There’s a popular joke in the Pacific Northwest that goes something like this: “What do you call someone in Seattle with an umbrella?” “A tourist.”
It just got a little more true. For years, Jodell Egbert—the owner of Bella Umbrella, the city’s only brick-and-mortar umbrella store—gamely stocked scores of the rainy-day tools, and even ran an umbrella repair service out of the shop. But those days are ending: Bella Umbrella is closing up.
“Every day somebody would come in and tell me it was stupid to have an umbrella store in Seattle because Seattleites don’t use umbrellas,” Egbert told the Seattle Times. “It made me feel bad.”
Why does anti-umbrella sentiment pervade Seattle—and indeed, much of the Pacific Northwest? As meteorologist Scott Sistek explains in this 2016 article, it likely has something to do with the area’s tiny raindrops. Raindrop size depends on the strength of updrafts: winds that blow vertically, and keep the water up in the clouds. The harder the updrafts blow, the more time each raindrop has to grow before it falls.
Due to the moderate marine climate, Sistek writes, “updrafts around the Puget Sound region are typically very weak.” In other words, raindrops don’t have time to get huge, and so they fall early, forming a kind of light mist. “When it rains, it doesn’t really pour,” he writes, “and we go about our walks knowing we’ll dry out pretty quickly once we get inside.”
Those Seattleites who proudly eschew umbrellas are less likely to cite raindrop size than other concerns. This Reddit thread has a good sampling, which includes “you take up the whole sidewalk,” traumatic tales of dripping and eye-gouging, and advice to “embrace the rain… be molded by it.”
It wasn’t just the haters that made Egbert decide to shut the store. In the Times story, she also cites competition from online retailers, as well as shrinking parking options in the area. (Plus, her lease was up.)
She’s moving the whole operation to New Orleans, where Bella Umbrellas already has one outpost, and where people love umbrellas so much, they use them even when it’s not raining at all.
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