Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Open for Business...But Where's the Business?

I'm stitching together a couple of recent posts that are both asking the same question. Maybe some of you readers will have answers or insights...

I thought it worth noting that when I came into Port Angeles on the Ferry (the family and I went over to Victoria Friday) on Sunday, arriving downtown at noon, the place was a ghost town.

As the Ferry cruised into the harbor, I could see the waterfront trail from Rayonier to the Red Lion. Not a person to be seen. The weather was beautiful.

I purposefully looked over at the pocket beaches. And that new waterfront park next to the Oak Street property. Not a person to be seen.

Driving off the Ferry and into downtown, virtually no one. Anywhere.

The Ferry itself was packed. It was sold out at 8:30 in the morning, for the 10:30 crossing. Living here, I was interested to see where everyone on the Ferry went, when they got off. They had announced the Hood Canal bridge was closed, so, going East was going to be challenging.

But almost every vehicle getting off turned eastward, and headed out of town as directly as possible. Out of curiosity, I turned up Laurel, and drove down Front, then back on First to see if there were people taking those streets. Empty, everywhere.

Driving east, I looked in the parking lots of the hotels as we drove by. Again, incredibly empty for the height of the summer tourism season.

It isn't that there are no tourists in the area. But downtown? How do those merchants stay open?

And also...

Awhile back I asked the question how places like Budget Tapes and Records and The Family Shoe Store stay open. Somebody in the know was nice enough to answer my question about BT&R. It's obviously gone now. Like the poster above I'd truly like to know how some of these places remain. Anyone?


  1. Yeah, I see this every day.

    It is amazing that the people in this town who think they are leaders in some way, dare to show their faces at meetings. I would be embarrassed to show up.

    I read somewhere the Chamber, economic groups and the business groups in this town get something like millions each year to promote this town. No. Really.

    How more obvious does it have to get?

    When will the city leaders see they aren't getting anything for the money they're giving these folks? Are these city leaders getting paid off somehow? How do they get away with this?

    1. This year, for the first time in ten years, the city of Port Angeles took their lodging tax money away from the chamber and spent it with a real marketing firm. The figures are not in yet but we will see if there is any chance of nudging tourists to visit Poor Angeles. If they do not come then we should think about using some of that lodging tax money to upgrade some of the third tier lodging companies. At least use some of the money to do inspections of the lodging companies to be sure there are no more reports on Hotel.com about dirty syringes under mattresses and so forth. This is hospitality 101 people.

  2. And yet, at 1:30 that same day, when I went downtown, it was difficult to find a free space to park my car, I decided to pay the $2.00 to park next to the Mural on Laurel.

    1. I don't *know* this, but I have seen several comments here that the on street parking is generally taken up by the owners and employees of the businesses. Take that for what you will. I have had times where I couldn't find parking easily downtown but yet every store was empty of customers. Only Gastropub had any business going. Perhaps some of the other bars did too - in a depressed economy that wouldn't surprise me.

  3. I know that facts are important to all bloggers. And it is a fact that businesses will fail vis-à-vis the photo above.

    What you might find interesting is that there are more people employed than in the previous two years and so there has been some improvement that should be acknowledged

    Month Employed Unemployed
    May 2016 25,276 2,124
    May 2015 24,870 2,149
    Change + 406 -25

    Jesse Farmer tried to dispute the numbers on the KONP message board a few months ago but can't fight the numbers. You can pick them apart and find something negative to say if you like the link is provided below.


    1. You could also compare 2015 to and 2014 taxable retail sales in Port Angeles and see that they were up 21% last year. You could pretend everyone had raised their prices that much, if you wanted.

      You could look at lodging tax for Port Angeles and see that it is up 34%, 2016 over 2015, year-to-date. You could pretend all the motels had upped their rates that much, if you wanted.

      Or you could look at the 37 businesses that opened, moved, expanded, or changed hands last year, and see that 36 were still open for business. Last August CK said "most will be gone within a year." Broken promises ... tsk, tsk.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Business group president: Unemployment, taxation among top concerns in Clallam, Jefferson

      Unemployment rates outside the growth nexus of King and Snohomish counties are substantially higher than the rest of Washington state, Association of Washington Business President Kris Johnson told a Port Angeles group Wednesday. (Please note: SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER.)

