Resurrecting an old alliance in a beleaguered neighborhood

When Holly and I signed the lease to our shop, George, we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. Yes, the walls were Home Depot orange and the floor was decaying, but that wasn't the half of it. We suddenly had a business and now we needed a plan.

Thankfully, Al Gore invented the internet (I know Al Gore didn't invent the internet, but the notion makes me chuckle every time) so researching was much easier. In my spare time I browsed city departments learning what licenses we needed and what permits were necessary. We made a checklist of things to do, and becoming a member of the local business association was near the top of that list.

I composed an e-mail expressing interest in joining the group. The next day I was met with the dreaded "undeliverable" notification. I tried again only to have the message bounce back. Apparently the Georgetown Business Association was no longer.

"When I have a spare moment, create a merchants' association," I mentally noted.

That moment came a couple months ago.

With all the issues Georgetown is facing recently, the timing was perfect to form a merchants' association. After all, we had a lot at stake. A possible red light district could be located to our immediate north, and there was a chance we would have 600 diesel trucks driving through our historic business district every day. It was time to do something.

So, with flyers in hand, Holly and I closed shop for hours at a time and walked the streets, well, street- Airport Way South to be exact. We went to every business asking - okay, pleading - with them to join the newly re-formed Georgetown Business Association. We purposefully made it as easy as possible. It didn't cost anything and we basically promised to do most of the work. What we wanted, or hoped for, in return was support.

We did as much recruiting as possible. We canvassed and posted reminders. Every time we ran into someone, we verbally reminded him or her. Our first official meeting was scheduled for April 4.

I was a tad nervous on that Tuesday. This was our first official meeting and who knew if anyone would show up. My fingers were crossed.

Jerry donated a meeting place. The title really doesn't do the venue justice - it's a gorgeous space and it was ours from 6 to 8 p.m. Jerry lined up dozens of chairs about the room. Dozens felt a bit optimistic because there was the chance I would be sitting in a room with Holly, John and Jerry.

I posted a sign on the door that read "Welcome to the Merchants' Association," and then I sat and waited. And waited. Then someone arrived, and another, and then another. By six o'clock we could almost fill up a dozen chairs.

By the time we brought out the sign-up sheet, there were about 40 people at our meeting. It was official; we were now the Georgetown Merchants' Association.

I felt such relief that people showed up, but the best part was meeting everyone. Even though we have a shop on Airport Way South I only knew a few other business owners from the area. This meeting was a great chance to put faces to the names, or bodies to the businesses. There was Martin from the record store, Chris from the art and tattoo shop, Scott from the local watering hole and the list goes one.

We talked about the various issues Georgetown is facing and how they might affect us. Did we want the strip club zone? No. Did we want the waste station? NO.

We talked parking, or lack of, and what we might do about it. Just the fact that we were in a room talking was a huge accomplishment. I could not have been more proud of our businesses.

The momentum continued last month when we gathered to talk more in depth about the new waste station with Seattle Public Utility representatives as our featured guests. And in July, Mayor Nickels will be visiting with our reformed organization.

Yes, the timing was right for Georgetown to have a Merchants' Association, and now Seattle will see that Georgetown means business.

The Georgetown Merchants' Association meets the first Tuesday of every month. For more information, call 763-8100.

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