Gross: Expanding coffee chain spurns Seattle to avoid rising minimum wages

Jan 8, 2024, 7:00 AM | Updated: 1:50 pm

Image: There is a Woods Coffee on State Route 99 in Edmonds....

There is a Woods Coffee on State Route 99 in Edmonds. (Photo: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest)

(Photo: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest)

It can be difficult for a coffee shop to stand out in this region. Woods Coffee has 20 locations in the North Sound and has made quite the impression on customers. However, despite a planned expansion in the works, the growing coffee chain will not be coming within the Seattle city limits.  

“We are now actually expanding south below Seattle. We’ve (also) got a new store coming in Everett,” Wes Herman, owner of Woods Coffee, told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “It’s become more and more difficult (in Seattle). There are a lot of regulations and things that get in our way of doing business. That’s where it’s difficult for us.”

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Herman pointed to minimum wage standards as a major reason why it is hard for small businesses to operate in Seattle. The minimum wage in Seattle can be as high as $19.97, depending on other factors like tips or medical benefits.

“Specifically (in) Seattle, the difficulty there is that once you get past a certain (number) of employees, then it becomes harder to operate. The cost of doing business goes up,” Herman said. “It becomes burdensome regulations that just keep us from doing business in a friendly environment where they actually want you to be. And you can contrast that with other cities and jurisdictions where they will roll up the red carpet, they will do just about anything to get you there because they want to encourage small business.”

While small businesses can still face problems in other communities it is a much easier road map to success without having to deal with the other problems that come with doing business in Seattle including crime.  

Herman hasn’t ruled out Seattle completely for his successful chain of businesses, but he says widespread change is needed.  

“It’s a place that encourages business and entrepreneurship, it’s a place where you can start something and get going and be encouraged,” Herman told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “And then, you know, like, be in the actual heart of the largest city in the state. It’s discouraging. I think it’s one of those things where we need leadership that will step up and say, Hold on a second here, this doesn’t make any sense.”

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Changes atop the Seattle City Council could be a step in the right direction. Policies that help small businesses could be moved to the front burner after the council voted on a new president with Sara Nelson — a small business owner herself — taking the helm.

The stories of businesses that have stayed away need to be heard by city officials because Woods Coffee is not the only business staying away from Seattle for now.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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Gross: Expanding coffee chain spurns Seattle to avoid rising minimum wages