Business

Dive shop swims away

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

Scubaset, a dive shop that's operated in Federal Way for four years, will close next Tuesday and may eventually resurface out of town.

Despite overall improvement of the dive industry, Scubaset's business has suffered from traffic problems for customers, according to director Walt Amidon.

Plans for the store beyond closing aren't clear, but it probably will reopen in Pierce County, "not Federal Way," said Amidon, who operates the business that sells and rents scuba equipment, offers dive lessons and coordinates diving trips.

The store's building at 1401 S. 324th St. was built for Scubaset and includes an indoor pool for lessons. Two investors, who Amidon wouldn't name, own the building and probably will try to sell it, he said.

The store had 10 full-time employees.

The dive industry was hurt by the 9-11 terrorist attack in 2001 but has "come back" as travel to dive destinations rebounded, Amidon said. Still, a combination of the economy and the years of reconstruction of nearby Pacific Highway South kept customers away from Scubaset, he said.

The widening of Pacific, plus associated work on South 324th, discouraged customers from as far away as Olympia and Vancouver, B.C. They described trips to the store as "a nightmare," Amidon related. "That isn't the only reason we're leaving, but it's a big one. It didn't seem the city (through the Pacific project) had much compassion for businesses."

Federal Way officials say the city has tried to minimize impacts of the road construction on businesses. They also claim new business ventures are being attracted to the city.

Since late-December and continuing last month, at least five prominent businesses, some of them part of national or regional operations, have closed in Federal Way: The Gap and Oshkosh B'Gosh clothing stores, Coco's Bakery Restaurant, the Galaxy 8 movie theater and Westfair Gifts and Home Decor. Their stated or reported reasons have ranged from business decisions to unfavorable traffic conditions in the city.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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