A group of downtown business owners and citizens have banded together to form Save Our Saturdays (SOS), which advocates boosting local businesses by making a critical modification to the City of Edmonds’ Walkable Main Street program: limiting the street closure to Sundays only. And on Saturday afternoon, supporters took to the downtown streets to carry signs, distribute flyers and engage citizens about their proposal.
Edmonds embarked on the Walkable Main Street program last year to bring a much-needed economic boost to downtown restaurants and businesses after the COVID shutdown forced many to shut doors, lay off staff, and endure crushing economic losses. Walkable Main Street aimed to address this by closing Main Street to traffic each weekend from Saturday morning to Sunday evening, thereby creating a pedestrian-only zone that would encourage people to return to downtown in a COVID-safe manner. Restaurants were the first to benefit, as they pivoted to overcome social distancing requirements and restrictions on indoor dining with appropriately placed outdoor seating and a wide range of take-out food choices.
SOS supporters maintain that while this helped restaurants, many retail businesses — already reeling from COVID — were hit yet again by Walkable Main Street as loss of downtown parking meant fewer shoppers in their stores.
“The effect on us was direct and quick,” says Phyllis Carlton of Treasures and Teas, located a stone’s throw from the downtown fountain. “When Walkable Main Street began, our numbers dropped immediately. Sure, the atmosphere was fun and cool, but our customers simply couldn’t access our business. It needs to be good for all of us. It’s time to lift everybody up.”
Jenny Murphy has operated Sound Styles at Fifth and Main for the past 35 years.
“Our business immediately fell off by at least 50%,” she said. “After the Farmers Market closed on Saturday afternoons, downtown was a dead zone. You could literally roll a bowling ball through here.”
Andy Cline of Cline Jewelers echoed this.
“Last year many clients told us that they simply would not come downtown on weekends,” he said. “Lack of parking was their number-one reason.”
According to Murphy, SOS is looking forward to gaining support for their proposal through more council testimony (see My Edmonds News coverage of last week’s Council meeting here), more public outreach, and more people to sign on to their petition.
“We want to work together,” Murphy stressed. “We’ve built this town by working together, but recently there’s been a disturbing divide. We want it to work for everybody. We are a community and want to stay a community. This is not about restaurants pitted against retailers – that’s not what it’s all about – it’s about making it work for all of us.”
“Last year it was the right time to help our restaurants,” added Cline. “They had been hit really hard. But now it’s the right time to compromise and make downtown more accessible [on Saturdays] for customers to come and shop, and leave Sunday as ‘fun day.’ Remember, this is our livelihood. These are legitimate concerns, and we’re proposing this compromise to address these.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel