Amazon’s New Office Work Policy Is Welcome News For Small Businesses Around Seattle Headquarters – GeekWire

Shannon Lau, owner of Martha’s Garden Dog Daycare and Bar, said she hopes Amazon’s new work rules will boost business at her facility in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. (GeekWire Photography / Kurt Schlosser)

Inside a dog daycare business in Seattle’s South Lake Union on Friday, a handful of puppies were running around and barking as if they knew something was changing in the neighborhood Amazon calls home. .

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy Sent company-wide email New duties were imposed that morning. A corporate and technical employee must be in the office at least three days a week.

Daycare, indoor dog park, and human bar owner Shannon Lau Martha’s Gardencalled it “great news” for her two-year-old’s small business on North 9th Avenue, in the heart of Amazonia, adjacent to downtown Seattle.

“Our whole plan was based on having Amazon’s cloud here,” says Rau. “Hopefully this will really make a little difference.”

The change over the past three years has been rough for businesses in Seattle and other city centers around the country that depend on the constant heartbeat of workers coming and going.

Pet-friendly bars, restaurants, food trucks, hair salons, and more, the shift to remote and hybrid work models at companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook has had a major impact on countless small business owners. Many had to shut down.

The Amazon Banana Stand in the South Lake Union area. (GeekWire Photography / Kurt Schlosser)

It was a drizzly Gray Friday, lunchtime in Seattle, and the streets around Amazon’s offices were jammed. Business owners in the area said the day was particularly difficult as workers, who had already split their time between home and office, appeared to be picking weekdays to come to work.

Ellie Gallus, Bar Manager Sam’s Tavern At 9th Avenue North and Harrison Street, I said “Yay!” When asked about Amazon’s new plans, he added that he hoped more people would show up for business lunches.

The bar/restaurant was less than half full at lunchtime diner on a Friday. Pre-pandemic, every table was full for lunch, and happy hour was “insane,” he says, Galus.

“Tuesday through Thursday was pretty good, but Monday and Friday are tough,” she said. “I think it’s because people don’t come to the office on Mondays and Fridays. Fridays are killing us now.”

A lunchtime crowd inside Sam’s Tavern in South Lake Union. (GeekWire Photography / Kurt Schlosser)

Owner Antonia Zamorano tacos el tagine A food truck parks two trucks near Amazon five days a week. Like everyone else, she said she only has three semi-busy days a week.

“Three years ago was very busy,” said Zamorano. With her one truck she was getting 150 customers a day. Now she’s down to her 35 customers per day. To survive, she stopped paying herself and her children to work in the business.

Additionally, her husband, Thomas Lopez, was a darling of the food truck community. died of COVID At the start of the pandemic in April 2020. he was 44 years old.

“It’s crazy,” said Zamorano. ‘Pandemic is too bad’

Antonia Zamorano, owner of Tacos El Tajin, at a food truck in South Lake Union on Friday. (GeekWire Photography / Kurt Schlosser)

Dog daycare owner Lau turned to Amazon dogs and their owners to set up a space.

“Even the population of people living here has really changed. When you walk into these buildings, they’re completely empty,” Rau said, pointing to nearby properties.

In addition to anxiety about running her business in a tough economic climate, Rau said her partner was recently laid off by Amazon.

is more than 2,300 Seattle-area Amazon employees laid off among company employees Recent 18,000 corporate job cutspart of a wave of layoffs hitting tech companies.

The tech giant, which grew significantly during the pandemic thanks to the acceleration of online shopping and cloud computing, employs about 75,000 people in the Seattle area, many of them in corporate and tech jobs.

“We really want to get back in some form, and this should go in the right direction,” Lau said of Amazon’s decision to move away from its existing policy. go back to the office and leave the decision up to individual team leaders.

A customer and his pet will enter Martha’s Garden on North 9th Avenue in Seattle on Friday. (GeekWire Photography / Kurt Schlosser)

in him Note to employee On Friday, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy didn’t elaborate on the specific days employees are required to work in the office. He said the plan is to put the changes into effect from May 1.

Jassy expressed hopes to boost small businesses by returning thousands of employees to Seattle-area office buildings and other urban headquarters.

“Our community is important to us, and if we can play an additional role in helping them recover from the challenges of the past few years, we are thrilled to do so. I will,” writes Jussie.

Amazon, the region’s largest employer, millions of dollars To local small businesses in the Seattle area during the pandemic, between the Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund and Additional Rent Relief.

Pandemic affected downtown all over the countryand some are still struggling We see trends like the rise of hybrid work policies and ongoing safety concerns.

Many companies in Seattle Ditch or shrink downtown spaceAttendance at downtown Seattle office buildings last November increased from 15-20% to 35-60% year-over-year. According to the CBRE reportBut the report notes that “only a handful” of tech tenants signed new leases downtown in the fourth quarter of last year.

(Downtown Seattle Association Chart)

Recent analysis A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Toronto ranked Seattle 27th in a list of 31 large cities that measured downtown economic and social activity relative to pre-pandemic levels.

Compared to 2022, downtown Seattle’s 2019 employee traffic percentage has improved over the past year, but is still hovering around 40%. data From the Downtown Seattle Association.

News of Amazon’s policy change is “music for small businesses and arts organizations,” said DSA president and CEO Jon Scholes.

“We will use this great news to further our efforts to create a flywheel effect, attracting employees downtown and boosting weekday foot traffic critical to the continued recovery of small businesses, restaurants, arts and cultural venues. will have the opportunity to do so,” he said in a statement to GeekWire.

City leaders of nearby Bellevue, where the Amazon grew rapidly — and recently construction on hold When we surveyed office towers to explore the impact of hybrid work, we were just as enthusiastic. Bellevue Chamber CEO Joe Fain said the shift “will be a catalyst for stabilizing the commercial market while accelerating the return of retail, restaurant and other commercial office tenants.” increase.

As construction continues in the South Lake Union area, the Space Needle hides behind Seattle’s gray. (GeekWire Photography / Kurt Schlosser)

Recent budget proposal Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said: “While some workers are facing increasing pressure to be in the office at least part-time, for many, returning to a full-time five-day work week is not an option. It seems unlikely,” he said.

Speaking at the GeekWire Summit in October, Harrell said he was concerned about the impact of people working from home on retail in the city. Potential loss of tax revenue.

“You can’t force people to come downtown unless there’s something that drives them there,” he said.

Some properties have seen steady activity, such as those located right next to Amazon’s largest office tower in Seattle’s Denny Triangle area.

business in The Victor TavernThe Spheres’ Ethan Stowell restaurant across Sixth Avenue and Lenora Street is “unbelievable,” said assistant general manager Randy Deshaies. Lunch is his busiest time of the day, and happy hour is completely packed, he said Friday.

But a boost is still needed for many restaurants and other businesses across Amazonia, which is also home to large engineering office complexes for Google, Facebook and Apple.

Two customers wait for their orders Friday at Spice on Curb, an Indian food truck in South Lake Union. (GeekWire Photography / Kurt Schlosser)

Owner of Saeed Salem and Nasima Akhter spice on curve Indian food truck was among business owners Visited by GeekWire in October 2021when Amazon announced changes to its remote work policy.

“How can I survive?” Salem said at the time that he was down to 40 customers a day from a pre-pandemic peak of 250 to 300 customers.

Spice on Curb, which parked on the corner of Terry and Thomas streets on Friday, survived. The business is “moving on,” Salem said, adding that now he’s getting 60 to 70 customers a day. But it wasn’t easy.

“The city needs working people,” he said. “This is my life.”

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