      The top concern among employers like those in far smaller Clallam and Jefferson counties is their continued unsuccessful search for educated, skilled workers, Johnson told about 40 Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce members and guests at a networking luncheon at the Red Lion Hotel. (Please note: UNSUCCESSFUL at finding educated, skilled workers.)

      His presentation included a map showing May unemployment among Peninsula residents — not including those whose benefits have run out or who have stopped looking for work — at 7.8 percent in Clallam County and 7.1 in Jefferson County.That compared to 4.4 percent in King County and 4.8 percent in Snohomish County. (Please note: HIGHER rates of unemployment than the state or national average - a consistent, persistent state of affairs.)

      ...So, yes, you can say that in some ways, at this moment, things appear to be getting better. I mean, when you're at the bottom, there's nowhere to go but up. But how much up can you get without those educated, skilled workers? And without any sort of sensible, educated or skilled leaders locally?

    4. Oh, the above is from an article in today's Peninsula Daily News, by the way...Timely, eh?

    5. And, what do the numbers at the site provided above really show? They represent employment/unemployment numbers for the whole county, not just Port Angeles.

      As those numbers point out, Clallam County still has almost double the unemployment rate of nearby King County. At a time when other communities are booming, it is a bit hard to get too excited that, as the government report states, unemployment is down by 25 people county wide, over the last year.

      Okay, we can acknowledge there has been "some improvement" in the government compiled numbers. But, what do our eyes show us, as we drive through, and live in Port Angeles? That, despite the MANY MILLIONS of tax dollars spent, the visible situation in Port Angeles is worse now, than it was 10 years ago.

      Maybe someday the local boosters will come to understand that cheerleading for wrong policies isn't a good thing. Blindly supporting the scamsters when they come up with yet another whiz-bang golly-gee great proposal that is going to transform Port Angeles, without requiring independent analysis first, isn't a good thing, either.

      I don't need a government report to see clearly Port Angeles has serious troubles.

    6. I checked out the link that @6:57 had provided and at cursory glance it appears the numbers don't count, as you point out, those who have just given up and stopped looking. That would make the figures appear artificially rosier.

    7. @6:57, population is increasing. So UNemployment goes up along with employment. But you spin the sole parameter of employment in a void, thus your analysis (and desired conclusion) is flawed. Maybe compare the ratio of employed to unemployed. And take a look at what is a "living wage", even for this area (where the prices are the same as big cities).

      Whoever you are, and whatever your goal, you can up your game by not using invalid and illogical statistics to get to whatever point you wish to make.

      Don't misinterpret, this blog provides a public forum for the expression of ideas and values, so keep it coming, prove this article wrong. Please.

    8. Population increases come from retirees.

    9. @Anon 9:28

      Again, "fun with numbers". Simply saying things have increased by a percentage amount, compared to the preceding year, doesn't necessarily mean things are "good" in any real terms.

      As we know, Port Angeles has had a unemployment problem for years. As we see in the numbers for the same time period you cite all these double digit increases for Port Angeles. But, during that same period of time, we see unemployment has dropped county wide by only 25 people.

      The population of Port Angeles in 1998 was 19,096. Now, almost 20 years later, it is estimated to be 19,388. Double digit increase? During the same time, Seattle grew by 130,000 to 662,000. An increase of about 25%.

      "Increased by? percent" is relative to what it is being compared to. If in the preceding year, 100 businesses closed, and this year, 20 new businesses opened, we would say there was a 20% increase in businesses this year. But, the town is still down by 80 businesses.

      What is sad to see is that people are using these numbers to convince others that everything is great in Port Angeles. And, they couldn't be more wrong.

      We need people to work to address the many., obvious, well documented problems in this town. We don't need people (who appear happy with the status quo) trying to placate the population into thinking everything is great, and there is no need to address any problem, because, look, there are no problems. That contrary to what "those naysayers and haters are saying", we can see things are increasing by these great numbers.

      Port Angeles is still dependent upon grants and handouts. It still is a "Distressed community". It's businesses exist only because of the government money being pumped into the local economy. This is not what most will describe as a "prosperous community".

  4. Owner occupied buildings/businesses that don't have to make money? Retired owners who run a business as a hobby? I, too, have often marveled at the whole what, how and why of owning a business in downtown Port Angeles. It seems like an activity only a masochist could love.

