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Top Notch Service at The Bath Bar

Bathbarsarahsfavorites I know I've raved about this adorable shop before, but Sarah Fox at The Bath Bar saved my butt again so I just have to tell you about it.  This is the kind of small town service that I love.  Rewind a couple months when it was 5 days before my twin's 5th birthday party and I came down with pneumonia.  As if that wasn't miserable enough, I am that mom that loves coming up with clever themes and prepares ahead of time for events so I was tortured by being bound to my bed.  I called Sarah in desperation- please, could she put together a cute little something for the favors?  I gave her a budget and she quickly put together some colorful bath confettis topped with animal shaped bath beads all wrapped in cellophane with pretty ribbons.  Her mom, Ami, even ran to the store to get lollipops to tie to the tops of each one.  When I gathered the 12 seconds of energy that I had left in my body to pull onto Park Lane, Sarah ran out to my car to hand off the favors so I didn't have to walk/find a parking spot.   I love this girl!  Maybe Kirkland wouldn't have a parking problem if all the shops had curb-side service ;-).

Bathbarjanisgift1 This week when I again called Sarah in a panic, I also apologized for allowing her to be my personal gifting assistant, but she doesn't seem to mind!  I'm co-hosting my sister's baby shower this weekend and we're moving on Thursday, so I can barely find my toothpaste right now let alone favors.  Sarah to the rescue again!  I dropped off some ribbon, gave her some thoughts, and they were magically finished and beautiful when I picked them up the next day.  This shop has fabulous delicious smelling things but what really sets them apart is the service that they provide.  And their summer hours should be kicking in soon when they stay open til 8pm.  Make a point to say hi to Sarah and visit The Bath Bar (they're also online now: www.thebathbar.com ,425-822-9787) - you never know who might be getting you out of your next jam................... ~j

Can small retailers survive in Kirkland? You decide...

Historical_image3 There is a lot of debate in Kirkland lately.  On one hand we have developers willing to put millions of dollars into downtown Kirkland to create more office space, retail, residential, and restaurants.    Here is a recent story about the Kirkland Parkplace proposal for reference in case you haven't been following along: http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/east_king/kir/news/19986329.html

On other hand there is always an argument to keep Kirkland's existing small town feel. It's such a hot topic lately that we even have a group in Kirkland called  Kirkland Citizens for Responsible Development. I keep reading about this group in the Kirkland Courier opposing everything that is being proposed.   Since the stories never elaborate much on what this group would like to see in Kirkland I went to their website (click the link above).   No list of members.   No mission statement.  No vision for Kirkland. No alternative solutions.  Just a lot of content on why everything is bad and that we need to fight it all.   But this story isn't about the big development projects and who is for or against. 

Janis and I have been thinking about the challenges facing existing businesses in downtown Kirkland. I am not talking about QFC, or TGI Fridays, or Subway. I am talking about independent small business owners who are putting their heart and soul (and their money) into running a retail store in downtown Kirkland.

We polled 4 local business owners and although we got almost everyone we asked to provide us with answers, they all opted to stay anonymous .  All but one are located in the downtown core (spread on different streets/amongst different landlords) and none are businesses similar to each other.  First we wanted to get an idea of their monthly rent, square footage, and monthly operating costs.  Then we asked how long they have run their business in Kirkland, why they chose Kirkland, what their biggest challenges are, and finally what the city is doing to support them and enable their success.   

Lets look at the numbers first.   Our business owners represented stores from just under 1000 square feet to over 2000 square feet--none of them have been operating in Kirkland for more than four years. The rent per square foot varies widely.   Everything from about $1.75 per square foot per month up to almost $3.25 per square foot per month (BTW, I know this isn't how commercial real estate breaks out the fees, but it makes more sense to me so let's go with it).  In addition to the monthly rent being in the thousands, all these owners have operating costs (employees, utilities, licenses, taxes, insurance, equipment, signs, advertising, web site, improvements, infrastructure, etc.) well in excess of the rent figures.   Here our business owners have to pay anywhere from three to ten grand in addition to their rent--then there are inventory costs!

So what do all the numbers mean?  Basically these business owners start each month no less than $10,000 in the hole in expenses.  Some over $20,000 a month.   None of our business owners had an average sale size over $200 so they have to get good volume to just break even each month, let alone reap a nice profit.   For example, if their total operating costs are $15,000 per month and their average deal size is $100 they need to get 150 paying customers in a month just to break even.   

So why did they choose Kirkland?  Most of the responses indicated a connection to Kirkland.  Either the owners lived here, loved the feel of downtown, or have worked in Kirkland previously.   Basically they have some affinity towards Kirkland!

So what did they say where the biggest challenges running a business in Kirkland?  All the responses were pretty consistent: "dealing with parking for sure"; "unpredictable people traffic...and PARKING/tickets from parking officers!!! Our customers complain about parking every day."; and "traffic jams into/out of town in the nice weather, lack of any reasonable parking, lack of any customer traffic in the winter months".  Parkingpic

What did they say the city was doing to support them and enable their success?   Again, the responses were very consistent: "not a whole lot"; "nothing"; "the city allows us to operate, that's about it"; "nothing with any substance.  Downtown needs more parking...office development would help create captive customers during the day and more upscale restaurants/bars would help in the evening". 

