OfficeMax’s Broadway hopes hang on Capitol Hill’s small business density

IMG_9040At least 3,000 businesses in a square mile — that is the critical density that one of the world’s largest office supply retailers looked for and found in a section of Capitol Hill. The new OfficeMax store celebrates its grand opening on Broadway this week.

Before choosing the neighborhood, and ultimately a space in The Lyric on Broadway, as the site where they would open the fifth “OfficeMax Business Solutions Center” in the United State, Priscilla Washington, a store employee, said the company was searching for business density.

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“We’re here to help small businesses grow,” store “team leader” Kyle Caringello said. “We have all the services, from printing to payroll processing—and we have custom pricing packages—to help local small businesses save time and money,” he said.

The new store employs 12 people.

CHS broke the news about OfficeMax’s plans to open in The Lyric back in August here, and spread word of the store’s December opening here. Compared to standard OfficeMax stores, the “Business Solutions Center” designs are smaller, and more focused on catering to small businesses with 50 or less employees. The Broadway store joins two locations in Chicago, one in Portland, and one in Milwaukee, all opened within the last year, in representing the alternative format. OfficeMax’s interest in a new store on Broadway was somewhat of a surprise following a Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce-sponsored retail study’s findings that big box retailers likely wouldn’t find a berth suitable on the boulevard.

cst-vector2-seattleThe Broadway store will throw its grand opening party Tuesday. The event will feature vendor demonstrations, product give-aways, 250 free custom business cards for the first 200 customers who request them, and baked goods from Bakery Nouveau.

The people from OfficeMax Broadway’s crew we spoke with said the company’s strategy is to set small businesses up with customized pricing packages similar to those other stores typically reserve for much larger businesses, and provides businesses with advice, idea and information — including detailed monthly spending reports — said to help them maximize their profitability. Typically, a business the store provides these specialized services to will have five to fifty employees, Washington said. Other potentially useful services for small businesses offered at the store include computer repair and maintenance, software support, domain name registration — supported by a new partnership between OfficeMax and GoDaddy — access to web hosting and basic website build-outs, and expansive on-site printing services, including of banners up to 42” inches. Other OfficeMax locations have to send such large-scale printing jobs to off-site printing centers, Caringello said.

A promo shot of Broadway's The Lyric building

A promo shot of Broadway’s The Lyric building

Despite its focus on serving small businesses, the store also has many items and services that might interest the individual contributor among you. Along with almost an entire wall full of ink toner, printer cartridges, and printers; stacks and stacks of bulk paper; office chairs; business-centric software and even cleaning supplies many small offices might find handy, the store carries laptops and tablets; phone and tablet cases; satchels and backpacks; cell phone chargers; various connection cables and of course loads of pens and notepads, among a plethora of other merchandise. Also, there is an ample selection of snacks. Many students in particular, presumably from Seattle Central Community College, Seattle University, and other area schools, are also expected to shop at the store.

The store’s almost square retail space, perhaps small for an OfficeMax, but expansive by Hill standards, features an open layout, broken up by tables of tech products the center of the store’s front area, and a printing center along the back wall, with a large display screen hanging above it. The space is tastefully lit for a big brand store and the hardwood floors reveal a desire to add a little style to the brand. The store also has fixtures that are unique to the Business Solution Centers and that are arguably more attractive and chic. In order to maximize space available for retail displays, the store uses overhead storage compartments, reaching towards its tall ceiling above the shelves that run down either side wall, for most of its back stock, and has only a small back room, used primarily for office furniture.

The Broadway store packs about 90% of the items sold at typical OfficeMax locations in to a space about one-third to one-quarter the size, Caringello said. Items the store does not stock can be purchased at the “Endless Aisle” kiosk at the front of the store, with free shipping for orders over $50. For Hill dwellers, and businesses owners and employees on a midday run, the need to travel to the Office Depot downtown seems nearly eliminated. Aside from items sold exclusively at the location, the regular and sale prices for items at the Broadway store are identical to those at other OfficeMax locations, Caringello said.

Though the store does not price match with online retailers, it does match prices with other brick-and-mortar stores. Caringello says he thinks the convenience, service and advising the store offers, will make it a value for its customers over ordering online much of the time.

Most businesses who set up a custom pricing package at the store will see discounts of 10 to 20%, though the savings vary by item, Washington said.

Though many will decry the arrival of another big chain retailer on Broadway, OfficeMax did become the only dedicated office supply store on the Hill when it opened last month, and is operating in a retail niche with particularly small profit margins in which a local business might find it difficult the thrive. At least one long-time Hill resident seems happy with new store, on a utilitarian level at least.

“It’s been great,” said Staggo Lee, who, at 62-years old, has lived on Capitol Hill for 30 years. “So far it’s had what I needed; I don’t have to go downtown,” he said.

The company that manages The Lyric’s residential leasing is a CHS advertiser.

27 thoughts on “OfficeMax’s Broadway hopes hang on Capitol Hill’s small business density

  1. How ironic. Office Max wouldn’t be opening on the hill if it were not for the very type of building that is reducing the number of small businesses that can afford to be on the hill. Therefore, not a very good business plan.

