Tacoma councilmember vows to not support departing local business

Mar 2, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:29 am
Brown's Flowers (Photo obtained by The Jason Rantz Show) Bullet hole in Brown's Flowers window. (Photo obtained by The Jason Rantz Show)

As Tacoma business owners struggle with widespread violence and homelessness, add local officials to the list of obstacles. One council member had choice words for a departing florist, vowing to never support the business.

Theresa Wolland, who owns Brown’s Flowers — a South Tacoma staple for more than 90 years — reached her breaking point with the city and announced she’s leaving Tacoma for Fircrest. 

Wolland sent this email, obtained by The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, to members of the South Tacoma Business District Association (STDBA) and members of the Tacoma City Council:  

“It is with great sadness and excitement that I announce after “90-plus years” we have decided to move Browns Flowers. Starting March 1, 2023, we will be located at 620 Regents Blvd, Fircrest, WA. All of our phones, emails, and websites will stay the same.

“With the neighborhood declining, the foot traffic isn’t here. We need that walk-in business to stay afloat. We have had numerous customers state that they don’t come in due to the neighborhood. Honestly, I don’t blame them. This month alone, a new bullet hole all the way through the glass doors, fires started behind the shop in the ally, not to mention the new neighbors on Washington and their aggressive dogs makes it hard for customers to want to visit us. For the safety of my family, staff, and my sanity, this move needs to happen.

“I hope to see y’all in Fircrest once our move is final.”

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She received a surprising response from Tacoma City Councilmember Sarah Rumbaugh (D-2).

“Good luck in Fircrest. I think your neighborhood has changed a lot over the last 10 years,” Rumbaugh replied. “I am not sure that the homeless issue is the only thing impacting that location. Thank you for what you have meant to Tacoma.” 

Wolland responded with a defense of her treatment of the homeless in the area. She mentioned a machete-wielding man among other various crime problems she and other area businesses have tirelessly endured. 

“Your response to my email has me a little frustrated. Nowhere in my email was I blaming the homeless, that’s what you read into it,” Wolland responded. “Once again, I have and will never say it’s the homeless!! It’s the lack of support and the criminals I have issues with.” 

Rumbaugh then came back with a rather surprising retort, pledging to not support the business.  

“I am sorry you read that into my letter. That was not my intention. You obviously have a belief that your business will do better in Fircrest. Good luck,” Rumbaugh wrote back in an email obtained by The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “I only buy flowers here in District 2. You will not see me supporting your business and I find it intriguing you think that crime is just in Tacoma. Good luck.” 

Wolland said she chose to leave the exchange at that. She said Rumbaugh was never among the 18,000 customers they served over the years at the South Tacoma location.  

“I was extremely disappointed that a city official would address me this way,” Wolland said during an appearance on the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “It doesn’t really matter how long my business has been here, they don’t really care.” 

Fircrest will be a welcome change for the business. The new location already has the owner “smelling the roses.”  

“The neighborhood is just different,” Wolland said. “You don’t see homeless encampments. You don’t see the derelict RVs. I have yet to see a drug deal happening in front of my store.” 

More Tacoma businesses have followed suit in closing their doors. The STBDA has lost multiple members and the trend is likely to continue if local officials continue to take them for granted.  

The STBDA even hired a private security guard to monitor the area and help protect businesses. But after six months, the security company said the violent and racist threats were too much.   

“We have been begging for help for two years and our pleas have gone unanswered,” Michael Johnson, sales manager of Poly Bag LLC, told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “Unfortunately, if you complain about the onslaught of drug-fueled crime and violence now plaguing our community, you are simply labeled anti-homeless and your concerns are ignored.” 

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Tacoma is coming off a year with its highest homicide mark ever. Yet, Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore stated all is well.  

“Crime is not out of control in this city,” Moore said during a presentation to the City Council in mid-February. “I study crime every day, every day in this city. And I’m proud to say we’ve made a reduction.” 

Decreasing crime numbers still have left these businesses feeling damaged and unheard. Not to mention a near tripling of the city business licensing fees in recent years. And for what? 

City officials have a serious problem on their hands and they don’t realize it. Tacoma’s business district will soon become a ghost town. More proprietors will come to the realization that Tacoma just simply isn’t worth all of the hassle.  

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

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Tacoma councilmember vows to not support departing local business