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For some, ‘buying local’ clashes with schedules
Federal Way resident Anna Rodriguez steps off her bus from Seattle, tired and frustrated. Inside her red purse, she has a growing list of errands to run at local stores — with no way to cross them off.
That’s because Rodriguez, 32, often can’t get away from her job at a restaurant in Seattle early enough to arrive in Federal Way before businesses close.
“It’s just impossible,” she said. “I either miss a bus by a minute or a bus comes 15 minutes late and makes a bunch of stops. Then it’s too late.”
Commuting has always made shopping more difficult, Rodriguez said. But it became even more challenging when she quit driving her car to Seattle because of the high gasoline prices, favoring instead a bus pass and two routes that cover the 25-mile commute in just more than an hour.
Rodriguez would like to shop locally, especially because hauling items back on the bus is “a real pain.” She doesn’t like shopping in Seattle, either, where she has to walk or take the bus while dealing with crowds and higher prices. Rodriguez can’t bring herself to replace local service businesses, such as her hair salon, with their Seattle counterparts.
Patronizing local businesses is also important to keeping the economy healthy, according to Tom Pierson, chief executive officer of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce. In a column published June 25 in The Mirror, Pierson encouraged residents to think of the impact made by where they shop.
Rodriguez wishes Federal Way shops, many of which close their doors around 5 or 6 p.m., would extend their hours in consideration of late-coming customers like herself.
“It just makes sense to stay open longer,” Rodriguez said. “Federal Way is a commuter town, and anyone who closes that early is missing out on a lot of those customers still out there on I-5.”
According to Jason Feeley, a manager at Target in The Commons mall, said the store does see a spike in sales between 5 and 8 p.m., when many customers arrive straight from work.
But for many small business owners, staying open to accommodate commuters cuts down on their own errand-running time.
Busy Shoes owner Kathy Matson has cut her hours down to 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. because it’s the summer. When she has errands of her own, like a doctor’s appointment, Matson just has to close her shoe and leather repair store early.
“When you’re self-employed without employees, you have to do things like that for yourself,” Matson said. “It’s just a fact of life.”
Matson combats the inconvenience of limited hours with a customer drop box, where items can be left overnight and be ready for her to repair.
Judy Harmon, who commutes from her job in Tacoma, wants to shop locally. Harmon wrote a letter to The Mirror, saying that she passes up businesses in Tacoma only to arrive after Federal Way stores have already closed. She thinks businesses need to get creative — like Matson did — to accommodate commuting workers.
Harmon suggested businesses have a couple of days each month when they stay open later.
Rodriguez thinks that could work, but hopes something more comprehensive is done soon.
“I don’t want to tell people what to do with their livelihood,” she said. “But more people will be riding these buses, and we’ve got lives to live and needs, too.”
Contact Joshua Lynch: firstname.lastname@example.org.