There Are Easy Answers to the Downtown Problems

Thanks to the people who took time to respond. I was hoping for a bigger response and to also get input from the Chamber and the City, but perhaps in the future, or another venue.

There Are Easy Answers to the Downtown Problems

Thanks to the people who took time to respond.  I was hoping for a bigger response and to also get input from the Chamber and the City, but perhaps in the future, or another venue.

1. What we can do is molded by the following.

The reason small shop owners have the shops they do is that they want to be free to make their own decisions.  This independent spirit makes it difficult for small shop owners to cooperate in implementing any type of master plan for downtown Enumclaw.  So, we need to use this independent spirit to our advantage, much like a fighter can use the superior strength of an opponent to their advantage.

Events away from downtown (think Creation Fest, Fair, Chocolate Festival, etc.) don’t seem to increase our business, but it might the restaurants’.  I feel that people that attend those events have food services there, but when they drive through Enumclaw they only see strip malls (410 for example) and do not see any reason to take the “red van” back to town.

Adding in large destination stores that would go in the strip mall area, or increasing the size of those that are already here, would probably not increase “downtown business” unless people driving there realized there was a “historic downtown” to shop at.

Other events in town (sidewalk sale, parades, car shows, bicycle racing) also do not give us much of an increase in business as people seem to come just for those events and not for shopping.

Due to the general economic conditions money is in short supply.

Enumclaw already has everything necessary in place to entice shoppers to downtown. Our downtown is made up of shops from a number of eras, each with its own character and charm. For example the music store is Art Deco; the Trommald Building is on the State of Washington Historic Register because of its Chicago Brick façade, and so on.  Many buildings have a rich and interesting human history.

In order to shop in downtown Enumclaw people have to know where it is.  Pretend you know nothing about Enumclaw and are coming here for the first time.  Drive in from Auburn and in two lights you are through downtown Enumclaw and past the downtown parking lots before you even know it.  Coming in from 169 is even worse since some people will continue down Porter instead of turn east on Griffin and miss downtown altogether.  Coming in on 410 is also a problem.  We had friends come to visit our shop and they were heading toward Mt Rainier before they realized they missed us------they had no idea where the downtown was.

Strip malls (a reality for most of our everyday shopping) is where we drive to a big parking lot, go in into the attached store, buy what we came for then drive to another big parking lot--- ad infinitum. People are desperate for a shopping experience where they park once, then stroll along attractive streets and browse interesting stores.

Such streets do not have to have a “theme” to be successful.  Think of Port Townsend for example.  They just have to be clean, inviting, fun and interesting

Once people get out of their cars they have to be “guided through town” from shop to shop.  That means that they have to be able to see what’s down the street as they move from shop to shop.

Most people do not know this, but the Chamber has already put together a walking tour of Enumclaw featuring historic houses and buildings.  It takes about an hour to complete and is really interesting since Enumclaw is blessed with an example of almost every important style of architecture (Colonial, Box, Prairie, Edwardian, Craftsman, etc.)


2. My suggestions for success.

Put “gateway signs” to delineate the downtown area from its surroundings.  The “gateway signs” need to be attractive enough to get people to stop.  Historic Downtown Enumclaw, Old Town Enumclaw----almost any wording will do as long as the signs are enticing.  The signs could be fairly simple at first, but made so that additions could be made later.  The most important approaches to put signs on are coming into Enumclaw from Buckley and Auburn.  The others could come later.

Each shop needs signs that are perpendicular to the street so when people come out of one store they can be drawn into the next one.  I know that hanging signs are a problem since Enumclaw suffers from occasional high winds (easily forecast).  Folding signs that can be brought in during high winds could suffice.  It would be better if these individual signs had an “enticement” factor to them.

Old buildings (inside and out) actually attract shoppers as long as the paint isn’t peeling or facades falling off.  Very little needs to be done in this respect in the downtown area.  The Enumclaw National Bank Building is a great example of how patching and new paint can really make a difference as well as the old Penny’s Building.

We need to advertise Enumclaw in the Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle areas.  This takes money, but with connections we might be able to get free stories on TV and in the papers.  Brochures that list antique stores are also important. It takes a while for a town to get known, but we have to start somewhere.

Buildings in town could have plaques on them listing their historical and architectural significance.  I know this costs money, but perhaps a less expensive framed note inside would work in the time being.

The chamber or? could advertise the “historic home tour” to get people to come to Enumclaw and once they are here to get out of their cars and walk around (hopefully spending money).