    Both mornings this weekend I walked by they were completely empty. Glad we tore down that building holding 3-5 small businesses.

    • The hundreds of people now living in the Lyric would no doubt be quick to point out that their building is hardly “empty”. Do you think maybe those couple of hundred more on Broadway are supporting jobs? If you’re expecting their business to suck I think you’re mistaken. And making it easier for all the OTHER businesses on the hill is a lot more valuable than the initial loss of a couple of small retailers–Who have been replaced with new businesses employing other people BTW.

    • Before the Lyric, there was an incredibly ugly BOA building, a large parking lot, and 2-3 businesses to the south. There has actually been a net gain of small businesses…yes, some of them are national chains, but there are locally-owned places, such as the dental office and Café Solstice (both to open soon).

      Your lament about the “loss of small businesses” is not based on facts.

      • I’m not speaking specifically about this building. This represents a broader trend for the neighborhood toward reduction in business density. Smaller, affordable units with high turnover and/or thin margins (good for neighborhood vibrancy, bad for landlords) are being replaced by higher square footage units that sit vacant for months while holding out for long-term, low traffic tenants (banks, tanning salons, office supply stores, dentist’s offices).

        The Lyric is just another example of the neighborhood’s direction. I was mainly pointing out that Office Max’s business plan, as stated in this article, of small business dependency, is antithetical to the very nature of the building they are moving into. It may be an anomaly, but I don’t think you’ll find anyone who thinks the neighborhood is not heading this way.

        It’s sort of like affluent people moving into a neighborhood filled with artists and amenities that benefit from low rents. The very thing with is prompting an interest in the neighborhood is the thing that will be the first to go when the neighborhood hits a tipping point of new residents. It’s a catch-22. Doesn’t anyone else see the irony?

        • Some of these larger for at retailers might be doing higher dollar volumes of business than some of the smaller retailers. I’m not saying that definitely is happening, but some of our smaller, local retailers aren’t exactly teeming hubs of activity.

        • I doubt anyone will miss the rundown buildings or notice a decline in cultural vibrance when everything is purchased from amazon and people are too busy looking at their smart phones.  As a small business owner, owning a storefront is retarded.  We are really just experiencing the death of localization.

          I’m definitely not excited for a chain office store to show up on my strip but I don’t have to buy from them either.  I have better things to worry about as a small business owner than trying to resuscitate a dead business model.

    • I believe Ryan was disappointed we didn’t include a disclosure about the advertising relationship with The Lyric’s residential management contractor. We’ve added a note above just to be clear that the folks who handle renting residential apartments in the building advertise on CHS.

    • Wow, almost as if it said ‘a promo shot’ right under the picture.

      I’m crazy happy OfficeMax/OfficeDepot/OfficeWhatever is here, because i’m too damn lazy some days to go down to 4th and Pike.

      They seem to have a good team working there, I didn’t have any problems when I went to pick up a few needfuls, and yeah, I may in fact pick up snacks there at some point.

      Give me an *actual* reason to hate on ‘em. They’re not burning puppies or anything, after all. If you wanna hate on someone, hate on whoever owns where India Imports was, and the crazy amount they raised their rent, causing them to have to leave over a year ago.

      Plus I really liked the store owner.

      • Here’s an actual reason to hate on them – OfficeMax is a huge Republican donor & lobbyist for both national and WA state politics. http://influenceexplorer.com/organization/officemax-inc/36242937aac74a44a75ef3559ce67746

        If you need to print something or ship something, go to Perfect Copy & Print a block away or the shipping store on 12th & Pike. If you need printer ink, unfortunately not any alternatives I know of except online of course. FedEx & UPS are just as bad if not worse.

          • I guess it’s personal standards. I consider over $100K to take away my rights to be “huge” and I would not voluntarily give my money to someone who does that.

        • …”OfficeMax is a huge Republican donor & lobbyist for both national and WA state politics”…
          Some would call that a good thing.

          • OfficeMax gives 86% of its money to Republicans, it’s not equal at all. Compare to Microsoft which gives 35% to Republicans and 42% to Democrats — still inexcusable, but at least their “we contribute to both” line makes more sense.

          • Office Min,
            …”to take away my rights”…
            How does a contribution to one political party or the other take away your rights?

          • The more money a politican or party gets, the more votes and power they have. That’s why politicians raise and solicit so much money. The Republican party’s majority goal is to take money and rights away from women, immigrants, brown people, gay people, trans people, etc. I’m not a straight white man, so it personally affects me. Giving money to a company like OfficeMax is a personal blow (albeit a small one) to me, my friends, and family. I’d rather avoid them to let them know in a small way that what they’re doing is not acceptable.

          • Office Min,
            I am sorry, but you have been very misinformed as to how money gets used in the political system during elections. The rights you may be speaking about are getting infringed upon by the progressives that have taken over both parties in the last 100 years. Most people today don’t have clue one what our rights are supposed to be and that includes the people we elected into office. It’s something that’s been done to all of us regardless of color

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    • I found being called a “15 year old white boy who just found out about Ayn Rand”, to be like asked for my I.D. to buy alcohol; ridiculously unnecessary, but cute.