  5. Coog's record store moved over to the LevX building, it isn't closed.

    1. My mistake. Good to hear. He levitated across the street and slightly east.

    2. But the place is awfully hard to find. Coog won't even get a sandwich board to put out on the sidewalk in front of his shop - the entrance is on the Laurel Street side of the BoA building. Otherwise, he seems to be doing just fine, and he's still trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the space he has - maybe a small live-music venue, a recording studio maybe....

    3. When you do find it and go in, it's AMAZING though! Way to go Coog. If the community supports he can expand his hours!

    4. sandwich board permits are expensive, and hard to get. If the building has one other tenant that has the permit for one, you can't get one.
      Welcome to un-business-friendly PA

  6. "But almost every vehicle getting off turned eastward, and headed out of town as directly as possible."

    If there were a performing arts center down town, THEN everything will be different, right? The tourists who have reservations in the Wanachee play grounds or Portland will look at the NEW Port Angeles, and say "Oh, to hell with our plans, dear, we just HAVE to stay for the next show at the performing arts center".

    Maybe some kind-hearted person will do some kind of honest assessment of this town to spell out to the local so-leadership why what they keep doing, doesn't work.

    I did see where somebody had noted the pattern of "scam and skim", and that is what the powers that be have gotten used to living off of, and I know they are right.

    1. "Scam and skim" really ought to be the town motto. Well said.

    2. I prefer "That's Methed Up".

  7. They get away with it because not enough folks know or care about it. And they know that full well.

  8. I've lived here for just shy of ten years, and I can't ever recall a time when downtown was so consistently dead, during the prime summer months. I hear that it used to be worse, way back in the 1980s, but from my experience, this is the worst ever. It's just depressing going downtown. So lonely.

    1. If you've lived here since 2007 then you've seen much worse. Average # unemployed 2009 = 3,068 Average # unemployed 2010 = 3,269, Average # unemployed 2015 = 2,146.

      There at 1,123 fewer unemployed citizens than in 2010. That is a 34% reduction.

      Is that an improvement?

    2. Whoa there Big Fella. Where do these numbers come from? What are they representing? (As in, the homeless everyone is talking about these days?)

      And, are you seriously suggesting these numbers in ANY WAY represent what we see , and have been talking about in down town Port Angeles?

      This is pathetic.

      Who, in their right mind, would attempt to say the economic situation in down town Port Angeles is improving, and is in a kind of "good shape" anybody would agree with? Those that are living off self serving "studies"? Who is that helping?

      We all see how bad things really are. Who do you think you're kidding? Suckers?

    3. @ Anon 3:04 I want to thank you for correcting what I thought I saw over the last 10 years of living here. Obviously, all the days of driving and walking down town lead me to the wrong conclusions. Things aren't worse now, they are better than ever!

      Maybe I need to read Orwells' book again. Attend re-training camps. Learn the language of today.

      Wrong is actually right. Inhuman acts are actually benevolent. Banning people based upon race and religion isn't wrong. Poor people are actually happy. Unemployment is actually employment. Being an asshole is a good thing.

    4. Last 10 years - kokopelies and their expansion, gastropub, country aire relocation and expansion, H2O, Arts Center on Oak Street, downtown Medical, purchase of Lincoln Theatre.

      Why do all these miss your observation?

      Because your glass is half empty.

      If you assessed your own attitude the way you assess everything else (negatively) you might see you're part of the problem not part of the solution.

    5. Anonymous 5:48 AM...Riight. "Kokopelies" expansion was made possible because the paint store next to them...Went out of business. Gastropub has been a hit because there's nothing else in downtown open after a certain point. Country Aire moved, expanded, and has struggled ever since. H20 has faltered. (I know the owner, who is worried.) The Arts Center...Is still a hypothetical. The Lincoln Theater...Is still a hypothetical.

      Meanwhile, how many businesses have closed? Left downtown, or left Port Angeles entirely? How thriving is downtown, really? No, REALLY. Are you saying that there's nothing but Blue Skies ahead?

      Oh yeah, well, maybe, because pot is so much more readily available now, so...

    6. @ Anon 5:48 AM

      What you fail to mention are all the proposals during the last 10 years that went nowhere, despite all the happy talk and positive spin put on them by the business community, the City, the Port, the PDN, etc.

