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How remote work is affecting a small business in a Seattle office district

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A street in downtown Seattle.

There's much less activity in the area around Cat Wilcox's shop, Velouria. Consequently, in-person shopping is down. John Moore/Getty Images

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Ten years ago, Cat Wilcox and Chika Eustace opened Velouria, a boutique in Seattle. They’ve reopened the place for in-person shopping after it was closed for more than a year because of the pandemic, and now they are facing a new challenge: less foot traffic.

“A lot of people come into the shop and are like, ‘We’re glad you made it through the pandemic!'” Wilcox said. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t know if we have yet!'”

Velouria is located in an office district and is near art galleries and sports stadiums. Many of the people who used to work nearby are no longer coming into the office daily, like they did before the pandemic.

“Even though they maybe have settled into a hybrid or totally work-from-home [schedule], I don’t think there’s a realization for a shop like us that’s in an office neighborhood, that has an effect on us too,” Wilcox said. “So we aren’t back to normal.”

Velouria has reduced its hours from the pre-pandemic normal, and that, combined with paying fewer employees, has offered relief for the business. In addition, Velouria’s property manager is providing some rent relief because of the changes in the neighborhood.

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