by Kirby LindsayListen to too much news, or some acquaintances, and it sounds as if nothing good can happen in a down economy. Truly, some businesses in Fremont have downsized, or disappeared entirely, yet others see opportunities, and chose to take a risk and expand, and hopefully grow their bottom line.
In March, Key Bank will open an office in Fremont (at 601 N 34th) – their 159th in Washington State, and the third for our ’hood, a historic high. And, according to Kenneth Ko, the Manager for the coming Fremont Branch, a location in our under-served area has been on Key’s branch network wish list for a long time.
“While many banks are closing branches around the country, we’re taking a different approach,” explained Rick Wirthlin, president of the Seattle-Cascades District of Key, by e-mail. “We’re investing in making banking easier by moving closer to our clients.” To that end, between 2009 and 2012, the bank plans to build an estimated 20 new branches, and remodel well over half of its Seattle area branches.
“Key looks forward to being a good neighbor to this popular community,” said Ko, also by e-mail. “Last year we donated approximately $1.6 million in cash and in-kind services to the communities we serve in Washington. In Fremont, we expect to get started by making a contribution to a local charity in honor of our grand opening.”
Also in mid-March, Peter Glick, owner of Roxy’s Diner (462 N 36th), will expand by opening The Backdoor at Roxy’s, in space recently vacated by Rain City Video. Glick remains cagey about details – even the name isn’t certain – as he builds suspense for the new enterprise. He does promise, “It’s going to be theatrical!” Personally, he’s excited to be opening his eighth restaurant with designer Scott Bradley.
When asked why he chose to expand now, Glick responded, “because our business is doing great! I’ve got good employees, I can expand my business without moving,” he said, and the rent was reasonable – as are contractor costs – now. “It’s a very desirable location for me,” he said, as the two restaurants can share a kitchen and restrooms, with the Backdoor open during evening hours. “The opportunity came along,” Glick said simply, “even if it means sucking it up for a year, or two.”
Hardware, Made Easy-To-Find
For 24 years, Stoneway Hardware has provided neighbors with tools, supplies and advice for every imaginable repair, from its location at 43rd and Stone Way North. Now, those on the west side of Seattle have a more convenient opportunity to experience the customer focus at Stoneway, on 15th Avenue Northwest at the foot of the Ballard Bridge.
“Picking out the product mix was a daunting task,” admitted Jerry Smith, Merchandise Manager for Stoneway, “the lowest price isn’t always the best value.” For the new store, he selected 11,095 different fasteners, along with 16,000 to 17,000 other products. In the end, “I picked out the ones that people had asked for.”
“It’s a source of pride when people come to you after they’ve gone on the internet,” he said. “We do a tremendous amount of special orders. One of the things I enjoy the most,” he explained, “I get sent out on these safaris.” And when he finds the part, he enjoys it most because, “the customer is so pleased.”
As to the decision to expand, “we had been looking before the economy took a dive,” explained Smith, “it was hard to find the right space.” The second location may look larger, but it actually has less square footage but significantly more parking. “We did a lot of homework,” Smith explained, on the area and feasibility studies that went off the charts. With the economic downturn they scaled back their plans, “we originally had a grander vision,” he said, but nothing resembling a box store. As he described it, “we wanted to put in a neighborhood hardware store.”
Things may be tight, economically, but that doesn’t mean all dreams and visions of brighter futures must be put in a stranglehold. Instead, here at the Center of the Universe, we can continue to expand the horizons of the possible and look to a brighter future.
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.