GEE AND URSULA

Is new flagship Ben Bridge store in downtown Seattle a sign of resurgence?

Jun 8, 2023, 3:19 PM | Updated: Jun 9, 2023, 11:36 am

Ben Bridge downtown store...

Ben Bridge opening a new flagship store in downtown Seattle. (Courtesy of Ben Bridge)

(Courtesy of Ben Bridge)

Many people who haven’t been to downtown Seattle lately claim it is dying, but one renowned locally-based retailer doesn’t agree. Despite high crime rates, graffiti, encampments, and parking issues, Ben Bridge jewelry stores are willing to take the bet.

“I’m bullish on downtown Seattle. And I really believe in being a part of the next great chapter for our city,” Lisa Bridge, CEO of Ben Bridge, told MyNorthwest. “Over 100 years, we’ve seen some things in downtown Seattle, and there have been different eras where things have been stronger or softer. And we believe in being part of creating a vibrancy. And we can do that by showing up and opening our doors and reinvesting.”

A Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) survey of likely voters in Seattle’s November 2023 elections indicates an electorate that wants city government to place downtown revitalization atop its list of priorities.

“Visitor numbers are increasing year over year and more people live downtown than ever before,” said DSA VP of Advocacy & Economic Development Kylie Rolf. “At the same time, we’re seeing persistent issues impacting downtown and voters want to see more progress on problems like public safety, open-air drug use and getting help for people in need. This research clearly shows Seattle voters see the nexus between solving these issues, downtown’s revitalization and how important that is for the entire city.”

DSA reported data that foot traffic is actually improving downtown. It is now at 92% of the number of pedestrians on the streets, compared to 2019.

This week, Ben Bridge opened its new flagship store down the street from Pacific Place. It is meant to be a show of support for downtown Seattle.

“It’s been a challenging period for the city. And we’re very fortunate that for us, businesses continued to be strong,” Bridge explained. “We had our best year in downtown Seattle in 2021, only to be beaten in ’22. And so there’s business to be done in downtown.”

Mayor Harrell renews Downtown Seattle ambassador program

Bridge said that she’s seen great improvement in downtown over the past year and she likes Mayor Bruce Harrell’s plan to revitalize the area.

“When there was a lot of retail exiting downtown Seattle, we felt very strongly that we need to have a strong retail core to have a strong and healthy city,” Bridge said.

Gee & Ursula are excited to see the flagship store in the city

On KIRO Newsradio’s Gee & Ursula Show, the pair were both happy about the return of Ben Bridge to Seattle.

“So I remember when it was a big deal when Ben Bridge closed downtown, and it was kind of part of that hole where everyone’s leaving,” Ursula Reutin said. “And a lot of people did leave and the pandemic did not help. But this is, in my opinion, certainly great news that Ben Bridge is coming back. It is one of Seattle’s oldest companies. And I think it is a positive sign.”

Gee Scott said he was recently downtown and stated it looks different than it did six months ago.

“I know that there’s this sentiment about Seattle dying,” Gee said. “Seattle is on its way up back from that.”

Gee said he would argue that Seattle will be one of the top cities in the country because of its plans.

Ursula: Seattle isn’t dying, it’s the fastest-growing big city in US

“I think Ben Bridge going back downtown is the equivalent of when a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods comes into a neighborhood,” Gee said. “When was the last time you saw Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods go to a neighborhood that wasn’t going to be up and coming?”

As for the store itself, Bridge is very proud of the elements it brings to downtown.

“We wanted to create an environment that felt uniquely Ben Bridge, that felt warm and inviting and comfortable for people to enter,” Bridge explained. “This store wanted to bring the uniqueness of Seattle and the Northwest into it. And so we brought in some really wonderful materials. You know, a lot of wood both in the flooring and the ceiling, but also in displays kind of having a live edge display as you walk in from Fifth Avenue and these tree slices, and they call them cookies to display pieces as you walk in, at the corner. And so bringing in those elements, bringing in moss and ferns, and geode specimens throughout the store to add personality and comfort into the store. But also just a richness of the Northwest. It feels uniquely Seattle.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Is new flagship Ben Bridge store in downtown Seattle a sign of resurgence?