Our Response to the Crisis
Over the past several weeks, Division Road has been communicating the fact that we would be doing direct donations in response to the COVID-19 crisis to those businesses and individuals in our Pioneer Square neighborhood that have been economically impacted. We will be continuing this Contribute through Craft program until the emergency abates, using our simple 10% Gross Profit (Sales minus Cost of Goods) metric, directed toward a new activity each month based on an assessment of what actions will have the most direct impact in our area.
The Pioneer Square neighborhood in which Division Road is located is made up almost entirely of small businesses. Before the city came under a shutdown ordinance, offices already had emptied weeks prior and many retailers, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops were left without any paying customers. Immediately, we saw the drawn faces of the employees and small business partners who we look forward to seeing each day, as business dried rapidly, and owners scrambled.
To point out the obvious, we’re not health professionals, nor as a retailer is saving lives a central component of our business model; we commend those dedicated and courageous individuals who are in life-saving vocations and we are eternally grateful for their service. We are, however, fighters, not fleers or freezers, and have sought to be resolute with solutions to serve others with something simple and effective to try and make a positive impact. First, we made sure our vendors were paid for the entire season along with placing many deposits on Fall-Winter, so they in turn can pay their employees while keeping the capital flows moving through the economic chain.
Then, we looked for ways we could try to offset the challenges of those around us and create an avenue for our clients to make a difference as well.
Rather than simply aiming to buffer our coffers or instituting a self-serving stimulus plan with a sale or promotion, which many others are turning to, we’re attempting to preserve our position, neighborhood, city and at least a few employees outside of our walls. Initially, we investigated pretty much every fund or non-profit enterprise directing their efforts toward setting up avenues to financially assist businesses and workers in Seattle. In many cases, we found the lack of both transparency and equal access related to the distribution of funds to be concerning and even alarming. We then focused our efforts on rallying community organizations to set up a fund specifically dedicated to the small business community in Pioneer Square, which sadly fell flat.
Thus, we concluded and announced that contributing 10% of Gross Profits for the month of March directly via Cash-in-Hand to those disrupted by this crisis would be the best methodology for immediate positive impact. Many of you heard the call that we were not running a promotion directed at benefiting our shop in the short term, but that we would maintain our limited margin yielded by this heritage niche, despite the trials this situation presents to our business; and, with our clients rallying behind us, would wage on to see how we could pass any incoming benefit along to others.
Our simple Gross Profit of Sales minus Cost of Goods metric of contributions by no means represents any form of profitability for the company, and the method of disbursement benefits us not at all in terms of tax write-offs or otherwise. Regardless, we wanted to assist directly those employees we cherish in Pioneer Square who exhibited bravery by showing up and doing their jobs until they couldn’t, and whom we hope to see again soon.
Overall, this established metric amounted to direct Cash-in-Hand contributions of over several thousand dollars that we split amongst three businesses and individuals within. We thank our clients for helping to make this possible by showing up for Division Road and continuing to purchase from us in this period of time where so much is uncertain, despite not doing a sale or promotion that would benefit them but would, in fact, benefit others.
Some of these employees have been laid off and are waiting for some form of unemployment benefits from the state and checks from the government. In the meantime, most of them said they would be able to buy groceries, pay rent, and not get too far behind on their bills because of this direct and immediate assistance.
We will continue to persevere and thrive with your patronage by sustaining the business for which we’ve worked so hard, providing quality goods and collaborative ventures curated with a refined sensibility. And, each month we will maintain the Contribution through Craft program, using the same 10% of Gross Profit margin metric, and revolving the action plans with ways that benefit others in the community the most. Stay tuned and continue your patronage so we can continue ours and work to pay it forward with some grassroots good from goods…
GP is our favorite local coffee shop nowadays as they are consistent, craft oriented, and fairly priced with an approach that matches ours in presentation, service, and value. General Porpoise is known for their amazing, decadent doughnuts made with fresh eggs and filled with seasonal jams, jellies, curds, custards, and creams in fantastic fruitions like peanut butter and jelly, date shake, rose cream, and chocolate marshmallow. Part of Renee Erickson’s restaurant group, the shop continues to pivot and adapt in the face of the crisis by doing to-go orders at several of their restaurants and General Porpoise locations. The delightful people at GP and within the Sea Creatures umbrella have always brought a smile to our faces, interesting conversations to our minds, and we look forward to seeing them soon. Further, as constant supporters of various local efforts throughout their growth, we thank Renee Erickson and partners for their work in the community.
"The last few weeks have been a mixture of stress and grief. It’s been hard to handle the loss of employment in my own life, let alone watching countless friends and family members working in food/bev, retail, and music/arts struggle.
Luckily, my husband still has work and can do so safely at home. For right now, we will be living off of his income and doing our best to manage our finances. This will prove challenging if the stay-at-home order is extended past May. My sentiment is that everyone in Seattle takes this as seriously as possible, limiting contact with others, so that we can return to our jobs. I don’t have the luxury of working from home right now. Our priority must be each other’s health. Continue on with kindness towards your neighbor. Support local businesses. We can get through this only if we act in unity.
