Businesses say downtown climate is on the upswing

Downtown Redmond has been designated as one of two urban centers for the city and construction throughout the area has shown the neighborhood is on its way to achieving this.

A number of businesses such as Graces 5, Olive and Jill’s English Toffee have come and gone in the last year, but others who have opened up shop are still going strong.

One of those is Rudy’s Barbershop at 16095 Cleveland St., which opened in September 2012.

As a new business in the neighborhood, store manager Heidi Vlist said they hope to create more foot traffic along Cleveland Street.

“We are lucky to have neighbors like Top Pot and Zeeks Pizza. We all have a different service with a similar comfortable, modern vibe and culture that our clientele appreciate,” she said. “I look forward to the future of Redmond businesses and am confident we can all work together to create and maintain a close-knit community that draws people in.”

Vlist had worked at other Seattle-area Rudy’s locations for four and a half years before she became the store manager in Redmond. She said the residential and commercial development in downtown Redmond is a big piece of what attracted them to open a store here. Rudy’s is located directly under the Red 160 apartments and Vlist said many of the building’s residents have become “loyal clientele.”

“The construction going on is meant to help all residents and businesses in the future,” she said. “Downtown Redmond is becoming extremely accessible by having housing located above retail, so people can meet all of their needs with a quick walk or nice bike ride.”

Vlist said for newcomers to downtown, the neighborhood needs businesses that are like-minded in wanting to create a strong sense of community and plan to build each other up.

Rudy’s is already feeling this type of support from Redmond residents.

“I have always loved and appreciated our clientele, but I must say Redmond clients are really special to me,” Vlist said. “The pure, genuine excitement to have a salon like Rudy’s in the neighborhood makes it fun to come to work every day.”

For Justin Cline, being a part of the community is very important and he plans to do just that with Highscore Burgers, which is located at 8440 160th Ave. N.E. in downtown and opens today for a soft opening from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The restaurant will open fully on Monday with hours from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Cline, who owns the four Full Tilt Ice Cream locations in Seattle, said they hope to be good neighbors in downtown Redmond and integrate themselves into the neighborhood.

With burgers, pinball machines, arcade games, “cocktail” table games and Full Tilt ice cream, Cline described Highscore as “a bar for kids,” but clarified that they hope to create a fun environment for all ages to hang out and meet their neighbors. He added that in the next few weeks, they will be serving beer and wine, as well.

Cline said they wanted to expand to the Eastside as PCC Natural Markets in Redmond is one of their biggest customers and downtown Redmond is “pretty high density…lots of families.”

Throughout the process of opening Highscore, Cline said he was surprised there aren’t more family oriented businesses in the neighborhood since he has seen a lot of kids.

The influx of new businesses has also brought more traffic to long-standing businesses in downtown Redmond such as Half Price Books which has been in its current location at 7805 Leary Way since October 1996.

“We are always happy to have more neighbors join us in downtown Redmond,” said store manager Nathan Blakeley. “More folks in the area are taking the time to explore and visit downtown, so our store has seen more customers in general.”

Like Vlist, Blakeley said the construction of mixed-use buildings will hopefully bring people to the neighborhood and businesses.

“Ideally we would like to see more people on foot, enjoying a stroll or out for a bike ride visiting area restaurants and shops – especially bookstores like ours,” he said.

On the business downside, last December, the Graces 5 owners lost their business license due to unpaid taxes. According to a State of Washington Department of Revenue order revoking certificate of registration previously taped to the restaurant’s door, the owners owed $38,340.48 in unpaid taxes.

Graces 5 co-owner Tim Sharpe said at the time: “We’re taking a step back. I don’t think this is the end of Graces 5. We’re going to close for a few months, take a deep breath, re-evaluate our situation and get our debt taken care of.”

He added that they’ve met with restaurant consultants and may tweak their business plan and possibly relocate within the area, somewhere else in Washington or out of state.

Another health-conscious eatery, Hugo’s Restaurant, now occupies the former Graces 5 spot at 8110 164th Ave. N.E.

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