COVID-19 impacting bottom line of Mukilteo businesses
Last updated 4/30/2020 at 4:05pm
What do you do when you've stuck at home for the last month, aside from the occasional trip to the grocery store?
It appears many people are taking a good look around their house and yard, and then heading to the hardware and nursery store.
While many businesses in Mukilteo are either closed or open but struggling financially, Ace Hardware looks to be weathering the effects of Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home and non-essential business closure orders.
Ace Hardware (12680 Mukilteo Speedway) has remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, though the locally owned store is closing an hour earlier than usual.
"So many people are home and are working on projects around the house," manager Chantelle Burris said.
Aside from masks, gloves and disinfectant products, which usually are sold out quickly, customers have been stocking up on paint, bark and plants.
The store currently employs 15 full- and part-time employees. Employees encourage customers to practice social distancing in the store.
"Our approach is to stay 6 feet away," Burris said. "It's difficult. We are a retail store. When people are walking down the aisles, we try to respect everyone's space. We are constantly sanitizing all of the hard surfaces. We're doing everything we can to keep everyone as safe as possible."
More people are opting for curbside service.
Customers pull into the parking lot and call the store on their cell phones. They leave their credit card in their trunk while an employee comes out, processes the payment and places the order in the vehicle's trunk.
Customers previously had the option for non-contact delivery in their vehicles, but few took advantage until the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was once in a blue moon," Burris said. "Now it's 25 to 30% of our customers."
Burris added that she and her staff appreciate the support of their customers.
"We are so grateful for the community shopping locally," she said. "We want to be there for them."
A few blocks down the Mukilteo Speedway, another longtime Mukilteo business is closed.
Traxx Racing (4329 Chennault Beach Road), an entertainment complex that features adult and youth go-kart racing, an arcade, a rock-climbing wall, a variety of games and a snack bar, temporarily shut down in mid-March.
Seventeen full- and part-time employees were laid off. Until Inslee's closure order, Traxx Racing's business had been holding steady, said general manager Chris Kruse.
As a locally owned small business, Traxx Racing is relying on the support of its customer base to generate the revenue the company needs to pay rent and utilities. The company is currently offering a 20 percent discount on its eGift cards, available at https://traxxracing.com
"We wish we could bring go-karts to your door," Kruse said. "I'm hoping that once this all blows over that people will be itching to get out of the house to do something. The biggest thing is we want to be able to provide fun entertainment."
Kruse expects that what he calls the "new normal" will include social-distancing measures.
"Hopefully, we'll have some guidance on what the new normal is going to look like."
Quality Fitness (4201 Russell Road, Suite 4) also was forced to shut down in mid-March. Owner David Matthews waited a week to gauge the situation and then shifted to offering online classes.
"We have a pretty devoted following," he said. "A lot of folks are willing to support us."
Quality Fitness' classes are pre-recorded and available throughout the morning and evening. Matthews sends out emails when classes are available. People can sign up online at https://www.qualityfitnessmukilteo.com or on the Wellness Living Achieve app.
Prior to the shutdown, personal training was a significant part of the gym, and Matthews is now doing his best to continue working with members.
"Personal training has taken a big hit," he said. "Many of my clients say just send me the workouts. We have some of the best clients. I'm sending them digital workouts with instructions and giving them as much support as I can.
"I feel it's unfair. People come to the gym for that personal touch. People hire us for motivation. We're not there to push them. It makes it a lot harder for them to reach their goals."
Matthews had had to lay off three employees. Revenues were down by at least 25 percent in March and look to be in the 30 to 40 percent range for April. Matthews has applied for federal assistance but has yet to hear back from the government.
"We're doing enough to keep the ship afloat. We're treading water."
But if the closure extends beyond May 4, the most current date in the stay-at-home order, Matthews added that "it's going to get really tight."
Even though marijuana shops have been deemed to be essential businesses, Kush Pointe (11811 Mukilteo Speedway #111) shut down March 21 through April 2.
Owner Janet Probst said she wasn't comfortable keeping the store open during the early stages of the pandemic.
"We didn't know how it was spread. There was not enough safety information to be open," Probst said. "I felt that even though the state said we were an essential business, I wanted to take care of my employees."
Since reopening, business has not returned to normal levels in large part due to the reduced traffic on Mukilteo Speedway. Boeing was closed down for a significant stretch of time and many people, who stopped by the store on their way to catch a ferry, are staying at home instead. Business is down by a third.
"We've been impacted in a huge way," Probst said.
Probst estimated that revenues were off by $60,000 in March in large part to the closure, but she has no regrets.
"Nobody was wearing any mouth coverings. My employees were sitting ducks."
Since reopening, Kush Pointe has reduced both employee and store hours.
Staff are wearing masks, and some have gloves. The store is disinfected every 15 minutes and the store is cleaned up after every customer leaves. Customers can order online, park and sit outside, and an employee will bring their order to them.
"We will be ready when we are able to get back to some sort of normalcy," Probst said.
Blu Burgers & Brew (9999 Harbour Pl. #100) owner Mark Meline also is doing his best to survive the tough business climate.
He's seen a drop-off in business of 50 to 60%, and he's had to pare down his staff of 10 to four.
Still, he feels fortunate to still be open and serving customers.
"The community is doing a great job of taking care of us," Meline said. "We're just going to keep going. The bank account is going down to the reserves."
Prior to the shutdown, about 75% of Blu Burgers & Brew's business was sit-down with the rest takeout. The restaurant's license doesn't allow it to sell beer and wine to go.
Meline understands why there are times when he has nothing to do for two hours in the afternoon before the dinner rush.
"A lot of our customers are laid off. We don't expect them to keep coming in," Meline said.
But a few new faces are lifting Meline's spirits. Some customers are coming into the restaurant, often with a very specific purpose in mind.
"A good amount of first-time people are giving us a shot," Meline said. "They want to keep small businesses going. We really feel blessed by the community. I hope we've won over some new customers."
The stay-at-home order came at probably the worst time for the real estate market, as spring generally is regarded as a prime time for buyers and sellers.
Windermere agent Graham Haight had two clients decide not to list their houses. One seller's stock portfolio plummeted, and he plans to continue working for another six months instead of retiring. The other had COVID-19 concerns.
"They put it off because they were concerned about having too many people parading through the home," Haight said.
In late March, Inslee issued a number of strict guidelines pertaining to real-estate transitions. No open houses are permitted, and property viewings are limited to two parties, who must exercise social distancing. That means owners have to vacate the property while an agent works with potential buyers.
"The good news is that when this first started, the real challenge was getting approval for sub-contractors, appraisers and inspectors to do their jobs," said Haight, who works mostly with sellers. "For a short time, movers were shut down. All of those key elements have opened up."
Even in this challenging environment, Haight said that buyers are out there looking for homes, though he added that the pool is down.
"We are seeing well-priced homes sell," he said. "Homes are still moving."