ARLINGTON — As he embarks on his third term as president of the Downtown Arlington Business Association, what Mike Britt has seen most is growth.
“We started the New Year with at least eight storefronts that were physically vacant,” Britt said. “Since then, three of them have become occupied.”
Shane Henderson and his daughter, Sonnie, opened Arlington Pickers at 339 N. Olympic Ave. after 10 weeks of renovating their storefront, including literally raising the roof.
“I’m as Arlington as Arlington comes,” said Henderson, a 20-year resident of the town who previously operated as a vendor at the flea market a few blocks south on the same street. “I knew I wanted Arlington in the name of my business, and I knew I wanted to be in the heart of Arlington. The parking here is great, and we’ve got double-doors on both ends of the building.”
When Britt first joined DABA, just over two years ago, “I could identify less than a dozen businesses who were members,” but now, DABA is nearing 100 members.
“Free enterprise can be brutal, and even the best of business plans don’t always work out,” Britt said. “But part of the point of DABA is that you have this whole community who can help you through those times, by coming up with new ideas or promotions.”
Britt noted the number of board members whose businesses are based in downtown Arlington, which will allow them to divvy up the downtown into areas that each one will keep track of.
“Having a board member who’s responsible for each sector will give those businesses a point of contact for their concerns,” said Britt, who pledged that DABA will monitor the downtown businesses outside of Olympic Avenue as well. “We’ll try to get more participation from those folks, but we need to make sure they don’t feel left out.”
Britt believes that such hands-on involvement will not only help new business owners occupy vacant storefronts sooner, but will also help existing businesses stay in business.
“We’re one of the cheapest groups in town that you can join,” said Britt, who touted the membership fee of $20.
DABA is entering its second phase of informational brochures, from the 2,500 copies it already printed and made available locally, to the 50,000 copies it plans to distribute throughout Western Washington.
With such ambitious goals, Britt knew the all-volunteer DABA board would need some administrative support, so he turned to the Arlington-based Anderson Accounting Solutions.
“I just didn’t want them to get overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks,” Britt said of his board, whom he praised for already shouldering significant responsibilities.
In addition to providing wagon rides for the Arlington-Stillaguamish Eagle Festival Feb. 5-6, DABA also presents annual events such as the Show & Shine Car Show in June and the Street Fair July 8-10.
“The Viking Fest last October was a fun and entertaining weekend,” Britt said. “We’d never done that before, so there was a lot of learning involved, but our main goal was to draw more visitors to downtown, and it certainly accomplished that.”
Although Britt would be glad to bring the Viking Fest back, he just needs to double-check and make sure they have enough funds in the budget for it.
“We’re still waiting for some grants, and we want to be good stewards of the money we have,” Britt said. “It’s always hard to predict how these things will go, from year to year, but we’re expecting the car show to have an even better year than last year, which was a record-breaker.”
Britt noted that Car Show Chairman Bill Dettrich and Street Fair Chairwoman Kathleen Shalan both have a direct stake in providing more exposure for downtown businesses through their events.
“We’re really going to be pushing the promotion for those events, through advertising and other media, to get people to explore our town,” Britt said.
On the smaller scale, DABA’s purchases of “community tool chest items,” ranging from pressure washers and long ladders to PA systems and big tents, have allowed the group to save on rental fees, while making those supplies available to other groups for small loan fees.
Britt is hoping to fill his own seat with a new president, whom he’d like to see continue the development of DABA’s positive relationships with the city and the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce. Just as Christy Brubaker has stepped up to serve as DABA’s liaison to the chamber, so too has Dana Fowler proved invaluable in writing grant applications.
“They’ve all assumed equal shares,” Britt said. “It’s worth unlocking your doors a little early, and locking them up a little late, if it serves a bigger cause. It’s a good time to be a business in Arlington.”