by Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
As the state of Washington has ordered the closure of all they consider nonessential to slow the spread of coronavirus, many independent businesses are struggling to gain recognition as essential service providers in their communities.
Anne’s Home Furnishings in Lynnwood is just one among many local businesses experiencing the impact of having been deemed nonessential during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Owner Phong Nguyen wrote a letter to the Lynnwood City Council, encouraging them to urge Gov. Jay Inslee to broaden the eligibility between essential and nonessential business qualifications.
“My business is among those feeling the meaningful negative impact from having been deemed nonessential,” Nguyen wrote in his letter. “I feel strong with this decision to be reconsidered, as I believe our industry truly is essential. I’m asking you to help use your influence to reverse the decision.”
Nguyen claims that home furnishing retailers sell products fundamental to consumers’ daily lives and needs, amplified by the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. With more people staying home due to teleworking conditions and K12 school closures, households are creating workspace arrangements or are modifying existing offices to meet ergonomic and comfort requirements not met by current furnishings.
“As families across the country adapt to the impact of COVID-19, some are finding it necessary to fill a new set of needs for furnishings in their homes, driven by efforts to self-isolate or meet stay at home orders.”
Furnishing needs potentially extend to adding additional pieces in living rooms, dining rooms, and sleeping areas as students return from college and people with underlying health conditions seek residency in family members’ homes, according to Nguyen. His store also supplies products essential to individuals with medical conditions such as electronic lift-chairs and adjustable beds.
Big-box retailers, with a similar product inventory as Anna’s Home Furnishings, continue to stay open because of their ability to additionally sell goods deemed essential by the state, points out Nguyen. Restricted access to open businesses generates increased foot traffic and crowding, thereby making it harder to practice social distancing orders.
“The unintended consequence of this is castrating more people in these stores, tampering social distancing efforts,” explained Nguyen. “Allowing home furnishing stores to operate by following the same guidelines as big-box retailers will not hamper slowing the spread of COVID-19, in fact, it could help them.”
With their building’s spacious layout plan and a steady flow of fewer bodies in the store compared to big-box retailers, Nguyen believes his furnishings store could open without posing an immediate threat of coronavirus exposure to the community.
“Not only are home furnishings essential, but also the brick and mortar retail stores that provide these essential products can do so in a way that conforms to CDC and local health and safety guidelines.”
According to Nguyen, coronavirus-induced closures of brick-and-mortar stores will generate a consequential economic impact on the city of Lynnwood, which could potentially be lessened if the entirety of his industry could open, using protective precautions.
“There’s a meaningful economic impact from the unfairly deemed home furnishings and the retailers that sell them as nonessential,” stated Nguyen. “Not just the obvious immediate impact of idling tens of thousands of employees, but also the lasting ones from the realities that businesses will fail as a result of our response to this pandemic.”
In 2018 Nguyen founded the Lynnwood Business Consortium to help bridge his observed gap between the business community and the City of Lynnwood. Noticing a disconnect between local businesses communication about their situational transparency, during the pandemic, with the city influenced him to write the letter.
“I’m really involved with business advocacy in Lynnwood,” Nguyen explained. “I wanted to bring awareness to the city council because I didn’t feel that they were aware of how [these eligibility specifications] are affecting small businesses.”
After the Lynnwood City Council discussed Nguyen’s letter at the April 27 business meeting, Councilmember Jim Smith drafted a letter to Gov. Inslee, signed by five of his six fellow councilmembers, advocating for the expansion of eligibility requirements for a business to be deemed essential.
For more information about Lynnwood City Council’s letter to Gov. Inslee, visit https://lynnwoodtimes.com/2020/04/30/lynnwood-city-council-letter-to-inslee-reopen-lynnwood/.