      You fail to note that property values and sales downtown have stagnated, while all surrounding communities are in a "sellers market", with property owners getting MORE than their asking prices. In Victoria, less than 20 miles away, the average home price is over $700,000, with ordinary houses two blocks from the water selling for $1.5 million. In Port Angeles, income producing properties across the street from the water can't sell for $600k.

      You somehow think all the tourists, thousands every day during the summer months, avoid downtown Port Angeles and drive by, because of what is posted on this blog?

      You think that by simply ignoring all the many problems here, and by putting on a happy face, with rose colored glasses, and mouths spewing happy talk, that the problems will be solved?

      Face reality, if you dare.

    7. I'm off to go get some great Japanese food downtown. I have no doubt the restaurant will be busy, what with it being Friday night and all. And I have no doubt that all of downtown will be bustling, because the weather is nice and it's Friday night. Further, I am willing to bet that on any given block I will walk downtown tonight, I will pass more people than there are in total in downtown Port Angeles. Which markets itself as a destination. Which has a National Park next door, and a ferry.

      After dinner, I plan to go pick up a book I've had my eye on at one of our bookstores - which is open until 9PM - and then, possibly, see a movie at our independent movie theater. If we do do that, there will still be people on the streets when we get out of the movie.

      I'm not saying all of this to be snotty, but rather, to illustrate what a thriving, successful and energized downtown is like, what amenities it provides. It was something I never really experienced in Port Angeles.

      Now, off to sushi!

    8. Dear 5:48 am: Given that your examples are either of the long ago variety (Country Aire) or the hasn't-happened-yet variety (arts, arts, arts), and given that we've still got a lot of empty storefronts and sidewalks, I'd say your claims of downtown's glorious rebirth are so much flapdoodle.

      Put another way: Who do you think you're kidding?

  9. Maybe we are misanthrope heaven.

    "I'm tired of this back-slappin' "isn't humanity neat" bullshit. We're a virus with shoes." Bill Hicks

  10. Look around you when you are in town. Some of the businesses are thriving and others not so much. Dig a little deeper and you will find the ones who prosper have the best customer service attitude while others simply have "attitude." There is a dramatic difference in atmosphere in shopping in the "mom and pop" shops in Sequim and shopping in similar stores in Port Angeles. Also, look at the average age of our so-called "leadership." Most are still of the Timber-Town mindset and cannot wait until the timber industry becomes triumphant again. Folks, this will never happen--move on. Get out from under the Laurel Black mindset and move up to the Gastropub mindset. They know what their customers want and they provide it. Laurel knows what folks wanted 40 years ago and she still provides it. Look at the ads she does for Randy Johnson's county commissioner campaign. I guess this works for Randy as he is stuck in that Timber Town time-warp too. If I was a municipal physician and was writing a prescription for this town I would recommend a strong effort to get younger people in the political process--even running for office. Michael Meridith is the newest face on the city council and is doing a great job of representing his constituency. Likewise Lee Whetham and Sissi Bruch. The rest have their noses so far up the asses of the Timber Town bunch they cannot see the forest for the stumps. However, youthfulness only goes so far. Mark Nichols is a young man but represents only the elite 1% because that is where the political power still resides. A strong showing at the polls is the only antidote for what is pulling down our town and making it an unfriendly atmosphere for all those tourist who get off the ferry, turn east and head on out of town. Build all the chimera you want down on the waterfront and you still have Edna's attitude wafting all over it.

    1. Amen. The extraction-based economy is dead, but the older generation simply refuse to admit it and are incapable of moving on from it.

  11. What kind of brochures for Port Angeles are on the ferry? Are their discount coupons on the ferry? The few times I've been downtown on a Sunday walking around I see that many of the businesses are closed Sunday or have weird business hours and weird business days. Fourth of July downtown along with much of PA almost all of the businesses I passed along the parade route were closed. I realize the parade was at 630 but fireworks started at 10. It was daylight untill well after 9 pm . Yet except for a couple of restaurants everything was closed. Seems like bad business to me.

    1. Hey Bif.
      There are a lot of brochures about Port Angeles on the ferry. I haven't look at them closely, to see if they have discounts.

      But I think you should consider that most people who get on the ferry, already have a plan. They're not just standing around, waiting to be inspired by a brochure. Most have made reservations at hotels that they have planned to get to before nightfall. Or, friends and relatives they are going to visit.

      You know?

      But, you're right about the businesses being closed on Sundays. And the empty, everything.