At 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.
“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.
The 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.
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.