Uncharted territory: The questions for businesses are many

Life and commerce might never be the same when the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

Tom Hoban

Tom Hoban

Businesses, private schools and property owners around the region are bracing for April, when mortgages, rents and bills are due in the middle of a mandated stay-in-place order.

Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill & Irish Pub in south Everett was directly affected by the COVID-19 shutdown order. He’s working on accessing federal support and thinking optimistically about opening back up, hopefully soon. “The order came the day before St Patrick’s Day, our biggest day of the year, so when we re-open we are probably going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every month for a while,” O’Donnell said.

Real estate owners are bracing for a potential impact, too. Protections offered to apartment renters from a statewide eviction moratorium do not exempt renters from paying eventually, and the order only applies to those directly affected by a government order. Most rental property owners are deploying strategies to help their tenants find resources so they don’t fall behind while they operate their management teams under new protocols.

Many office, industrial and retail property owners are dusting off their old playbook from the 2008-10 real estate crash and the post-9/11 economy to help support tenants, some of whom will also enjoy eviction protection from the moratorium. Retail is expected to be particularly hard hit, so shopping malls and other retail centers who were already struggling on thin margins are going to need a lot of help to get back to healthy operations again. Assisting them in getting funds to bridge the gap is also part of their strategic goodie bag.

For Everett’s Archbishop Murphy High School, these are unprecedented times, as well. As a private school, they are entirely supported by tuition. Conveniently for them, though, distance learning was already baked into the school that keeps students learning on snow days. “We are a college preparatory school,” explained Steve Schmutz, the school’s president, “so the academic rigor and pace our students and parents expect has required that we have a distance learning model in place for years.”

Schmutz feels for the students and families right now, especially seniors, who could experience their last months of high school at home. “We’re on schedule for students to complete their coursework on time, take their scheduled final exams and matriculate to the next grade level or to college, as planned,” Schmutz said. “While it might be unorthodox, our students are finding creative ways to engage with one another and still capture the high school experience at home. Students are even planning to have our spring talent show online.”

When we’re all allowed to return to school and work, new questions will arise about how much space we really need after we become practiced at distance learning and working from home. Office space, in particular, may be reconfigured or downsized if outcomes prove favorable. It may take people some time to re-socialize the same way, so will restaurants set aside new seating areas with a bit more space around them to coax them back in? Will food costs go up as new cleaning protocols are deployed to keep customers comfortable? How will entertainment events change? Will colleges and universities re-examine their delivery model and maybe find efficiencies that mercifully turn the tide on the high cost of tuition?

Lots of questions, very few answers in these unprecedented times. In the meantime, we hunker down, support our healthcare workers, protect our frail and look forward like never before to the day when we can reconnect at a human level with a random high five, a simple handshake or a hug.

Occasional contributor Tom Hoban is chairman and co-founder of Hoban Family Office, a real estate investment and services enterprise in Everett.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. (BadgleyPhotography.com / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, speaks to a crowd while in front of a sign celebrating the opening of the new Norton Terminal on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Port of Everett christens new Norton cargo terminal

The $40 million terminal took two years to complete and doubles the port’s storage capacity.

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.

Erika Heer, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank
Quiet Quitting – the good, bad and what to do about it

Mid-summer, the term ‘quiet quitting’ became a part of the vocabulary of… Continue reading