Hard Winter

Seattle's Snowstorm Really Messed with Small Businesses

Three local business owners weigh in on the “brutal” side effects of our winter wonderland.

By Stefan Milne February 13, 2019

Frankie and Jo's business took a hit during the storm. 

On Saturday night, as temperatures descended toward 19 degrees, I wanted comfort food. So I ventured out with a friend near Green Lake. The sidewalks were glazed with ice and window after window was dark. Our first choice, Rosita’s Mexican Grill, was closed. So was Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. So was Spud Fish and Chip. When we found a place that was open, Tacos Guaymas, the dining room was nearly vacant.

The snow hit small restaurants and businesses particularly hard (no work-from-home option). Darren and Kristine McGill own Happy Grillmore, Nate’s Wings and Waffles, Seattle Freeze, and Central District Ice Cream Company, and Darren says that all but Nate’s have been closed for nearly a week since staff couldn’t safely make it to work on icy, unplowed side streets. (He expects all his restaurants to reopen today.) And even at Nate’s—where many staffers live nearby—business was halved. He says their catering has also suffered, since offices closed and events were canceled. 

Other places that stayed open also experienced dramatic drop-offs. Amanda Chigbrow, who co-owns Belltown’s Pintxo and Branchwater, says their normally robust weekend numbers—170 covers a night—dropped to about 40 on Friday. Chigbrow, like McGill, says it will take weeks to recover, which is particularly tough during already lean winter months. But she’s hoping people will still turn out for Valentine’s Day, consistently one of the biggest nights of the year for restaurants.

Kari Brunson, who co-owns Frankie and Jo’s and Juicebox, called the snowstorm “brutal.” Her businesses remained open, but it’s not only owners who suffer during the scarcity of customers. Brunson says the morale was down for her hourly employees since locations closed early and tips thinned. 

On Tuesday Brunson took to Instagram for a “PSA”: “Please (please!) support your favorite small businesses after the snow melts the rest of the month.” She already has a post-snow support plan: a burger at Queen City Grill and “tons of wine” from Left Bank.

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