Category Archives: Surviving Pacific

5 Question Friday With Steve Rich, Pacific Avenue Steetscape Project Manager

2013-02-08_10-09-52_84The Pacific Avenue construction project is in full swing right now. Businesses are doing what they can to stay open and profitable during the year long project. I reached out to Project Manager, Steve Rich and asked if he could participate in 5 Question Friday and give us a bit more information about this project from the construction side of things. He was nice enough to take time out of his day to join me.

Here’s Steve:

1. What is the purpose of the Pacific Ave construction? 

The Pacific Avenue Streetscape project’s primary goal and purpose is to attract and encourage visitors and new business to downtown Tacoma by renovating the City’s main street.  The project was envisioned and designed to create an active, attractive, and economically viable main street that encourages people to be downtown. Streetscape beautification and innovative stormwater enhancements will improve the aesthetics, functionality and livability of Downtown’s core street thereby improving business opportunities.  The project’s stormwater improvements (raingardens and silva cells) are designed to improve the water quality prior to discharge through the storm system into the sensitive Thea Foss Waterway.  Raingardens will effectively filter the stormwater pollutants while adding landscaping to Pacific      Avenue’s heavily urban landscape thus creating a more walkable and inviting urban streetscape.  New sidewalks, intersection bulb-outs, crosswalks, bike sharrows and transit stops are designed to improve accessibility, multimodal transportation opportunities and pedestrian safety.

2. What is the city doing to help business affected by the Pacific Ave Construction?

Our project team is dedicated to achieving the project’s goals while minimizing impacts to the local businesses during construction. The project schedule and work plan were designed with this in mind. Our phased work plan concentrates the work in specific areas, minimizing the schedule duration for individual blocks. Two way traffic on Pacific Avenue and pedestrian access to businesses will be maintained at all times during the project . Our general contractor, Tucci and Sons, Inc. is a local contractor who is diligently communicating and working with the local businesses to efficiently complete the project while proactively looking for the best way to meet the immediate needs of the businesses during construction. In addition, the project team holds monthly “Coffee Talk” public meetings at local businesses in the current construction zone.  These meetings are held to communicate project information and generate feedback from the community on how the project is going and suggestions on how or what we could do to help improve the process.

3. What can businesses do increase their businesses during this time?

This past Thursday we invited local businesses are to a Downtown Merchant’s Group (DMG) meeting where marketing and communications consultant Kurt Jacobson led a workshop to help businesses make money during the downtown construction work.  An excellent example is The Office Bar and Grill’s sign that advertises “DETOUR DEALS, Open During Construction”.

4. What are some of your favorite spots on Pacific Avenue?

I’m a big fan of the restaurants Vinum, Pita Pit, Hal of a Sub, and Matador just to name a few.  Dorky’s Arcade and Teaching Toys are also favorites to take my kids to.  We had a pinball tournament / birthday party at Dorky’s and the kids loved it and Caroline was an awesome host.

5. What do you see for the future of Pacific Avenue businesses?

Great things.  There’s a saying in real estate about “curb appeal” and the Pacific Avenue Streetscape project is all about making the sidewalks, landscaping, crosswalks (streetscape) the very best possible for looks, feel and safety for the customers of the Pacific Avenue businesses. In addition, the new catenary lighting system  between S. 7th and S. 9th Streets and the new cobblestone intersection at S.8th Street will create a new, yet historic, look and feel which should help create Tacoma’s new hot spot to be during the summer evenings of 2014.

I’d like to thank Steve Rich for participating in 5 Question Friday and look forward to the project being completed. As always, if you or someone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at

Surviving Pacific: Poison Apple

Poison Apple during construction

Poison Apple during construction

The construction on Pacific Avenue continues. To their credit, the city has placed banners and signs saying that businesses are open during construction. A couple weeks ago I got to the corner of South 10th and Pacific. A construction worker asked me where I was heading. I told her I wanted to go to Poison Apple. She radioed someone and instructed me to walk down a pathway in the street made by barriers. Once I got to the front of Poison Apple, another construction worker let me walk through the area and enter the business.

Jooley Heaps, the owner of Poison Apple is an old friend. We went to high school together. Her shop is an extension of her personality. It’s unique, intriguing and always fun. It’s the sort of place that you can find over-sized retro sunglasses or a crushed velvet coat for $20. It’s the store to buy something if you like it when people ask, “Where did you get that?”

Like other Pacific Avenue businesses, Jooley’s business has been hurt by the construction. Her shop is exactly the sort of place that people walk into because they’re passing by and right now that sort of thing is nearly impossible. With no window shoppers, Poison Apple sometimes has days where there are only a handful of customers.

Luckily, Jooley is every bit as imaginative when it comes to running her business as she is at getting interesting items to sell. You’ll find Jooley setting up vending booths at various local events whenever she gets the chance. This is the way many first time customers discover her. She’s also just put up a new Poison Apple website. Now you can purchase the oddities found at Poison Apple even if you’re not local.

Poison Apple is a one of a kind store and the sort of place that makes Tacoma such a great place to live. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello to Jooley. You’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy.

You can find Poison Apple at 907 Pacific Avenue or online at

–          Jack Cameron

Surviving Pacific: Thee Barber Shop

Construction On Pacific Avenue

Businesses on Pacific Ave are not having an easy time keeping things going during construction.

Downtown Tacoma has seen better days. Walk any given block and you’ll find at least a handful of empty storefronts. This is even more apparent on Pacific Avenue. Currently there is a major construction project underway on parts of Pacific Avenue. According to the city website this project is for ‘beautification’ and to install ‘innovative stormwater improvements to improve the business opportunities and livability of Downtown’s core street.’

That’s all well and good and hopefully the project will be every bit as successful as they say it’s going to be when they complete the work at the end of this year. The question is, will any of the businesses that are there now survive until then?

I’m going to take a look at some of the businesses in this construction area over the next few months and see how they’re doing and what they’re doing to get by.

Pete Lira, owner of Thee Barber Shop is mentoring aspiring haircutters

Pete Lira, owner of Thee Barber Shop is mentoring aspiring hair cutters. He’s also offering night classes.

First up is Pete Lira, owner of the Thee Barber Shop just a couple doors from the corner of South 9th and Pacific.

I’ve written about him before. He’s been my barber for the last eight years and he’s been cutting hair forty-seven.

While the construction hasn’t stopped his regular customers from coming in, it has made business a bit more difficult. I discovered Pete because Pete was standing outside one day and talked to a friend of mine as she passed by. Later when I happened to ask if she knew a barber, she said she did. Such an encounter is near impossible with the current construction.

What is Pete doing to help his business? Something he’s done before and enjoys doing: He’s offering to mentor those getting into the hair cutting profession. With almost half a century of experience, Pete has a lot of wisdom to impart. He’s an old school barber who believes in precision and classic training.

If you’re interested in being mentored by a champion barber or if you just find yourself in need of a decent haircut, give Pete a call at 253-272-2663.

– Jack Cameron