While many small businesses continue to struggle with the ongoing effects of the economic downturn, they are still finding creative ways to serve our community. With the goals of keeping their doors open, employees working, and creating community connection during these difficult times, businesses have demonstrated creativity, perseverance, and resilience across our city’s commercial districts.
With public health orders restricting indoor dining, Eugenio Vallejos, owner of El Pique Restaurant, wanted potential customers to see what they might be missing. After securing approval from the local public health department, Vallejos fired up charcoal grills outside his restaurant to cook marinated chicken outside, Peruvian style! Their high visibility on bustling Ambaum Blvd, the aroma of grilled chicken, easy drive-up access, and meal and beverage specials resulted in an increase in familiarity with the restaurant, leading to more customers and sales. During unpredictable winter weather, the grilling temporarily moved indoors, but still offered the same specialty menu options for takeout.
Some businesses have taken advantage of the drop in foot traffic to complete renovations or delayed maintenance projects. The Bean, situated in the heart of the Seahurst commercial district with its iconic mural adjacent to the drive-thru coffee stand, completed a remodel on their outdoor deck to offer a larger, updated seating area just in time for the holiday season.
Childcare facilities have experienced tremendous challenges since the beginning of the pandemic. Families who lost their economic livelihood through a layoff or reduced hours, or who can work remotely but chose to keep their children home, led to a dramatic reduction to the number of families needing childcare. This resulted in many childcare businesses needing to lay off staff. Creative Minds Academy and Creative Steps Toddler Montessori, owned and operated by Will and Yvette Henricus, have been able to keep most of their staff.
Following state and federal public health guidelines, they implemented preventive measures including the installation of an air scrubber to improve the ventilation system. Families also secured donations of essential equipment, such as a commercial handwashing sink.
“[The children] have also become experts at hand washing, as we wash hands at least eight to ten times daily,” shared Henricus. “All our families keep telling us that they are grateful and thankful for being able to bring their children to a safe, healthy, and happy environment such as ours.”
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Considered an essential business, Burien Toyota remained open for service and transportation needs. They made adjustments so they could operate safely and follow state guidelines, including reducing the amount of furniture in the lobby area to allow for greater physical distancing, placing health signage throughout public areas, and thoroughly sanitizing surfaces and common touch points after each customer’s visit.
They also began offering test drives from home and expanded their concierge service pickup and delivery program. Burien Toyota offered complimentary oil changes and discounts to health workers in recognition of the critical role they play in fighting the pandemic.
A graphic designer by trade, Alexandra Andrade opened her studio, Citlali Creativo, specializing in custom invitations and stationery, in 2010.
Due to public health limits on large gatherings and following a wave of event cancellations, Andrade made a business pivot by making use of her sewing skills to create masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. Her masks featured colorful, fun designs made with specialty fabrics. Mask sales began at the Burien Farmers Market and have grown to wholesale orders from all over the country.
Andrade became an officiant in 2016 and has continued to field requests to officiate small, bilingual wedding ceremonies. While large events have been scaled back or postponed, life milestones continue, even during a pandemic. With the arrival of a vaccine, Andrade is finding that people are optimistic about events in the future.
Luciana’s Market is a small food and convenience store in Boulevard Park that specializes in food products from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala that can’t be found in large grocery stores. Considered an essential business, Luciana’s Market never had to close. Yet Pedro Sanchez, the owner, says the pandemic has heavily impacted his customers, many who travel from as far away as Lynnwood, Tacoma, and Renton to shop at his store. Sales have dropped off as his customers have been laid off or had work hours reduced. For the safety of his customers, Sanchez implemented measures such as physical distancing, wearing gloves to stock shelves and at the registers, and limiting the number of people allowed to be inside at a time.
“As a small business, we’re paying more than the bigger businesses to remain in business,” said Sanchez.
While they do sell masks, gloves, and cleaning products, Luciana’s Market has also partnered with community organizations that periodically give away free masks.
Extending to Wayne’s Service Center and Chevron Station, Burien’s southernmost commercial district has been active since 1965. The Manhattan commercial area features professional services such as physical therapy, dental offices, and restaurants.
Posh Puppy, a grooming salon for pets, opened in 2019. To keep their staff and customers’ furry family members safe during the pandemic, they operate by appointment only. Other precautions include allowing only one person in the lobby at a time, cleaning their equipment with ultraviolet sanitizing technology in between treatments, wearing face masks, and cleaning shared spaces multiple times per each shift.