Bartell Drugs CEO and President Kathi Lentzsch has never minced words about downtown Seattle’s street scene.
That’s why it’s no surprise that the iconic Seattle company has decided to close its store on Third Avenue between Pike and Union streets Nov. 15. No employees will be laid off. The company had previously said it would remain in the space until next year.
“The risk we take every day with our customers and employees is huge,” Lentzsch told me this summer. “I am so concerned something is going to happen to a customer. Customers see something happening and they want to jump in and help.”
Seattle Business magazine’s office is one block away from the soon-to-be closed Bartell’s. I witness drug deals and fend off aggressive panhandlers almost every day. I understand Lentzsch's concerns.
A recent report contends that downtown Seattle is plagued by “repeat criminal activity.”
“Police investigate and refer thousands of cases every year that see no resolution,” the report states. “Repeat offenders appear emboldened to commit crimes in plain sight. Victims of chronic criminal activity see very few resolutions of their cases and report only a fraction of the crimes they experience every day.”
Bartell spokeswoman Hannah Kubiak said in an email that the 129-year-old Seattle-based chain is closing the store earlier than planned “as a result of the increasing costs of doing business in Seattle and the concern for the safety of our employees and customers.” The company will continue to pay rent until the store’s lease ends.
“The Third Avenue corridor has been a challenge for many retailers and we continue to see a decline in customer traffic,” Kubiak said.
Bartell still operates 68 stores throughout the region and has two locations just blocks from the Third Avenue store. It recently opened a new location in Belltown.