The appliance repair industry is booming in Spokane, and for good reason.
For many, it’s their primary source of income, and a good number of new homebuyers are looking to shop for a new kitchen appliance.
It’s a growing business, and that means more jobs.
And it’s all because of the state of Washington.
The number of residents who have a kitchen appliance on their main list of priorities has nearly doubled since the start of the year, according to the Washington Department of Labor.
More than 3,500 households are now in the “maintenance and repair” category, with about 2,100 of those being in the Spokane metro area, according the department.
That means there are about 10,000 people in the state, including more than 1,400 who are making their living from the business.
And, while they may have more jobs, many of them have jobs that aren’t related to their appliance repair business.
For one, most of the people who are doing the repairs in Spokane aren’t making the money that they’re making in other parts of the country, according a report by the Washington Restaurant Association.
And the number of people who have jobs as dishwashers, dishwashers, kitchen assistants and dishwasher assistants has been dropping in recent years.
“If you look at the number who are in that category and the number that are in the maintenance and repair category, we’re really struggling to keep up,” said Amy Davis, executive director of the Washington Restaurants Association.
And while there are plenty of jobs that are related to that industry, the average wage is about $11.50 an hour, less than half the national average of $14.75.
That means many of the jobs being done in the city are earning just enough to support themselves.
“It’s not an issue that’s getting attention, because I think it’s a small industry,” said Jennifer Lee, who runs a local restaurant called the Horseshoe Crab Shack.
“We’re not the most successful business.
We’re not in the top of the heap, but we’re certainly in the bottom of the bucket.”
The Horsethoe Crab Shrimp Co. is in the process of relocating to Spokane from Oregon, and its owner said the shift in the restaurant industry has been tough.
“We had some great years before, and now that we’re getting the news about the recession, it really puts a damper on that,” Lee said.
That doesn’t mean the people of Spokane are happy.
And they’re worried about their jobs.
The Washington Restaurant Institute says the number one reason people are leaving the restaurant business is because of rising prices.
The state has seen a steady decrease in sales, and with the economy struggling to recover, many restaurants have been forced to cut staff or lay off workers.
The Institute estimates that there are more than 20,000 restaurant jobs that were lost between 2012 and 2018, and the restaurant sector alone is responsible for nearly 20,700 of them.
In Spokane, there are a few businesses that are hoping to stay afloat.
The city of Spokane has a number of restaurants that offer service to the community, like the restaurant at the University of Washington on U Street.
The restaurant is a popular place to meet new people and has hosted weddings and barbecues for years.
Owner Jennifer Lee says she was concerned when the restaurant closed its doors last year because she couldn’t find a replacement tenant.
“When we went out of business, it was a great time for me to start my business, to be able to pay my bills and to have the support of the community,” Lee told WABC.
Lee said that when she opened her new restaurant in June, she received about 100 calls a week.
“They were telling me, ‘We have jobs for you, we have jobs, we’ve got a couple of new servers here, we can feed you and help you out with the food,'” Lee said, adding that she was also able to attract customers from out of state.
“The community has been a great asset to us, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Lee added.
“I think we’ve kind of been stuck in a little bit of a Catch-22.
I know that the economy is kind of back up, but I’m kind of stuck in that little bit that we’ve been here for so long, and we just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Lee says the restaurant has been able to continue to keep paying the bills.
Lee says she is hoping that the restaurants closing will lead to a change in the industry.
“So, you know, if they want to come back, then I think that’s the best thing that can happen,” Lee explained.