Ashley Portilla, founder of District Fabric in Fremont, found herself at a crossroads when setting the employee wages at her newly opened business. Even one and a half years ago, talk of a $15 minimum wage for Seattle was in the air. Portilla decided that to attract good employees, she wanted to pay well, and made the choice to pay above the $15 an hour proposed wage, and well above Seattle’s then-minimum wage of $9.32.
When Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance went into effect April 1st of this year small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, like Portilla’s, were required to start paying their employees $11 per hour. This is the first phase-in of the new wage over the next few years.
Fremont hosts a variety of businesses, including many restaurants and cafes along Fremont Avenue. Seattle’s new minimum wage law will affect different types of businesses in different ways. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Phil Megenhardt of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors acknowledges that “Fremont is home to a diverse business landscape.” There’s light industry, manufacturing, headquarters for Google and Adobe, and many restaurants and cafes. There are also small businesses that add to Fremont’s famous quirky character according Megenhardt.
“You’ve got all these people existing together in a very thriving neighborhood,” he observed.
Fremont has been wrestling with the new minimum wage since it was proposed over a year ago. In March 2014, businesses owners, members of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce and Seattle City Council Member Sally Clark met at Fremont’s Red Door to discuss the proposed change in wages, and how it might affect the many small businesses in Fremont.
At the meeting, president of the Washington Restaurant Association Anthony Anton said that businesses’ voices were being forgotten in the rhetoric around the $15 minimum wage, and pointed out that most restaurants in the WRA are small businesses with 20 employees or fewer.
Many small boutiques like the kind Portilla owns will not be affected by the change in law, because many of them already pay above $15 an hour, according to Megenhardt.
It’s the other types of businesses — the ones people walking through the neighborhood are less likely to notice — that may be most affected by the new wage law, said Megenhardt. One example is the Foss Maritime shipyard.
“On the light industry side, the challenge you’re facing is that a lot of the industry businesses in Fremont are competing on a global level. These guys are building ships that they sell all over the world,” Megenhardt said.
These types of industries will have to compete with lower overseas wages.
Another industry sector that is more likely to be affected by the wage increases are the service industries, including restaurants, cafes and barbershops. Megenhardt projects that prices will increase.
“The service industries are going to see that affect their pocketbook directly,” Megenhardt said.
Courtesy of the Yellow Dot Cafe’s Facebook
Before the new change in minimum wage, the Yellow Dot Cafe started off its seven employees at $10 an hour and increased pay based on merit, according to manager Mary Malone. As a restaurant, the Yellow Dot can continue paying its employees $10 an hour under the new law as long as their total earnings, including tips and/or health benefits, add up to $11. Next year, the minimum wage will go up to $10.50 an hour with the total minimum compensation at $12. This will continue each year until 2021, when both minimum wage and minimum compensation will be locked in at $15 an hour.
The Foss shipyard in Seattle. Courtesy of The Herald of Everett.
Malone said she hopes by the time this happens, the Yellow Dot will be thriving and have several new locations opened.
“[Otherwise] we’re going to have to raise our prices, and the customers aren’t going to like that,” Malone said. “If it had jumped straight to $15, we wouldn’t be able to stay open.”
Exactly how Fremont businesses will have to phase in the new minimum wage depends on the size of the business.
Large employers, such as Foss Shipyard, are required to pay $11 in minimum wage, to be increased over the next two years to $15. That is unless these businesses pay toward their employees’ health benefits, in which case wages will be phased in over three years, and reach $15 in 2018.
Black Friday is wrapping up and next is the local counterpart “Shop Small Saturday” or “Small Business Saturday.” Shoppers are encouraged to kick off the holiday shopping season at local businesses to strengthen local neighborhoods and support many small and speciality stores.
Scheduled for the Saturday following Thanksgiving “Small Business Saturday” began in 2010, it is promoted nationally by American Express in partnership with small merchant account holders. The counterpoint to “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” has since been embraced by local business and civic organizations across the country. This includes a proclamation from Mayor Ed Murray recognizing Small Business Saturday as an opportunity for “the City of Seattle celebrates our local small businesses and the contributions they make to our local economy.”
Fremont Chamber of Commerce Director Jessica Vets spoke about Fremont and the many unique small businesses here in a profile for American Express this year:
Along with promotion by Amex, “Small Business Saturday” is also associated with several popular hashtags including #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat and can be tracked across social media. Restaurants, shops, entertainment, and other services are all included, many of which run their own promotions for the event.
Fremont has a bounty of bars and boasts several breweries as well. However, something new is on its way to please people’s palates. A cider tasting room! Schilling Cider’s tasting room to be specific.
Just over a year ago, Colin Schilling and Mark Kornei founded Schilling Cider across the Fremont Bridge in Colin’s Queen Anne home. These two young entrepreneurs were eager to leave the business world behind and use their MBAs from Willamette University in a new way.