This money helps because it’s going directly into my local economy. I plan on using the money to purchase groceries/CSA boxes. I would like to thank everyone who has thoughtfully purchased goods with the community in mind. Their generosity will help sustain my husband and I for the time being. We are immensely grateful for their contribution and hope to pursue likeminded consumer habits if and when able. Thank you again for Division Road’s kindness towards our team. We are so grateful for all of you and look forward to making you all coffee again!"
-Bethany of General Porpoise Pioneer Square
Newly opened on our block as of December 2019, fruitsuper partnered with Foundry Vineyards to provide a shopping and sipping experience unrivalled in the neighborhood. fruitsuper is a Seattle based design studio founded in 2008 with a focus on creating inspirational and elevated everyday objects that are made in the USA. Foundry Vineyards is a second-generation family owned vintner dedicated to the creation of hand-crafted, low intervention wines that express the unique terroir of their Walla Walla Valley vineyard and are thoughtfully sourced via small-lot production from premier growing areas around Washington State. With a focus on the combination of the senses, this local establishment has been a joy to have on our block as it evolves into a design-meets-lifestyle area of Seattle. Just as things were getting going the crisis hit; the shop is boarded up through the Stay at Home measures and continues to sell online, so support both establishments so they can open up with gusto. And speaking to integrity and goodwill, Sallyann of fruitsuper graciously passed our donation to Anna to help her get through this difficult time – quite literally paying it forward, times two.
"I've tried very hard to look forward over the last few weeks, mainly because dwelling in the moment makes it feel permanent; it isn't. Our team swiftly adapted to the ever-changing directives that, prior to the Stay Home order from the Governor, seemed to evolve every couple of hours. We have an immense appreciation for the community that exists in Pioneer Square, and it has showed up for us from the moment we opened our doors and throughout this uncertainty. The actions of our neighbors--checking in via email and phone, or stopping by for an across-the-shop chat, the outpouring of gratitude on social media channels for one another, and the collective understanding that in a time of crisis, the only way to get through it is together--have been truly inspiring. While the uncertainty is scary, actions of faith in our community remind us that unity is beautiful.
With the shop boarded and my inability to ship wine from the Seattle location, my hours have been greatly reduced (16-20 per week, at most), and I've been placed on Standby Unemployment Insurance. Right now I'm working with the Walla Walla team almost daily to strategize social campaigns to boost online sales activity so we don't have to lay anyone off. The Anderson family, our owners, epitomize strength and consistently find ways to ensure our livelihoods and safety; similarly, to Division Road, fruitsuper and Foundry Vineyards are staffed by a tiny (yet mighty) team, and we're all doing everything we can to survive. While stress is ever-present, hope, for me, is more prominent.
This cash comes at a critical time for my wife and I. The state is dealing with an unprecedented influx of UI claims, resulting in longer wait times to address any issues that may arise during the filing process, which has happened to my claim. I'm sure it will get resolved within the next week or two, but the waiting and anxiety associated with that uncertainty is all-consuming, if I'm brutally honest. Thanks to this donation, I will be able to make rent and stay ahead of utility bills for another month, at which point we can hopefully un-board the shop! The weight that's been lifted...I can breathe!
To the Division Road clientele: your generosity and empathy have truly touched me and my family. Our hearts are bursting at the seams with gratitude. Initiatives like this remind us that strength and unity in the face of disaster are the bright spots of our humanity, and will get us through these uncertain times. I cannot thank you all enough."
-Anna Forge of Foundry Vineyards Seattle
Adam Tailor, a.k.a. Mr. Be Van Nguyen, is one of the last tailors left in Seattle. Coming to America with nothing but his training and skill, Van Nguyen opened up his shop in Pioneer Square over three decades ago with a focus on custom suiting and shirts. Over the years his services are more along the alterations front as demand for custom works has dropped, and at 68 he says he’s “Too Old!” As a reminder of the gusto of past generations and the American spirit, Be still works a minimum of 60 hours a week to support his family, and because his craft is his passion. He can be found cutting and sewing almost seven days a week for any shirt, jacket, dress recut or a simple hem, executed with precision at drastically low rates. He’s the only one we trust implicitly in the city with our garments for client alterations and recuts. Since very few are dropping off alterations over the last month, Nguyen and his family have pivoted to producing medical masks and donating them locally and to hospitals in Vietnam.
"The last several weeks have been extremely slow, and I was able to get all my months’ work done, but no one was picking up which means I often don’t get paid.
I am now closed temporarily, but I remain hopeful that things will get better soon.
This money will help go towards bills, and to order the materials we need to make masks to donate to local hospitals.
Thank you to Division Road clients, some I know too, and hope to see you soon… This is helping small businesses, and my family in a real time of need."
-Be Van Nguyen a.k.a. Adam Tailors