Family businesses thrive in Edmonds

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Mary Kay Sneeringer, owner of Edmonds Bookshop. (Photo by Matt Hulbert)

Last August, we did a feature on family-owned Edmonds businesses and received a tremendous response from the community. With so many businesses in town who fit this category, we decided to make this a regular series.

To refresh your memory on the important role of family business, consider these stats. Family-owned businesses make up 90% of all businesses in America. This includes everything from small one or two-person operations all the way to Fortune 500 companies.

Approximately half of our nation’s entire workforce is employed by a family-owned business…that’s around 80 million people – a staggering number to consider!

Living in a small city like Edmonds, you see family business names around town often – sponsoring youth sports teams, taking part in community events, and when you walk past their stores and offices. Learning the story behind these names is something we hope you find as interesting as we do!

For our second installment in our family-owned focus, we sat down with three more Edmonds businesses to find out more about their history: Dawn Sorensen of Ewing Electric, Mary Kay Sneeringer of the Edmonds Bookshop, and Kevin Columbro of Reliable Floor Coverings.

Ed!: Tell us about the history of your business

Dawn Sorensen of Ewing Electric: Ewing Electric has been in business in downtown Edmonds since 1945. Our original name was Ewing Electric Service and we became Ewing Electric, Inc. in 1956.

Ewing Electric was founded by Samuel Ewing, Sr. and his wife, Evelyn (Yost) Ewing. In 1959, Paul Sorensen (the Ewing’s nephew) joined the company, and then 10 years later he was joined by Sam Ewing, Jr.

Paul and Sam worked side-by-side in the company over the next few decades, they were joined inside the office by Paul’s wife Donna, and the three eventually took over the company from the first generation.

After graduating from Central Washington University in 1994, Paul’s son Erik Sorensen (my husband) began working for Ewing as well. Today, Erik and I are proud to be the third generation to run this long-standing family business. Sam Ewing, Jr. is still working in the office, too!

Mary Kay Sneeringer of the Edmonds Bookshop: Edmonds Bookshop is happily celebrating 47 years in downtown Edmonds.

Edmonds Bookshop was founded in 1972 by John and Kathy Chapman. Shortly afterwards it was purchased by Betty and Jim Morrow who ran it until their retirement. Barry and Susan Hildebrandt took over and after 11 years, they were ready to retire from small business ownership. Susan still works at the bookshop!

In 2001 David Brewster and I took the plunge into entrepreneurship knowing full well that a bookstore was an endangered species. Both of our daughters worked at the Bookshop during their teens and still come back to work Christmas eve with us.

Kevin Columbro of Reliable Floor Coverings: Reliable Floor Coverings was founded in 1947 in Edmonds as primarily a hardware store. In the 1950s we began selling floor coverings. My father, Andy Columbro, began working at Reliable in the early 1960s and eventually purchased the business a few years later.

We are currently a second generation family business. My sister Kim Wahl is also an owner as well as the office manager. My other sisters, Kris Nelson and Kathy Shovlin, also work at Reliable along with my brothers-in-law, Thomas (Brick) Wahl and Joe Shovlin, who are both in sales.

I started working in the business in 1974, Kim and Brick in the mid-1980s, Joe Shovlin in the 1990s, Kris Nelson in 2000 and Kathy Shovlin just recently joined the team.

Reliable Floors has more than 30 employees and over one hundred years of combined experience on staff.

Ed!: How has your business evolved over time?

Dawn Sorensen: When Ewing first began, we sold Westinghouse appliances and televisions to the people of Edmonds, as well as providing commercial and residential electrical services. Over time, Ewing has evolved into working primarily with commercial and industrial contracts throughout Snohomish and King counties.

Ewing has been involved with very large projects at Boeing and Kimberly-Clark, water treatment plants and hospitals, commercial projects such as Starbucks, and public works projects including many, many schools. Most recently, we finished the Madrona K-8 school and are currently working on the Spruce Elementary project for the Edmonds School District.

Mary Kay Sneeringer: When we took ownership, we quickly found ourselves in the world of computers and the internet. We have a tight control on our inventory and try to identify quick sellers and slow sellers and order accordingly. Books are available to order on our website, edmondsbookshop.com. Readers can also download audio books through libro.fm.

We also carry book-related sidelines: games, stuffed animals, bookmarks, etc. However, we have also doubled down on carrying real paper books. We are committed to the experience of holding an actual book in your hands.

Kevin Columbro: We have evolved over time with online computer support for all quotes, orders, and inventory, plus billing and administration.

We’ve grown the product lines we carry to now be a Karastan Studio Dealer as well as a Mohawk Floorscapes Dealer. We received Floorscapes dealer of the year for the West Coast Region in 2007 and 2013. We also now sell and install window treatments in addition to flooring, with lines from Hunter Douglas and Norman Blinds.

We carry a diverse selection of products — from all types of floor coverings, to countertops, to window treatments — and have the ability to install it all.

Ed!: Tell us what you love most about being in business in Edmonds

Dawn Sorensen: The Ewing and Sorensen families have been in Edmonds for many generations, and we are related to the Yost family as well. So it’s safe to say our family loves Edmonds! Being located in downtown on Main Street gives us a first-hand look at all the exciting changes happening here.

We love the small town feel here: The close-knit business community and loyal patrons make Edmonds a great place to be!

Mary Kay Sneeringer: My favorite thing is the community that we have met through our shop. Our customers and fellow business owners all feel proud and protective of Edmonds and its charms. We all work together to keep our downtown thriving and interesting. Opening our door brought in lots of friends!

Kevin Columbro: We enjoy being in Edmonds, it’s a small town and we’ve built a lot of long-time customers who we’ve worked with through the years. And now we get to work with their grown kids and families, too!

Ed! thanks these business owners for taking the time to share a behind-the-scenes look into the history and evolution of their companies. Small independent business and family-owned business are a giant part of the vibrant fabric of our community.

For more information about all the local businesses in downtown Edmonds, please visit http://edmondsdowntown.org.

— By Kelsey Foster, on behalf of Ed!

Created by the Edmonds City Council in early 2013, the Edmonds Downtown Alliance (Ed!) is a focused, funded organization that supports and improves business conditions in Edmonds. With over 350 members, Ed! funds programs related to activities such as beautification, marketing, security, parking, clean-up or administration. For more information, we invite you to visit edmondsdowntown.org.

Sponsored by the Edmonds Downtown Alliance (Ed!)

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