Jen Stearns owns Urban Sprouts, a Renton plant shop specializing in easy-to-grow houseplants. All through the pandemic, she’s noticed a new breed of customers. These shoppers are typically beginners in search of some living thing that they can nurture. They’re also seeking a source of comfort and, maybe, healing.

Stearns is happy to introduce these customers to easy-to-love houseplants such as dieffenbachia, sansevieria (snake plant) and peperomia, as well as succulents such as aloe vera and jade plants.

“They’re in search of something new to try,” she says of her new customers. “Since the pandemic, it’s definitely ‘a thing.’ ’’

In the same block, on South Third Street, Boon Boona Coffee does brisk business specializing in the coffees of Africa, which it roasts on site.

Boon Boona is more than a business to owner Efrem Fesaha. It’s his passion.

“We opened to show East African culture in coffee,” he said. “We are an African-only sourcing coffee shop that roasts here in Renton.”

Boon Boona
Boon Boona

Urban Sprouts and Boon Boona are among more than 300 merchants across King County who have signed the All Clear King County Pledge, which includes safety measures such as masking up, washing up, limiting customer capacity and performing regular staff wellness checks.

As the pandemic drags on and the days of winter grow darker and shorter, it’s easy to understand the urge for people to stay inside more and go outside less. However, cocooning indoors and ordering supplies online from national suppliers does nothing to support local businesses who need all the help they can get right now.

According to Ali Daniels, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Visit Seattle, now is a perfect time for area residents to mask up, get out and rediscover the delights in their own backyard, because crowds have thinned out for the winter.

If cabin fever has set in, a cure is right around the corner at diversions such as the Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah or Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle Center.

For family fun after dark, the WildLanterns exhibit is lighting up the night at Woodland Park Zoo in Northwest Seattle, where admission is timed to limit capacity for safety.

Looking for a wine experience in Woodinville? Dozens of destinations, including Pondera Winery, Armstrong Family Winery, William Grassie Wine Estates and Herb Farm, are ready to tickle your palate.

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Hungry in Federal Way?  Pac Island Grill, Blackbear Diner and Palace Korean BBQ and Grill are ready to dish out local flavor that hits the spot.

Daniels says people who are “aching to do something, both for themselves but also to help their community and the local businesses that are working hard to survive. King County has a helping mentality, so we want to make it easier for people to feel their impact by making the ‘do’ easy — and personal by buying gifts from local retailers and gift cards from their favorite restaurants.”

Over the course of the pandemic, Washington has been following a “Safe Start” phased reopening plan for resuming recreational, social and business activities throughout the state. Every phase requires social distancing and appropriate health precautions including the use of personal protective equipment in a number of workplaces. King County(including Seattle) is currently in Phase 2, which allows for partial reopening of some businesses and activities and limited social gatherings with five or fewer people outside the household.

Neighborhood businesses that have taken the pledge range from wineries and bakeries to coffee shops and specialty stores.

Musang
Musang

Melissa Miranda, owner of Musang, a Filipino restaurant in Beacon Hill, says she was delighted to take the pledge, both for her staff and for her customers, because it allows her to continue a mission she holds close to her heart.

“It’s been a mission for me to bring Filipino food back to Beacon Hill,” she says.

Plant-shop owner Stearns said she was on board with the All Clear King County Pledge immediately, and had a message for customers: “Thanks so much for supporting us. We’re here because of you.”

A growing list of businesses that signed the pledge can be found at Dosomethingnearby.org, along with the latest health advisories and ideas for adventurers.

Visit Seattle is a private, nonprofit marketing organization serving as Seattle and King County’s official destination marketing organization for more than 50 years. Through our efforts, we work to enhance the employment opportunities and economic prosperity of the region.