Colin had been making cider at home since college and became increasingly innovative. He and Mark saw an opportunity to apply their educational backgrounds in business and entrepreneurship in a less-than conventional manner. They felt that what Seattle, and the beverage market needed was a well-made, drinkable cider. The result: Schilling’s Original Hard Cider
It is an exciting time for Schilling Cider, after setting up shop south of Seattle in Auburn just over a year ago, they are currently moving to a new, larger production facility in the same area. Additionally, they want to establish a home for their company near its roots and amongst the beverage-heavy culture that inspired it, so a Schilling Cider tasting room and cider bar is on its way! The cider bar will be located at 708 North 34th Street adjacent to Old School Custard and Impinj, a tech company.
Mark and Colin are very excited about this new phase and have a strong vision for what they want the bar to be. They hope it introduces people not only to their cider but also to the greater world of cider. They plan to encourage this philosophy with a cold case featuring ciders from around the world, a demonstration of cider production, as well as an instillation about the Schilling brand name. With over 30 handles in the new cider bar Mark and Colin hope to not only showcase a variety of Schilling’s ciders but also encourage customers to explore the modern cider industry and its growing offerings.
For the younger generation, A. Schilling & Company was well-known spice brand on the West Coast that was eventually bought out by McCormick. Following this acquisition, McCormick continued to use the Schilling brand name in the region until the early 2000s. The spice company’s namesake and founder August Schilling was Colin’s great-great grandfather. Colin feels a strong connection to this heritage as he begins his own company.
Just as Schilling’s spice company aimed to provide outstanding quality products at reasonable prices, Colin and Mark hope to do the same with cider. Like many new Seattle companies, Schilling Cider also takes sustainability into serious consideration as they produce and market their products. All of these factors have helped shape a unique business plan for the young company.
Schilling Cider has not yet announced an opening date for their tasting room. The team will be working on renovating and designing the space in the months to come. In the meantime, you can find their ciders on tap at several local bars (most often at The Barrel Thief, Brouwer’s, and Outlander Brewing) and on the shelves at PCC, Whole Foods, and BevMo. The company recently announced their expansion to several East Coast states as well. The current seasonal cider is the Grapefruit Cider a unique and tasty twist on the traditional style and available in 22oz bottles.
This unassuming storage space in the northernmost section of the Big Wheel auto parts store on Stone Way will soon house Wallingford’s newest culinary addition: Doggy Style Hot Dogs. (But it’s close enough to Fremont, we think you’d be interested, too.)
First, about the name: Doggy Style co-owner Mike Kniaziuk told us the name was inspired by a friend’s grandchild, who called hot dogs “doggies,” not by its less wholesome connotations. “It was embarrassing going to City Hall to get the license, but 99 out of 100 people loved it. You get a lot of smiles,” Kniasiuk said. “It wasn’t provocative thinking to start. Mainly people think the name’s cute.”
Now, for the hot dogs. Kniaziuk doesn’t want to sample another one for a long time, he said, because he and co-owner Odie Haylock have “tried them all.” They settled on Bavarian Meats’ frankfurters with natural casings, and plan to sell an “East Coast-style” dog on a New England split-top bun (West Coasters, you may need to see a picture). Kniaziuk, who’s from Boston, was surprised that Seattleites weren’t familiar with the split-top bun. These will be buttered with garlic butter and fried, then offered up in a slew of variations that are being fine-tuned. Prices will range from $3.75 to $5.25, Kniaziuk projected.
This eatery is a side business for Kniaziuk and Haylock, who own a drywall and construction company. “Things are getting slow, and everyone has to eat,” Kniaziuk reasoned and consulted with a friend who owns hot dog stand on the East Coast. Haylock remembered an espresso stand in the spot long ago (Jump Start Espresso was there for less than a year 10 years ago), so they approached Big Wheel’s owner about leasing the space.
Kniaziuk hopes to open Doggy Style by the end of the month and plans for hours to be Monday through Saturday, 11 to 7. We’ll be sure to let you know when the opening day is set — they’ll be giving away free hot dogs.
Did you know there are more than 100 locally owned businesses in Fremont? And that 45 percent of the money you give to those businesses is in turn used to support other local stores and businesses?
The Fremont Chamber is working with locally owned businesses to help promote Fremont as a unique and vibrant local neighborhood that needs — and deserves — your dollars. Banners have been installed to remind people to shop locally, and now you can participate by hanging a “Buy Local Fremont” sign in your window.
If you do not have one of these signs and would like one, give Jessica Vets a call at 206.632.1500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The chamber is also working with the Seattle Good Business Network, “an aspiring network of like-minded people who believe that local, independent businesses are the heart and soul of a sustainable local economy.”
Here’s more information from them in their own words:
Our organization is both new and old. In 2009, our core team formed the organization out of a desire to create a network of local businesses that would support each other in promoting a healthy local economy. A few months later, we merged with BALLE Seattle, an organization that has held the space for a sustainable business network for over seven years, and developed a tremendous amount of goodwill within the Seattle community of people who care about our place.
The Network is an affiliate of the national Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), North America’s fastest growing network of socially responsible businesses, comprised of over 80 community networks representing 22,000 independent business members across 30 U.S. States and Canadian provinces.