SEATTLE – Downtown Seattle was in an uproar when the city re-welcomed the annual Westlake Tree Illumination.
This is the first personal tree lighting since the pandemic turned virtual last year.
More people were in downtown Seattle for an event like this than any other in almost two very long years.
Retailers who have struggled just to hold out hope this is a good sign for this holiday shopping season.
It almost looks like old Black Fridays. A hustle and bustle of people looking for some holiday cheer even in the darkness of that day after Thanksgiving.
“We moved here this summer,” said Nicole Martin from Seattle. “I think it’s great to see everyone outside.”
“I was excited to be in Seattle with perfect weather,” said her mother, Kate McWhinney, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “It was rainy. It was gloomy. It was gray. It was wonderful.”
But there are signs that this isn’t old downtown Seattle. See’s Candies closes Saturday. These storefronts were once home to national retailers Banana Republic and Ann Taylor’s The Loft, a sad reminder that things are not going as usual here.
“Oh, the business is oh, I don’t know 50%,” said Paul Duncan, an optician at Seattle Eye Docs, of how much business has collapsed during the pandemic.
He sees signs of change.
“It’s nice to look out there today,” said Duncan. “There are people who go shopping, people with children. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen families down here. And you really miss that. “
The Downtown Seattle Association has installed light sculptures in place of the carousel that fell victim to the pandemic. And DSA spokesman James Sido sees a silver lining even under the empty shop fronts.
“Interestingly, 75% of street-level stores that were open before the pandemic are reopening in downtown,” Sido said. “There are no doubt some notable closings. But maybe there is an opportunity within those storefronts to introduce new retail stores or take a fresh look at street level retail. “
Some visitors are already excited.
“You have a beautiful city,” said Brenda Christie of Wilmington, Delaware. “I love coming here. I come here as often as I can. “
The Seattle Police Department has their hands full, with the tree lights here at 5:15 a.m., the Apple Cup, and a concert at the Climate Pledge Arena.
But they say they are busy to handle whatever happens on this busy Black Friday.
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