Since Graffito’s early days, it has strived to recruit unique, local, independent businesses (i.e. tenants) to fill the ground floor space in our projects. This mentality originally made us different and set Graffito apart. New lease deals weren’t just transactions, but the start of a long-term partnership between small businesses and landowners who shared a common vision. This was and continues to be rewarding work, especially, as it relates to the impact these businesses have on their communities. They often hire local, support local and think local, first. With the clustering of small, independent businesses, a sense of “place” or community is established. As a result, we’ve always taken a grassroots approach to tenant recruitment that included pop-ins and calls to our favorite local businesses. With COVID-19, that has all changed…
As Jesse wrote about in client update #16 earlier this week, Graffito is having to redefine our methodology to retail leasing including the outreach we’ve traditionally used to recruit independent retail and restaurants. With many of these small businesses currently fighting for their survival, it has felt out-of-touch and insensitive to push new opportunities. This feeling is not too dissimilar from the conversation Podcast Drew and I had on The Graffito Podcast (episode 1) with Pagu owner, Tracy Chang, about when it’s appropriate to redeem gift cards at restaurants. There isn’t a right answer per se, but it just doesn’t feel appropriate…yet.
With the current leasing environment, essentially all leasing activity is broker-to-broker. We just started pushing email marketing blasts again, but these won’t go to our entire network of collaborators, clients and friends like in the past – just the broker community. Additionally, we’re keeping an ear to the ground because not everyone is struggling equally. There will be success stories and new businesses born from the pandemic. For its part, Graffito will continue to support those tenants that need our help and proactively engage those that see opportunity in the chaos. The interactions with the small business community are different than pre-pandemic, and likely will be for the foreseeable future, but we’re committed as ever to helping create places and spaces people want to engage with.