We need events specially designed to increase shopping in the downtown area.  Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Have a downtown wide “pajama night, day?” where precipitating merchants dress up in pajamas (including waitresses).  Anyone who shows up in PJ’s (even a bottom or night cap) would get an automatic discount.  Merchants only have to wear PJ’s and be open------or?
  2. Have a downtown wide “pioneer day” where the merchants dress up as pioneers-----and?
  3. ????? 


See Richard Elfer’s second comment for other suggestions.

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Karen Noland January 12, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Great article! About a quarter of the way through I was already thinking...Cole Street equals most Main Streets in destination towns. Signs do cost money but if they lead visitors to the amazing bakery, restaurants, pubs and chic second hand stores, then all the better! As a Tacoma girl who lives in a great historic district and within walking distance of many up and coming--in the process of revitalization areas....and who also notices that if South Tacoma can get those banners, flags (another perhaps cheaper option) up and waving---anything is possible! Take for Instance the McKinley area..even they have "district" signs which get people to stop, look at the historic buildings, great restaurants and perhaps change their perception of 'Eastside' (said with a Y and some crazy hand signals). !00% agree on drawing more attention to the businesses and the people who make it happen! (Maybe hold off on the pajama thing for a bit...said with love!)
ItchieFeet January 12, 2012 at 04:13 PM
We do need new and dramatically improved "gateway" signage. The ones that are there now are extremely amature in appearance if they are even noticed. Sure signs are expensive but why spend money on signs that do nothing. No one notices the ones there now.
Vicky Watkins January 12, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I have been in business in Enumclaw two years this month and have shopped in the Enumclaw area for the last ten years or so. Some "NEW" signs pointing people to town would be awesome, even if we have to pitch in as a group to do this. I believe in advertising and am trying new types of advertising all the time! We buy everything we can here, frequent five different coffee sellers, buy gas here, we eat out here, I did most of my Christmas Shopping here. My shop also focuses on Local as in American Goods and are currently approximately 90% USA and will work hard to get that last 10%. Crooked Fence Gifts hopes to add to the down town experience for shoppers and that all the shops that are currently here are able to prosper in 2012. When I first came here in 2010 approximately half of the shops on Cole were empty. From my perspective things ARE looking up for Enumclaw. Crooked Fence Gifts would love to participate in any effort to raise awareness of the downtown Enumclaw area.
Vicky Watkins January 12, 2012 at 07:17 PM
No doubt ! Anything is possible !
Al Butler January 13, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Good Article and comments
Rendezvous Wine and Brew January 13, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I agree wholeheartedly! It is my understanding that the City has some money put aside for the "signage project"... am not sure why they have not moved ahead in that direction. I love the comments and its good to know there are concerned residents in Enumclaw..... I have made my living in this community for over 23 years and I love our downtown area. I agree that if we put some effort in to being a "destination" we could increase our business tenfold. I look at small towns like Leavenworth and think that if we had some places to stay here in addition to the Best Western and the King's Motel (maybe a bed and breakfast) we could entice people to stay and shop and run to Crystal to ski. The City needs to get behind the business owners and help us and not continue to stifle every attempt at signage.
Sip City Wines January 14, 2012 at 06:10 PM
We believe, it’s not what the city can do for you, but rather what can you do for the city. Enumclaw has a unique blend of downtown businesses, and possesses an atmosphere of being home. We’ve discovered over the years that Enumclaw is a very small town with the heart and soul that many small downtowns just don’t have. What makes Enumclaw unique is the fact of many small businesses, city organizations, non-profits working for the common cause of bringing new people into the downtown area and exposing first time visitors to the true meaning of shop locally and support your local businesses. This is what has made America strong, and will continue to be the backbone of our great country. The signage idea holds merit, but remember that a sign does not make a city. How many signs do you see leading you into Leavenworth or Port Townsend? Were the signs the draw, or was it the destination of a Bavarian style town in Washington or a unique waterfront city with fine dining, local wineries, and historic tours. We believe the first project should be to decide what the destination of Enumclaw is going to be. Once you have the destination idea in place, then you must ensure everyone is working for that common cause. After you achieve these two steps, then you can figure out the signage project and what the signs will say. The City of Enumclaw, “Mayberry of Washington”. The City of Enumclaw, “Finest Dining on the Plateau.” The City of Enumclaw, “Equestrian Center.”
ItchieFeet January 14, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Yes, signs do not make a city but signs are very important to show tourists and other out-of-towners just where the downtown area is and what it contains. Anyone passing through this area has not idea there is a "downtown" area that Enumclaw is what is on Hwy 410.


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