So what do we take from all this?  Business owners love Kirkland and would like to see it successful.  What they need is more customers who can get to them easily without having to think about parking, let alone bumper to bumper traffic and/or getting a ticket.  Until we figure this all out between the city, the developers, and naysayers--let's support our local businesses whenever possible! 

My two cents worth.  Give us yours by commenting...Steve   

Kirkland Guy Charms "The Bachelorette"

0110 When I ran into Jason at Rikki Rikki on Saturday night I was trying to remember where I know him from.  College?  Nah.  The gym.  Nah. Preschool dad?  Nope.  His face was so familiar because he's currently still a contender on "The Bachelorette" on ABC Monday nights at 8pm.   I have to admit, I don't typically watch this show (instead I stare at my computer screen writing blog posts), but when I saw a Kirkland resident on prime-time, it peaked my interest. 

I should have known he wasn't someone hangin' around here recently by his tan healthy glow (Will someone please turn the lights on in this town-I can't take it anymore!!??).  For all the single ladies out there, if you think he's cute on TV, he's even better looking in person.  He was also super nice and now he's a blog fan too.  And if you want his phone number it is ..................PSYCH! 

332 No scoop on results of the show- ABC owns him now and he's a good little puppet.  He was with a male friend who seemed to be getting used to taking the backseat to Jason's new celebrity status around town- hands in pockets, eyes rolling.  Better get used to it, buddy.  I googled Jason/Bachelorette and found a couple of Craigslist postings from local girls that are trying to find him because they think they're a perfect match.  Whoa. 

So, now I'm on 'the list' to get more info when they un-duct tape his mouth so I'll keep you posted when there's more.  July 7th is the finale. In the meantime, let's cheer on Jason every Monday to see if he gets the girl (DeAnna)!  Go Jason!

Car Prowls on the Rise

Images17 It's like Christmas morning for thieves when we leave our iPods, cell phones, laptops and GPS systems in our cars.  Especially when they are in plain view.  With the door unlocked.  Seriously- it sounds obvious but it happens all the time. I know about 10 people in my neighborhood that have had their cars broken into (or unwillingly entered) in the last few months.  It's an epidemic, apparently, so I wanted you to be in the know.

I called my handy dandy Neighborhood Resource Officer with the Kirkland PD, Officer Allan O'Neill (AONeill@ci.kirkland.wa.us), to let off some steam.  I don't know why this pisses me off so much- nobody broke into my car.  Clearly b/c all they would find are some Goldfish crackers and some lip gloss.  But all of my friends and neighbors are getting dinged and the thought of some sticky fingered creep lurking around our homes and cars really makes me want to unleash some kung fu.  Officer O'Neill confirmed my suspicions-- for full year 2007 there were 2 reported car prowls in my (Market) neighborhood and already so far this year there are 21 reported.  OUCH.  Although not as dramatic, prowls are also up in the rest of the city too.

Last week the Kirkland PD captured two car prowlers in my neighborhood with the help of their dog and a tip from a neighbor.  Congrats to our PD for the win.  These (brilliant) criminals also confessed to 10-12 other prowls.  But, unfortunately, for each one you catch there's more in the wings.  There are some things you can do to minimize your chances of being a victim.  First, don't keep valuables in your car- especially in plain view (this includes sunglasses and phone chargers) and lock up.  Also, be aware of your surroundings and team up with your neighbors to keep watch for unusual behavior/visitors in your neighborhood.  Don't hesitate to call 911 if something or someone seems suspicious to you.  Also, you should document the serial numbers of your valuables, so in the event that you do get hit there is a better chance of identifying your stolen items.

Be on the lookout, Kirkland!  The creepies are a crawlin' and it's only going to get worse.  Springtime is the biggest season for home break-in's (and especially apts/condos) because that's when everyone leaves their windows and doors open.  See-now there's a upside to this weather we've been having! Brrrrrr, no windows open here for sure.  Have you ever seen that show, "To Catch a Thief" ?  Two ex-professional thieves rob a volunteer's house and the whole thing is captured on video.  Freaks me out-it only takes a thief 5 minutes to clean your house out of all it's valuables so don't think that walk around the block with Fluffy is an ok time to leave your door unlocked.  Better safe than sorry.   ~j

The Future of Kirkland's Waterfront

It's always better to know about these things ahead of time instead of saying "Whose idea was THAT???"  when it's too late..........

Around_town_009 The City is currently working on a new set of policies and regulations that will affect future development along the City's waterfront. Shoreline property owners, interested community agencies and those who value Kirkland’s waterfront are encouraged to attend a community Open House to learn about the City’s efforts to update its Shoreline Master Program and to share ideas on how the City can meet new state shoreline protection requirements.  The Open House is set for Monday, June 9, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Heritage Hall, 203 Market Street, Kirkland, Washington.  Participants can view informational displays, talk with City staff and participate in a visioning process that will help the City identify the community’s priorities for environmental protection, land uses and public access and recreation.  Information about the Open House and the update are available at www.ci.kirkland.wa.us.