Contributing Through Craft Continues
The crisis remains, and so does our pursuit to do good. Fueled by our customers support, we are grateful to be able to attempt to add a little virtue to this vicious state of affairs. As a re-cap, in March we began our Contribute Through Craft Program that allocates 10% of Gross Profits (Sales – Cost of Goods) from each month to action a direct donation plan to those disrupted by this health and economic crisis. We are focusing our efforts on Pioneer Square, as we are part of a neighborhood made up of almost entirely small businesses that have been gravely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent shutdowns. From our Cash-in-Hand plan in March, which resulted in cash contributions of over several thousand dollars to small, local businesses and their employees, to this Feed-the-Need plan in April wherein we commissioned a Pioneer Square dining establishment to feed almost 300 high quality meals to residents in our local homeless shelters, there will be revolving, ongoing monthly efforts that will continue until the crisis abates.
This month, our clients and community have once again rallied to the call and supported us in order to support others. With an uplifting level of patronage, we chose to action our Feed-the-Need Plan where we engaged London Plane, a favorite restaurant of ours and our clients, to produce an exceptional lunch for all residents in Seattle Union Gospel Mission, Hope Place, and Bread of Life Shelters located in the Pioneer Square area. It might seem a tad outlandish to employ an elevated dinning establishment to cater for a homeless shelter, but we’ve been on the other side of the tracks and in tough situations. From our personal experiences and working with those in need, a special serving and memorable meal can go a long way in the face of circumstances that are defined by being without. We’re not trying to solve the hunger crisis, but if we can engage a business for a couple of days to feed hundreds of those in need to make an impact in a moment, that’s something worthwhile and attainable.
We have a strategy at DR of doing only what we can do, and doing it exceptionally well. This tactic has us concentrate on execution rather than just theory, so we’re looking at those who surround us and the neighborhood that we want to sustain through actions within our community. This leads us to attempt to retain the livelihood of our Pioneer Square neighborhood in Seattle by looking at the street level for ways we can offset the challenges of those around us. Further, by creating an avenue for our clients to make a difference with an immediate positive impact, we are honored by the response to the Contribute Through Craft Program and hope it continues to inspire and drive others.
Locally, the shutdown continues, and in effect, we’re starting to see the increase of symptoms related to an inner city that’s losing its vitality daily. Our main concern surrounds what the future holds and the lasting ramifications of aid, when absent of opportunity-based solutions for individuals and small businesses, presents to our city in the long-term. Our first responders understandably have been limited in scope of duty, while business improvement and sanitation services have dropped to bare bones. All the while, the homeless population is expanding and exploding onto our streets, along with the evidence of a very real and destructive drug epidemic with each passing day.
Obviously, the restaurant industry, much like retail, is being impacted in the short-to-mid-term from the required shutdowns and distancing measures, and who knows at this point what will unfold in the long-term. High quality boutique businesses, whether it be in food or goods, have razor thin margins. We applaud those operations that were on the forefront of thinking outside of the box, which enabled them to adapt to both changes in the marketplace and the unanticipated shutdowns of local and global economies. Some had no choice but to call it quits, and others are doing everything they can to safely sustain with pick-up and delivery, combined with creative subscription services. London Plane is one of those types of organizations that are supporting their teams and communities any way they can, so they can survive today in order to succeed tomorrow.
Due to the state Stay-at-Home mandate, all homeless shelters are in full lock-down with no in-out privileges or the ability to cycle residents. The homeless and in-need population is increasing daily with natural displacements and people being forced below the poverty line. Shelters, recovery centers, and assistance homes are unable to increase capacity due to distancing practices, local regulations, and the need to protect their residents. Pioneer Square is an epicenter of this network and a growing population has been forced to take up residing on adjacent streets, hoping to have access to services and any excess of donations or basic goods, even though those have been drastically reduced. We hope to remind some individuals who may not see this reality every day, there are significant costs to this crisis and resultant shutdowns not apparent from the news or the safety of our modern bubbles. The fact is, a life of tribulation has become even drearier, and our goal with this program is to improve an outlook for even a day.
London Plane is a local restaurant, bakery, and flower shop on the gallery row of Occidental Avenue and one of our favorite lunch spots in the area. It’s been an oft recommended location to our clients looking for a spot to eat while enjoying the space and view of the historic plaza to relax before or after an excursion to our shop. With a focus on fresh ingredients and healthy meals in combinations that are uplifting as well as savory, LP has a unique menu that can be enjoyed by anyone looking for quality food. Co-owner of London Plane, Yasuaki Saito, is a great steward of the neighborhood and, like us, wants to elevate the area while retaining the authenticity and history that has been under constant threat for decades.
We love dinning at your establishment, but what else can you tell us about London Plane?
