Last week, Easy Street Records was named the King County Executive’s 2012 Small Business of the Year. The award was presented at a breakfast ceremony at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, where Easy Street Records was up against Kenmore Camera and Trophy Cupcakes for the top title. King County Executive Dow Constantine presented the award, which is “given to the small business that best exemplifies the tenacity, perspicacity, and audacity it takes to successfully operate a small business.”
Owner Matt Vaughan shared his thoughts with Queen Anne View on winning the award, as well as tips for other small businesses and plans for the coming year. Queen Anne is home to many small businesses and without our community, they wouldn’t survive. As you’ll see, Matt has many insights on the challenges and benefits of being a small business on Queen Anne – and, when you’re done getting the scoop on what it’s like to be in his shoes, stop by and say “Congratulations!” – and, keep supporting our local small businesses!
How’d you feel when you won the award?
“I was very humbled, this came as an utter surprise… Seattle is so supportive of small businesses, I think our citizens and residents understand that small business is a reflection of our society and our various neighborhoods. I think they also understand the benefits of spending money at local businesses. The money is recycled right back into our local economy. From our employees and the income they can spend locally…to the tax revenue it generates and the positive subsistence that it produces. This is what pays for our cops, firemen, paving streets, schools, etc. King County has exemplified just how the economy can recover, one community at a time. Invest in small business, shop at small business. We are the engines that fuel the economy.”
Are there any key tips or lessons learned as a small locally-owned business on Queen Anne that you’d like to share?
“1) …when first starting out, I recommend being visible, communicate with your customers, get behind that counter, work alongside your staff. Your customers work hard too, you can’t appear as a slacker, you need to dedicate yourself to your craft and your specialty.”
2) When hiring young people, give encouragement. Young people can feel intimidated if you do not spend a proper enough time with them or make them feel welcomed. Display the pride in what it means to go to work, show them some tricks of the trade.
3) When you receive a bad review or some negative feedback, you have to remember that it is simply because the people care, your customer wants the best from you. They have expectations. You can’t always live up to them, but you can’t let that bring you down or get upset over that. Also, remember the benefit you have that a large business doesn’t have, you can directly respond and have dialogue with a customer that was unhappy. You will either be able to retain that customer or at least find out some vital information about your company. The best improvements we have ever made, have always come from customer feedback.
4) Support your fellow merchants, collaborate with other businesses in your neighborhood.”
Any plans for the Queen Anne location in the coming year?
“We are coming out of very difficult stretch. In 2008, the same year the economy fell into a freefall, …we lost the Supersonics. They were our most important tenant in Queen Anne. It’s old news I know and I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but it still resonates with all of the businesses down here. We immediately saw a drop in sales, 30%+. As difficult as that was to weather, we also saw a drop in the attitude and civic pride in Queen Anne.
Soon after, we lost the Fun Forest in Seattle Center, we lost the Uptown Theater, Blockbuster Video, and a few small businesses along the way… I can’t say we are out of the woods yet, but we did find ways to get creative.
In the coming year, we will continue to have free in-store events and sidewalk sales. We will continue to support our local bands and musicians. Collaborate with like-minded businesses. We will continue to put up murals and award winning window displays. There are areas we need to improve on and we’ll work on that…our website will see an improvement in the coming months, we hope to improve our catalog in various genres, and of course expand our vinyl section. I’m open to suggestions. You did see Macklemore on the roof the other day didn’t you? That was a first.”
Many thanks to Matt Vaughan for his insight on running a successful small business on Queen Anne! Stop by Easy Street Records on Mercer Street to say congratulations – and continue to support our local independent businesses and restaurants, via both your patronage and your feedback – they’re what keeps Queen Anne unique!