On Saturday, January 21, more than five million people around the world marched in the Womxn’s March. One million marched in Washington, DC. In Seattle, the Womxn’s March drew 175,000 people. While this was a momentous occasion for women, and men, all over the world, Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (CID) small minority business owners worried about the impacts to their business, particularly as this was the last weekend before the Lunar New Year.
The CID business community was not a part of the route planning. Not all business owners were informed of the route. Many did not know about the details of the route until Thursday, January 19, according to the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA).
“All [Womxn’s March] event organizers were supposed to do outreach but they did it very late in the district,” said CIDBIA Executive Director, Jessa Timmer. “Outreach looks very different in the district: It’s knocking on doors and visiting businesses in person. Social media doesn’t work.”
Businesses reported different experiences with customers during the march. I-Miun Liu, owner of Eastern Cafe and Oasis Tea Zone said: “Both Oasis and Eastern Cafe were extremely busy. The Womxn’s March made that Saturday our second highest grossing sales day ever for both stores.” However, Liu mentioned that he did not officially receive notice ahead of time from the organizers of the march. He heard about the Womxn’s March from his customers, staff, and news outlets. Liu also noted that both of his businesses ran out of supplies and were understaffed.
Taylor Hoang, owner of Pho Cyclo, shared that her mother’s experience was quite different. Her mother, Lien Dang, owner of Seattle’s beloved Huong Binh, said that marchers were supportive and respectful of her business. “There were a lot of people that came in the restaurant but mostly to buy a small item in order to use the restroom or take a break from walking. So although it was crowded, she didn’t do much in terms of sales,” said Hoang.
Hoang continued: “The impact to her Lunar New Year sales was much more as most of her regular customers or Vietnamese folks didn’t come to her store that day due to traffic and crowds. She did see a higher showing of customers on Sunday but overall her sales was down for the weekend compared to other Lunar New Year weekend.”
Grocery stores were also impacted due to the march. Many people, who normally buy their new year delicacies and specialties, couldn’t do so because of the traffic and the street closures. Many smaller stores noted a loss of about $200 to $300 that day. While larger stores, like Uwajimaya, saw sales go down by about 17%, smaller mom-and-pop stores will have a difficult time recovering from the loss of sales due to the Womxn’s March.
As a woman of color, I strongly support the Womxn’s March and the movement. However my neighborhood wasn’t given much of an opportunity to express our concerns of the route or notified or reached out to in advance with much warning. Moving forward, hopefully organizers and event planners will have some lessons learned: conduct outreach and engagement in a culturally appropriate manner; give the neighborhood enough time in advance to prepare; and work with organizations and community members to ensure we feel heard.