Small businesses in Renton struggling COVID-19 worried about Boeing layoffs

RENTON – Boeing announced Wednesday it's cutting 10-percent of jobs companywide, impacting thousands of employees. Small business owners in the City of Renton are worried about how the job cuts could impact their revenue.

Business owners in downtown Renton said they started noticing less foot traffic when Boeing grounded the 737 Max months ago. Store owners also said they’re currently struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic with the lack of customers. Many of them said the Boeing layoffs could cost them to lose several more of the company’s customers who spend lots of time and money in the area.

Antiques 4U owner Nick Hill has owned his store in downtown Renton for the last seven years. In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, he said stores like his are struggling and he’s worried things could get worse with the Boeing layoffs.

“Basically, a double whammy. I mean, for downtown Renton, this is probably the worst economic situation we’ve ever faced in our 100-year history,” said Hill.

Hill’s antique store is not open because it’s not an essential business. However, Hill’s cider company within the store is, as it is considered a Washington state winery. He said he’s thankful he can still sell offer cider for curbside service. He’s relying on sales of the alcohol beverage and foot traffic from Boeing customers to help him keep the lights on in these tough times.

“Otherwise, we just don’t have the revenue to pay our bills and we would have closed our business if it wasn’t for the cider,” said Hill.

Mathewson’s Automotive and tire has been located next to Boeing in Renton for decades. In fact, customers can see the plant from the store’s showroom. Owner Josh Coleman said he noticed a change in business when Boeing grounded the 737 MAX months ago.

“A lot of our customers are based at the Renton plant just across the street. So, we stared to see a decline. People were not coming into work, maybe they were laid off or furloughed. And it started rapidly happening little bit, little bit, little bit,” said Coleman.

Little by little, the shop has maintained some of its business during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Coleman said they’ve lost 30 percent in customer volume for the month of April. He said they are planning for numbers to get worse as more of their customers could be laid off from Boeing.

“Financially, we have to make those strides, we’re going to have to take shortcuts, we’re going to work as a crew to make sure that spending is done right and rightfully,” said Coleman.

City of Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone said despite the layoffs, he remains optimistic about Boeing expecting to resume production of the 737 MAX later in 2020 and into 2021. The mayor said in a statement in part:

“I have been working with our state and federal leaders to look for resources that can help those impacted by COVID-19. These are difficult times and we will continue to work with Boeing, our local businesses and residents to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and get back on the road to recovery.”

Making things right again is the ultimate goal for people who live and work in the City of Renton. Until then, they are weathering the storm of the coronavirus outbreak and its impacts.

“I’m totally confident we’ll get through this. But it’s going take the help of the community and everybody working together to just get through this,” said Hill.