Is clustering similiar stores an answer to Edmonds’ revenue problem?


By Joan Bloom
Edmonds City Councilmember

Before malls, warehouse stores, and numerous discount department stores, a small-city downtown could be your main shopping center, with trips to the mall reserved for jeans that fit just right, a pair of shoes, or a dress for a special occasion. In 1985, when we moved to the Edmonds bowl, we bought everything, from drug prescriptions to Halloween costumes, faucet-repair parts and lawn seeds, had our shoes resoled and our lawnmower sharpened, without leaving our downtown. If you’ve lived here a while, you saw most of these downtown shops disappear over the years.

I’m grateful for, and believe that Edmonds can sustain, most of the high-quality shops we’ve retained. However, unless or until (take your pick) the price of gas doubles or triples, the variety of shops that Edmonds and other small towns once enjoyed isn’t returning, and it would be futile to try to expect that.

If you’re a typical shopper, you want good prices and lots of choices. Where do you find lots of choices? The Mall — anchor stores, Nordstrom and Macys, surrounded by bunches of fashion shops. Want cheaper but nice clothing, or housewares and sporting equipment? Pennys, Target, Big 5, Ross, Costco, and many others. Hate to fight traffic, bad weather, and other shoppers? Amazon.

How does Edmonds retail compete with choice and price? Not easily. Does that mean that small retail is doomed in Edmonds? That all retail storefronts must
eventually be taken over by services? I hope not and don’t think so.

Drive down the northern Edmonds portion of Highway 99. You’ll see numerous auto dealers, new and used, which have survived the economic disaster of these last few years. These dealers are clustered, giving shoppers choice, competition, and convenience. Farther south on 99, you can shop at a cluster of Asian-themed markets. In better economic times, Edmonds was the destination for antiques, with shops all over town.

Clusters of similar shops don’t suffer from competition, they thrive on it, by being a destination for non-locals. That’s why stores pay big rents at malls or busy big-city downtowns. Rather than trying to fill vacant Edmonds storefronts with one of everything, why not develop Edmonds’s identity as the place to go for what’s already selling? As mentioned, on 99 it’s cars and Asian goods. Downtown, it’s women’s fashion, jewelry, housewares, travel (thanks, Rick!), art, and
artistic crafts.

Leaving aside professional services (which don’t thrive on competition), what other cluster of products sells in Edmonds? Sports bars and small restaurants with happy hours (I think we’re close to saturation), and prepared food accompanied by entertainment, sold in a public marketplace — the Taste, the Father’s Day Arts Fair, and the Summer Market. I can’t think of anything that could get started quicker, and bring in steady revenue, than a year-around market —
indoors, during the bad-weather months.

Edmonds needs increased revenue now, not just in 10 to 15 years, when a mega-project could get completed. If anything is the near answer, the evidence points to clustering similar retail, and a year-around market based on fresh and prepared food and causal entertainment.

More here and here.


  1. Ms. Bloom,

    Nice to see some genuine ideas for positive future income generation other than taking the route of hitting the taxpayers with a new tax. I believe the idea of a market is a good one and does have merit. I also think even with all the restaurants and eateries in Edmonds, a tier restaurant such as the Palisade in Magnolia would still fill a void and be supported by Edmonds.

    Some merchants have also voiced issues with parking around town. Folks do need a place to park. If it becomes too cumbersome for customers to park they may stop coming and force business to relocate or close such as Edmonds Flowers. In my opinion, Edmonds could still use a flower shop but customers must be able to get there and get out.

    Thank you for your proactive approach, keep the ideas coming.


  2. Hi Joan:
    Have you noticed that none of us can think in a creative vein and be negative at
    The same time. We would be better served not having meetings and go to creative thinking sessions. I love your thinking outside of the box. Oh, we can have a negative thinking session anytime at the drop of a hat Lol. You continue to amaze and inspire.
    Lets all help do that public market. We should get together a project team.
    Dave Page


  3. As Californians who have fallen madly in love with Edmonds, and try to make a “pilgrimage” there at least once annually, my husband and I are thrilled to know that efforts are underway to maintain the charm of your wonderful city. We can’t contribute much in terms of annual revenue, but if it’s moral support and encouragement you need, consider us among your most ardent cheerleaders!


  4. Joan-you are truly an asset to the Edmonds Community.
    Regarding the use of the Waterfront Antique Mall property I would like to point out as a dealer at the Waterfront Antique Mall how frustrating it is to read comments not only in this article but in others at how quickly the Antique Mall is dismissed. “Let’s turn it into a bowling ally” is one comment that I have read. The future for that property has yet to be determine and until that time please remember that there are business owners who exist at that property.


  5. I like that idea about the waterfront antique mall being used for the year round market.
    When the time comes absolutely. You got to go with the flow. And right now those outdoor/indoor markets are so popular. Plus they are already planning all that new developement in the Harbor Square area. So I am sure it would booming success.


  6. Joan,
    Great article and thank-you so much for your fresh ideas and perspective. As you know, I am a huge proponent of bringing all of our communities together through the Power of Play. Just this past Christmas season, we held a basketball tournament 3 days after Christmas day and drew over 2000 people into our community! This during a typically “slow” time for travel and local businesses. Imagine if we could do this on a monthly basis. What type of an impact would that have on our local stores? If we got together and developed a soccer complex/fields, instead of those tournaments being held in Renton and Burlington, why not here in Edmonds? How about softball,baseball, lacrosse tournaments? We are planning a large outdoor 3on3 basketball tournament this summer and expect over 150 teams participating. Again, what an impact on our community! I would love to see someone get the ball rolling and not letting it stop in regards to Civic Field and Old Woodway, great spaces for developing attractive sporting venues bringing folks from all over to our great city and in turn supporting our local businesses year round! Keep up the great work!


  7. Yes, year round markets are great for shoppers however if not done properly they can harm small local shops. They will bring diners into our restaurants but pull shoppers away from the small businesses and galleries here in town. Farmer’s markets have hurt non-restaurant business in Wallingford and Magnolia.

    A bigger issue is what is the city doing to bring shoppers to the small businesses that remain in town? Will they fix the horrible paving job on 5th Avenue? Contract for parking with private lot owners? Free parking goes a long way to getting new customers. It saddens me to see businesses closing up on Main Street.


  8. For years, I have thought that the Waterfront Antiques Mall (the former Safeway store building) would make an ideal building for an indoor year-long market, that would be a combination of Seattle’s Pike Place Market and Lake Forest Park’s Third Place Commons (TPC). In the middle, have dozens of picnic tables, with free Wi-Fi, and all around the perimeter have various stalls and businesses: fresh produce, meat butcher, barber, fast food, flowers, and so on–each individually owned and leased, perhaps. Like TPC, have an entertainment stage. They could even have floor bricks that people could purchase, much like they did at Pike Place Market, to help offset costs. People driving to and from the ferry would go right past this place–the Edmonds Public Market–and many would just have to stop in and browse/buy.




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