why do we need an 8th food business in West Seattle anyway!

    It seems to me that this project is a pretty direct threat to our local, small business–so I am disappointed that the Junction BIA has endorsed this project when it seems like the opposite of what they are trying to achieve…

  • Alki Beach Guy June 3, 2013 (11:26 am)

    This is a great idea, but I can’t seem to find what the next step is in this article??? Is there going to be a live meeting? Is it here on this thread? Or is there a site that will be launched? Thanks for starting the idea :-)

  • BrassyMomma June 3, 2013 (12:19 pm)

    I would love to start moving into proactive meetings! – is there a chance we could start scheduling a month out? I’ve started a Poetry Center Project specific to West Seattle’s junction communities (though the reach shall be much wider) and am currently working on fiscal sponsorship, curriculum building, etc. I’d love to have a type of meet-and-greet with local businesses and community-building folks to find out how to best incorporate this project for the greater good of West Seattle.

    Your discussion about how we need more active discussion warrants discussion! :D


  • kgdlg June 3, 2013 (12:25 pm)

    From the outside, I have been impressed that our little biz districts have remained strongly independent, despite the presence of large big box national retail in West Seattle. In my experience as a consumer, I want both local and national options, and my family makes a conscious effort to shop local whenever possible (coffee, dog food, toys, shoes, food, picture frames, etc.) even though Target is always the cheaper alternative. While there are things we will sometimes go to Target for, we try hard to shop local when we can afford to because this is such a big part of why we love WS.

    I actually think that the location chosen for Whole Foods is much better for a large retailer like this than for small businesses, simply because this is an auto-dominated (historically and currently) section of the neighborhood. And, I am also one of those grocery shoppers that loves more choice. My family will often shop at TJs, Safeway/QFC and PCC all in one day to get different things at each place. And while we do go to Thriftway for convenience at times, their hot food bar leaves a lot to be desired, so a Whole Foods with all of their hot food options will be a real addition to what is lacking in the south end of W Seattle right now (only comparable is at Met Market and that is very far north). Sometimes with a toddler, you need to just be able to eat at the grocery store easily.

    Anyway, it is great that retailers are having this conversation. I love all the focus on shopping local here in WS and I hope it continues!

  • Ken June 3, 2013 (12:27 pm)

    I don’t “showroom”. However except for McLendon’s, QFC and Safeway, I don’t buy any of the stuff WS merchants sell at a reasonable rate. And McLendon’s is in White Center. I don’t patronize known wingnuts and several of the WS businesses have made it clear in past elections which are teabaggin loons. I don’t buy yarn or baked goods or cd’s or frames. I don’t need pictures painted on my nails. But mainly I don’t shop based on what is in stock. I order what I need. I refuse to pay 17.00 for a 2.00 Chinese network cable, or 500.00 for a 200.00 mattress or futon.
    I am probably conditioned by my life experiences since I have not been able to buy cloths or shoes in a chain or local store since forever. My shoes are 14eee and shopping is pointless. Cloths are the same. I have not found a shirt with a 20 inch neck in a local store ever. Even Costco no longer carries size 14-16 socks.

    Just like TV, business have to aim for the lowest common denominator which I have not fit since the 4th grade. I worked retail for many years and understand the cost of doing business. Perhaps it is all those years of facing the public that makes it far easier to avoid dealing with people and let UPS bring what I need to the door.

    There are several local business’ that do sell services I need. Courtesy Tire does my mechanic work since I can no longer do most of it myself. I get a basic 5 min buzz cut at Budget Cuts. I buy veggie starts at WS Nursery. The restaurants are mostly out since I can cook most of everything they offer. I might change my mind if there were any handicapped parking spots within a hundred feet of some of the junction venues. I use drive thru windows when they are available. I also find mediocre pizza and chinese food taste pretty good when it comes to my door. :)

    • WSB June 3, 2013 (12:32 pm)

      To the “what’s next?” comment, I do have an update after checking back with Susan today. For starters, they’re launching an e-mail list for which you can sign up:
      I’m adding it to the story. – TR

  • E June 3, 2013 (1:14 pm)

    Some goods and services cannot be duplicated by larger chain retailers. No one makes a croissant like Bakery Nouveaux. And I can’t take my daughter shopping for toys at Target where pink princess vs. toy soldier junk is what they pass off as “toys.” I actually like Target for a lot of things, but we need local stores (hooray for Curious Kidstuff).

