Edmonds business owners finding different ways to weather coronavirus crisis

Dimitri’s announces it is offering curbside pickup, 10% off online orders.

With Gov. Jay Inslee banning on-site dining and beverage service statewide — along with the shutdown of “non-essential services” — to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), Edmonds business owners say they are looking at range of ways to serve the community during this unprecedented call for social distancing.

For some, that means shifting from in-person services to ensuring that items — from food to clothing to art supplies — are available for pickup curbside or can be delivered.

For others, like Pam Stuller of Walnut Street Coffee, it means closing altogether.

Walnut Street Cafe announces it is closing effective March 17 until further notice.

“We have decided to close our doors,” said Stuller, who last week had instituted a coffee to-go service to minimize customer interactions in her popular gathering spot. “I just continue to be a little bit too concerned for the sheer volume of germs in my place, my staff, I have elderly parents I take care of and it just isn’t worth the risk. I’m hoping to encourage people for just a few weeks to really stay home so we can slow the spread.”

Stuller was one of nearly 20 people — including downtown business owners, Edmonds Chamber of Commerce staff and City of Edmonds representatives — participating in a video phone chat sponsored Monday by the Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association.

One of those on the call was Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson. “We are absolutely living in extraordinary times, and we need to respond with extraordinary measures,” the mayor said. “I plan today to look at all and any options that the city can do to support our community including our businesses, which are a bedrock of our community and anything and everything will be considered, so stay tuned.”

Sheila Clooney of Downtown Edmonds’ Anchor Chic consignment store said that because business has been slow, she also made the decision to close for now — but is working on future plans to increase the store’s online presence.

Matt McClulloch of People’s Bank says the bank is encouraging customers to bank online amid COVID-19 concerns.

Kimberly Koenig, owner of women’s clothing store Rogue, says customer traffic has slowed but she will continue to remain open, adding that she is also making plans to ramp up her online presence.

Matt McCulloch from People’s Bank said that while the bank is open, all employees in high-risk categories have been sent home and the bank is temporarily closed on Saturdays. “We are also asking people if they possibly can to do their banking online or at the ATMS so they are not coming into the branch,” he said.

Tracy Felix of art supply store ARTspot says she has been “holding really steady” with her business, as customers are looking for items to keep their children busy during COVID-19-related school closures. “As long as my employees are comfortable working, I want to help them keep their hours,” Felix said.

Andy Cline of Cline Jewelers said he is currently developing a plan for adapting to the new business environment that may include more by-appointment and online services. “We’re just going to try to see how things go,” he said.

Robert Boehlke of Housewares said that he has concerns about the exposure of his staff — in their 60s and 70s, an age considered at high risk during the outbreak — to the virus while they are working. As a result, he is considering closure of the store on weekends to minimize that risk.

“I’m obviously very concerned that none of my staff gets ill,” Boehlke said.

That sentiment was also expressed by Colleen Bowman, owner of Edmonds boutique C’est la vie, who has older workers. The store will be closed this week and Bowman says she will have a sign on the door with her cell phone number — and will come to the store to help customers if necessary.

However, facing reduced hours or outright bans on certain services, some business owners say that have little choice but to lay off staff.

Epulo will be offering takeout and delivery.

That’s true for Tim Morris, owner of Epulo Bistro. With the elimination of sit-down service, Morris said he will offer drive-through in his parking lot and to-go service — including the introduction of family to-go packs and lunch boxes. However, he was planning a mandatory meeting on Monday during which he would be announcing staff layoffs.

Anchor Chic’s Clooney also said she has laid off her staff due to her business closure.

Other downtown business owners said that are also trying to to think of creative ways to weather the economic storm created by the COVID-19 outbreak and the associated social distancing rules and restrictions.

Shubert Ho of Feedme Hospitality — which operates four restaurants in Edmonds (Salt & Iron, Bar Dojo, Mar•ket, and San Kai) — said the restaurants “have been planning for this for the last week and are transitioning to full takeout by Tuesday.”

Growlers lined up at Salish Sea Brewing.

Salish Sea Brewing owner Jeff Barnett says he is repurposing a section of his brew pub for takeout orders and will offer growlers of beer to go.

Beth Sanger of Ombu Salon, which is impacted by at least two weeks of mandatory closures of hair salons, along with nail salons and barbershops statewide, says she’s been busy rescheduling appointments and is also creating an online store for their line of products. “We’ll have it up as soon as possible,” she said. “Free shipping!”

And to accommodate those practicing social distancing or in quarantine, the Edmonds Bookshop now offers free delivery of products in the 98020, 98026 and 98177 ZIP codes.

When it comes to these business challenges, Edmonds Chamber President and CEO Greg Urban noted that the chamber has compiled a range of resources on its COVID-19 page.

Among them is a list from the State Employment Security Department, which has adopted a series of emergency rules aimed at help individuals and employers during the COVID-19 outbreak. The goal, the department said on its website is “to relieve the burden of temporary layoffs, isolation and quarantine for workers and businesses.”

For example:

  • Workers may receive unemployment benefits and employers may get relief of benefit charges if an employer needs to shut down operations temporarily because a worker becomes sick and other workers need to be isolated or quarantined as a result of COVID-19.
  • Standby will be available for part-time workers as well as full-time workers.
  • Workers who are asked to isolate or quarantine by a medical professional or public health official as a result of exposure to COVID-19 may receive unemployment benefits and work search requirements could be waived, so long as they have a return date with their employer. The return to work date can be the date the isolation or quarantine is lifted.
  • If a worker falls seriously ill and is forced to quit, they cannot collect unemployment benefits while they are seriously ill but may be eligible once they recover and are able and available for work.

Learn more about those rules here.

Pelindaba Lavender announces it is closed till further notice.

In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration said it is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Washington small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. Learn more here.

Carrie Hulbert of the Edmonds Downtown Alliance (ED!), also on Monday’s call with downtown businesses, says her organization is doing all it can to support members of the downtown business district. ED! will provide regular updates to the community on the status of  local businesses and members are encouraged to email their information to Hulbert.

Reflecting on her decision to close her doors, Walnut Street Coffee’s Stuller said she firmly believes the best way to fight the virus is to curtail all non-essential activities. “We look forward to serving everyone delicious coffee again when the time is right!” she said.

— By Teresa Wippel with reporting and photos by Larry Vogel

 

  1. I have Edmonds Vitamins & Herbs. I am here until there is a mandate not to be. Regular hours: 10-6 Monday through Saturday. I am delivering and mailing supplements to those who must stay indoors due to compromised immunity.
    Ignored

  2. A group of Seattle business owners launched “We Got this Seattle: Business saving Business” podcast. While it is Seattle the content can be helpful to business owners anywhere who are dealing with the fallout of this. ttps://wegotthisseattle.transistor.fm/

    Also: a facebook group for local business owners:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1225459777663730/

  3. When this is over, and when Edmonds’ businesses are back in business, I hope the Chamber and other civic leaders organize a big “We’re Baaaaaaack!!!” celebration. Invite everyone, but especially Edmonds’ residents to come and spend some money and help get these businesses back on their feet. Edmonds wouldn’t be Edmonds without them.

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