London Plane is an all-day cafe and restaurant in the heart of Pioneer Square's Occidental Plaza but it also multifunction’s with a few additional facets: a flower workshop, a pastry bakery, a wine and retail store and an event/commissary kitchen. We host events of all kinds and sizes (from small acoustic concerts to intimate wedding receptions to large fundraisers), our walls feature local artists every month with openings coinciding with our neighborhood's ArtWalk, our back kitchen is used by awesome partners like the Pastry Project (a social enterprise that helps women with barriers to employment learn pastry skills along with job placement) and, tucked into the middle of the space, our good friend Michael Sanders operates his own microbusiness bread bakery called Plane Bread.
How have you pivoted from the shutdowns and stay-at-home orders?
On the community outreach side of things, since the mandated shutdowns, we have been working with the UW Medical Centers at Montlake and Northgate, Harborview and Seattle Children's to feed hospital staff with thousands of delivered and donated meals. We are also working with local non-profits like the University District Food Bank and Friends of the Children, a long-term mentoring program for at risk youth in the area, to deliver them foodstuffs, snack packs and sweet treats. On the small business side, we have done what we can to stay true to ourselves, our model and our ethos.
We annually offer a Larder Share, which usually starts in June, but have begun a couple months early due to the coronavirus crisis. The idea is modeled after CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and it features produce from local farms, baked goods, some house made items, a bottle of wine and a retail or dry good. In addition, we have also started flower deliveries, weekly subscriptions, and we have moved the floral design classes we usually teach in the shop to online, utilizing delivered raw materials with a vase and accompanying digital instruction videos.
How have projects like this helped your business, your team, and your spirits?
We have been inspired by the opportunity to feed our healthcare front liners as well as help a couple of our local organizations who all work tirelessly year-round to keep us healthy and safe and bound together. The positive feedback and sense of community have helped us replace what we lost when the bulk of our industry was decimated by the closures of gathering spaces. In the matter of a few days we laid off our staff and shuttered the doors as our friends, families and peers did the same, faced with the bleak prospects of losing our businesses. The way we have all come together and met the challenges as a group has also been inspiring to no end and gives us hope for the future.
What are your hopes and plans going forward during and post-health crisis?
Our hopes going forward are relatively simple, although we understand the landscape will be irrevocably changed. We want to continue supporting our staff, feeding and nourishing our community and creating a third space for our guests. We know there is no return to the way it was before, but we believe in the power of true hospitality and taking care of others and we will always be dedicated to that endeavor.
We share a fair amount of clientele; is there anything you’d like to tell the Division Road customers who purchased purposefully with the Contribute Through Craft Program in mind?
Yes, we are lucky to not only have guests and clientele in common, but fortunate to share the same mentalities, too. Knowing how much the network of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders have bonded over this shared challenge and knowing that the support from those same people we've come to know as guests but also friends is a testament to our collective power. Every small gesture of a gift card purchase, a donation, or purchase through Contribute Through Craft/Feed the Need, or even an email with kind words reinforces our belief that what we're doing is valued and matters to others. What an amazing thing to feel interconnected like that, so thank you to your team, customers, and viewers!
Seattle Union Gospel Mission was started during the Great Depression in 1932 and is one of several organizations that operate shelters within our neighborhood, community, and city for those in need. With a Men’s Shelter in Pioneer Square and Hope Place that serves Women & Children in South Seattle, this group houses, assists, educates, and provides means for recovery for over 200 individuals who have nowhere else to turn. We are grateful for their outreach and long-term, solutions-based approach to providing those in need the tools and grace to live fruitful lives. Along with their altruistic undertaking, this organization supports our neighborhood by serving populations that others are scared to and keeping our inner city viable.
In your words, what type of service do you provide?
The Mission is a ministry made up of followers of Jesus who love and care for our homeless neighbors. We are committed to addressing root causes to break the cycle of homelessness by meeting urgent physical needs, building relationships and offering long-term recovery programs.
How has COVID-19 impacted the community you serve?
As we reach out to build relationships with our vulnerable population, the uptick of the COVID-19 crisis has managed to cut off an already isolated community from receiving contact and care due to social distancing. Still, we have managed to find creative ways to continue to love and care for those who need us all while taking the virus seriously and using state health guidelines to continue to care for them.
What are your concerns and needs going forward through the crisis?
With any crisis, factoring in and answering to the unknowns and uncertainty for everyone who depends on us is a concern. Yet the Mission is dedicated and has a plan to completion.
Any feedback from community and staff from the event?
The meals were raved about by the guests and they were very appreciative of a wonderful treat. The spread was received with much gratitude and the guests send their heartfelt thanks.
We serve just about a million meals per year and the support you have provided really helps in those efforts. These special meals are a blessing to the guests, and it speaks volumes to receive support from a community that cares.
The central tenet of our position towards goods and our presentation is that, bigger or more is not always better, and there can be even more virtue in small quality acts. We like to think that we have a holistic view when it comes to understanding challenges, and a nuanced approach to meeting them. Thank you for providing us with the patronage to persist with that methodology.
This is a dire financial situation for many, and please know that your purchases with Division Road will directly benefit some of those facing the significant consequences of this crisis and will result in some grassroots good while keeping our operation, along with our employees, neighborhood, vendors, and the other concentric circles that Division Road supports, viable for the future.