September 19, 2020

Local businesses find creative ways to work together during the pandemic and beyond

At first glance, it certainly doesn’t seem like an organic composting business, beloved local restaurants, and a local record store have anything in common. But never underestimate the power of creativity and camaraderie. These businesses have joined forces and formed mutually beneficial partnerships in order to offer contactless delivery of everything from potting soil to fresh produce to burgers — and they all arrive in one delivery. Partnerships like this make the most of the relationships that help local businesses remain resilient.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced nonessential businesses to temporarily close their doors in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. Local businesses in particular have taken a major blow and many have been forced to close their doors permanently.

Local business owners quickly realized that they wouldn’t be able to reopen any time in the near future, so they had to get creative in order to keep their businesses afloat — and collaborating with other local businesses has been a huge success.

For example, Sound Bites Delivers partnered with local restaurants, including El Gaucho and Duke’s Seafood, to provide contactless delivery to people’s homes. Stephan Banchero, III, president of Cedar Grove and Sound Bites, has worked with many local restaurants in the past — so when it became clear that the pandemic would force them to shut down for a long period of time, he got in touch with the owners.

“To be in business for 80 years like we have, you realize you’re only as good as your relationship to your customers and your consumers,” says Banchero. “We figured we’re best off together, so why not reach out to the people we work closely with and see what we can accomplish together?”

John Moscrip, COO of Duke’s Seafood, notes that the restaurant, which has been in business for over 40 years, is involved in the community. “We want to give back because people have given to us for so many years,” he says. “It’s a competitive industry but there’s room for us to thrive during good times. And during challenging times like now, you lean on your partners to help out.”

Stephan Banchero III, president of Cedar Grove and Sound Bites Delivers, and John Moscrip, COO, Duke’s Seafood.
Stephan Banchero III, president of Cedar Grove and Sound Bites Delivers, and John Moscrip, COO, Duke’s Seafood.

Although restaurants are currently open at reduced capacity, Moscrip says many of their customers have expressed that they still don’t feel comfortable eating in a restaurant. “We’ve gotten great feedback that we have this program because they can still get our food without going out,” says Moscrip.

Before the pandemic hit, JB Champion and his family were regulars at Duke’s — so he was thrilled to learn that restaurant items could be delivered to their house through Sound Bites. “It was awesome to be able to order burgers and chowders and have them delivered so we didn’t need to worry about going out and sitting in restaurants,” says Champion. Furthermore, it gives him a way to continue doing two things that are important to him: Support local businesses and eat sustainable, chemical-free food. “The other piece that I like most about [Sound Bites] is they’re supporting local businesses,” says Champion. “Sound Bites is supporting local farmers, local businesses, and local delivery people. Partnership with local companies is great and I hope it never goes away.”

Cooper Mills, director of operations at El Gaucho, notes that the Sound Bites partnership is a continuation of the restaurant’s 20-year relationship with Cedar Grove. “When things like [the pandemic] happen it brings out the best and the worst in people,” says Mills. “We wanted it to bring out the best in us.”

Although many of these partnerships were formed due to COVID-19, Cedar Grove has been working with local businesses for years. Matt Vaughan, president of Easy Street Records & Cafe, first connected with Banchero over a decade ago. “[Our families] are baseball and football fans so we’d see each other at games and things like that,” says Vaughan. But it was an Eddie Vedder concert that cemented their friendship and partnership. “[Vedder’s] very first solo performance happened to be kind of an intimate performance which I helped produce,” Vaughan recalls. “Stephan and his wife were really taken by the show and they said if there’s anything we can ever do to show our appreciation for the event, let us know.”

True to Banchero’s word, he introduced Vaughan to people who work at Safeco and, because of the connection, Easy Street Records was able to host an event there with local musicians. Supporting one another is especially important amid the pandemic — but Vaughan’s experience with Cedar Grove illustrates the importance of camaraderie and lifting each other up during both the best of times and the worst of times.

The partnership between Cedar Grove and Easy Street has evolved in the age of COVID. In August, Easy Street began selling products on Sound Bites. “They’re offering free delivery in partnership with some of their favorite restaurants and it was something that we’d be fools not to be part of,” says Vaughan. “It supports Cedar Grove and it gives people the opportunity to order some of their favorite food items for free [delivery] while they’re also getting fresh produce and soil for their garden.”

Banchero describes Easy Street as “a local staple in West Seattle” and says that, when COVID-19 hit, it only seemed natural that Cedar Grove would help continue to feed their patrons with the cafe’s famous hash and chili. “They’ve only been on board a couple of weeks now but we are seeing some good progress,” says Banchero.

The Sound Bites partnership is just one example of local businesses like Easy Street getting creative in the age of COVID-19. When Easy Street Records closed their brick-and-mortar store, owner Vaughan began making house calls using Easy Street’s famous “rockmobile” van to deliver orders made online and on the phone. In May Vaughan estimated that he was doing approximately 40% of his usual business. The abrupt cut was certainly a blow, but Easy Street is faring better than many local businesses thanks to Vaughan’s creative use of the rockmobile and his collaboration with Sound Bites.

On the surface, Cedar Grove and Easy Street seem like very different businesses. But Banchero says that businesses are often a lot more similar than you may think and the key to a successful collaboration is communication. “Pick up the phone and call!” he says. “You can not only just find a great business opportunity together, [but] more importantly you can become close friends like Matt and I have.”

Mills says El Gaucho’s partnership with Sound Bites has strengthened their relationship with both their customers and Cedar Grove. “It’s about caring and connecting. We’ve got everything stacked against us right now; we’ll only get through this together,” he says.

Cedar Grove is a local business with roots in the Puget Sound region since 1938. Now offering contactless delivery of its bulk and bagged soil products, Cedar Grove is standing with this community now and always. Local. Organic. Recycled.

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