Tacoma’s close community proves that it isn’t a ghost town

Support of local businesses shows critics that this city is one with a thriving and loving community.

The city of Tacoma is seen by neighboring and distant cities as a ghost town due to how empty the streets of city are. There are barely any cars seen when compared to the river of cars in Bellevue, and few pedestrians when compared to the overflowing sidewalks of Seattle. As someone from King County who is used to seeing cramped streets, I too saw Tacoma as an abandoned city. However, for the past month the Tacomans have proven their love for their community and city by helping each other in dire situations, something that isn’t seen much in overpopulated cities. 

This week it is Valentines Day, the holiday where people show their love romantically and platonically. But we clearly don’t need to show our love for each other in just one day of the year, we must show it every single day. I’m seeing this happening a lot in Tacoma for the past month.  Truly embodying the definition of tightly knitted community, local businesses continue to show love and support to Howdy Bagel in the aftermath of tragedy. 

On January 5, 32-year-old Howdy Bagel co-founder Jacob Carter was shot and killed while on vacation in New Orleans with his husband Daniel Blagovich. On January 7 the official Howdy Bagel Instagram announced his death and the that the shop would be temporarily closed until further notice to allow co-founder Blagovich time to grieve his loss. On that very same post, the shop asked the community to help support it by donating money to its GoFundMe page to help pay the shop’s workers and for other logistics.  

The community didn’t hesitate to answer and show love to the couple. From local haircut shops like Union Salon on Opera Alley donating two days’ worth of haircut proceeds to Howdy Bagel; to Corina Bakery on Fawcett Avenue making heart shape cookies with Howdy’s name and donating the cookie’s winnings to the bagel shop’s fundraiser page, local Tacoma businesses have shown their support.  

A heart shape collage showing all the Instagram posts by fellow Tacoma local businesses posted in support of Howdy Bagel. Collage by Cameron Berrens. Featuring posts from Maggie Magees Bake Shop; Charme Natural Nails Studio; Bar Rosa; Cade William Twilley; State Street; Ice Cream Tacoma; Poquitos Tacoma; Stadium Golf Tacoma; Howdy Barber; Denim and Diamonds Hair Studios; Details Home Studios; Union Salon Tacoma; Wooden City; SennzaFinne Libations; The Beach House Salon; Tuladhara yoga Studio; Moshi Ramen Bar; and Corina Bakery.

Thanks to this support the GoFundMe page has had 4.7k donations collected $303, 125. This has allowed the bagel shop to reopen its doors on February 7 with many community members welcoming it back with open arms. For a so-called ghost town, Tacoma had a huge turn out to help a local shop.  

Many of you may counter that this doesn’t prove anything, Tacoma is still a ghost town cause this type of turn out only happened once. However, this is not the first time this school year that the Tacoma community made such a move. On November 15, 2023 UWT’s favorite local coffee shop, Metro Coffee, posted on Instagram asking for the community’s help. At the time Metro Coffee was struggling financially, and immediately after posting their call for help, UWT organizations and the Tacoma community responded by reposting their post and donating to their GoFundMe page. As you can probably tell, Metro Coffee shop was saved, for it is still standing proudly in our campus.  

“Thank you for being a part of the community I am so proud to be a part of,” said Metro Coffee on Instagram.  

On the same post user changc4 stated that small businesses like Metro Coffee are the heart of our community, on which I whole-heartedly agree. It is small businesses like Metro and Howdy that help people find community by serving local cuisine, for the community by the community. They provide a place for many to relax and do work, as seen through how busy shops like Metro are on a daily basis with people interacting with each other. They build a space that allows outsiders like me and many UWT students to feel welcomed to Tacoma as we attend school by bringing a small town feeling which reflects the true nature of Tacoma. We can connect with the locals in a relaxing environment and bond over food. What makes a community is connection, not how many people live in a city.  

When people make connections they help each other through thick and thin. The place they meet becomes a special place, for those places hold memories of their bond forming or becoming stronger. Tacoma isn’t a ghost town; if it was, then no one would’ve helped these local shops in their darkest moments, the city would’ve have let them sink and be forgotten.  

In my opinion, Tacoma is just a chill city that is finally catching its breath after giving a very rough first impression to the rest of the world, as seen through its very dark past from the Tacoma Method to the gang violence in the 80s and 90s and the more recent disruptions caused by the pandemic. The empty nature of the city is just the community embracing the calmness it has obtained after overcoming the hate and fear that infected the city streets for many decades. Now the city is reflecting love and peace, which has led the community to reconnect with each other. The outcome of such peace is people having each other’s backs.  

Busy streets don’t make a community, it’s the support and love of each other that makes a community, and the City of Tacoma community proves it. Let’s keep supporting local businesses to keep proving neighboring and distant cities that Tacoma isn’t empty but thriving with life!