Grit City gives back Grit City gives back Grit City gives back

Andrea Reay explains the ethos of Tacoma, from cultivating community to expressing creativity

Illustration by Olivier Kugler | September 2023

My dad owned a small business — an independent pharmacy. I started out at age 5 dusting shelves and eventually was sorting pill bottles by size. Later I worked for him as a pharmacy technician.

I got to see the blood, sweat and tears that come with being a small business owner.

I entered the UW on a Glenn Hughes Memorial theater scholarship. I loved being a theater major. It offered belonging, solution finding, creative thinking and improvisation.

After working about 10 years in the performing arts, I wanted to do more to support my community.

I became executive director for the Downtown Association in Burien and then was CEO for the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce. In 2022 I became the president/CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce.

I wanted to highlight this clothing boutique (eTc) because Umi Wagoner and his team very much share that philosophy of giving back to the community. This business is more than its products. It’s about having roots here, and wanting to give back. That’s so fundamental to Tacoma.

In Tacoma we have green economy jobs. We have such a strong and vibrant creative economy. And we have more affordable housing. Those things are really setting us apart.

Also, Tacoma is a great place to be. Here my blood pressure feels lower. You can breathe. People smile at you. You can find a place to park.

Every small business is more than just a business. It is a hub for the community.