  • AlkiGrl June 3, 2013 (5:53 pm)

    I agree with Sandy that a Whole Foods is a direct threat to local businesses. And it isn’t just other grocery stores like WS Thriftway, MetMkt and PCC that will be hurt. It will also be local businesses that provide hot lunch like Husky Deli, and the McPherson produce stand across the street. I like having some ntl chain options also, but not when they drive out local businesses and lower job standards. I really hope this buy local campaign leads the charge in standing up for good development in WS that builds our community instead of building another South Lake Union.

  • adam June 3, 2013 (8:55 pm)

    we will need a rail line when all these people move in. bridge will be packed

  • Nwmama June 3, 2013 (9:48 pm)

    Hey businesses- noticed that WS is a major family area? Us moms need more great places to take our kids & meet up with other moms: an indoor play space with food…like ‘playdate PDX’.

  • Arbor Heights Nghbr June 3, 2013 (10:42 pm)

    Kudos to all of the local businesses. I was flabbergasted when I went to the new Roxhill Park and noticed that all of the sponsors were local businesses and Target across the street didn’t even donate a penny. Please correct me if I am wrong. I did not see their name. Well I certainly have to say thank you to all of our awesome local businesses that donated, and that means shopping and dining in places that CARE about our community.

  • West Seattleite June 3, 2013 (11:14 pm)

    We need to give West Seattleites credit. There are few neighborhoods in Seattle that have a sense of community that West Seattle has. The Morgan, Admiral and Alaska Junctions have drastically improved over the past 10 years. I don’t fear Whole Foods, I welcome it. Nobody complained about Trader Joe’s moving in. I am excited to see progress in The Triangle.

    I will still shop at Metropolitan Market because they helped create and continue to support the West Seattle Helpline. I will still dine at the West5 because they support every business and non-profit organization in West Seattle. I will still shop at Curious Kidstuff because they have toys that my son can play with while they are wrapping a gift because I couldn’t possibly do a better job myself. Remember Ben & Jerry’s short stint at California and Alaska? It thrives in other neighborhoods but we go to Husky Deli because it is just plain better. Shopping local in West Seattle works because we benefit when our neighbors succeed. You think our traffic sucks? Try commuting to downtown from Ballard. At least we have a high bridge option.

  • Mark S. June 4, 2013 (8:31 am)

    A past employer taught me the 80:20 rule. It’s the idea that 80% of profit comes from 20% of available items.

    I think most folks would gladly pay a little extra to get things locally, but it’s not just about money. Small brick and mortar stores are bound by physical limitations to only stock that 20%. So anyone looking for anything outside that has to go elsewhere. So they become a showroom in that they have for example, 2 pairs of shoes from a maker I decide I like, but if I don’t like those styles, where do I go? Online.

    Obviously it’s unrealistic to expect a local shop to stock everything. But it’s also unrealistic to expect a consumer to settle for something that isn’t what they really want. It’s a fairly new retail world out there, local shops need to find a way to work within it. The onus is on both sides of the transaction.

  • Lovethejunction June 4, 2013 (8:32 am)

    I used to live in Southern California…they had height restrictions for the entire town which kept it from looking like a “downtown LA.”

    Although I know Seattle is a large city…on the Forbes List, etc. but that’s what DOWNTOWN is for.

    The best part about the Junction is for the three blocks, (from about Cherry Consignment to Velvet Foam), are one level with lots of character.
    Yes I know there’s apartments above Easy Street but you catch my drift.

    I just can’t see a giant apartment building doing anything but taking the character away from The Junction.

    Can we “stop it?” Can we put a “building height limit” on the main drag on California?

    Such a shame.

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