Hi Redmond campaign draws attention to downtown businesses

Local businesses in downtown Redmond have taken a hit as construction continues in the city’s retail core and in response, many have banded together to promote each other.

JD Klein owns Redmond’s Minuteman Press and said he realized last winter there was a need to help small businesses survive.

He began brainstorming and approached the city for input on how to market local enterprise, especially retail businesses. The product of these sessions was the Hi Redmond campaign where businesses use a hashtag campaign and physical advertisements to draw attention to businesses.

The group of business owners also began holding weekly meetings to discuss construction issues with each other.

Klein worked with Jill Smith, Redmond’s economic development manager, on the campaign.

“The group decided they wanted to introduce the businesses and the people in downtown Redmond,” she said.

Central to this, both Smith and Klein said, was the idea that local businesses have their own stories to tell and that these stories should be shared with the community.

The city has helped fund the Hi Redmond campaign through funds allocated to help provide construction mitigation as the city develops its downtown core. It has also done some graphic design and promotional video campaigns, including running advertisements at local movie theaters and promotion on the ExperienceRedmond.com website.

Smith said the campaign is part of the city’s mission.

“It’s fitting that we’re coming in with resources to help mitigate impacts,” she said.

Ty Whitten is the general manager for Super Jock and Jill in Redmond.

While business has been steady, he said complaints from customers about difficulties navigating through downtown are common.

“Any help we get at this point is helpful trying to draw people down here,” he said.

Many of the functions that Hi Redmond is undertaking, from coordinating to promotion of and between local businesses, are ones that a downtown business association generally coordinates.

Ann Humes, owner of the Hop House pub, said she thinks an association would be good for business. While the public-private partnership organization OneRedmond provides some services, a downtown business association may be able to expand assistance, she said.

“I think if we looked into it, there might be a gap,” she said.

She also signed on to the Hi Redmond campaign to raise awareness for her business and to help out her neighbors.

Hop House recently re-branded from Growler, USA, which was a franchise, and struck out on its own. She said joining the Hi Redmond campaign made sense to her.

“It just seemed like a good opportunity to jump on something that might help us out,” she said.

Klein also said that he believes OneRedmond could be doing more to help local businesses. He previously was involved with the organization until he resigned a few months ago, he said.

Key to his decision to do so was a feeling that there was a lack of marketing and promotion for downtown businesses.

He also said he would like to see OneRedmond focus on creating what he called a healthy real estate market as retail space becomes more expensive and more scarce in the city.

Bart Phillips, CEO of OneRedmond, said his organization is taking many steps to help downtown businesses, especially during construction, although he said there had been some problems in the past.

“It all really kind of boiled down to communication issues,” he said.

To address these issues, he said meetings between the city and business community had been held.

The city also contracted with OneRedmond to conduct a parking analysis, which will identify solutions to parking problems and a lack of spaces downtown, Phillips said, especially as the city prepares for light rail stations opening in coming years.

“It’s not going to talk about the parking issues that are here today but really about what are we going to be doing as the downtown continues to evolve,” he said.

They’ll begin work on the contracting of the analysis within the next month and they hope to incorporate more input from businesses in this study, Phillips said.

While OneRedmond doesn’t have a downtown business association, Phillips said the committee as a whole can form subcommittees to address certain issues.

As development progresses downtown, Klein said Hi Redmond has plans for a second phase of the campaign that includes connecting more businesses to the group.

Construction on many of the road improvements should be finished by the end of this year.