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A long shelf life: Bookstore defies digital onslaught

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Kids play on a life-like triceratops statue installed at a new Latino market set to open soon on South Wenatchee Avenue, just north of the intersection with Ferry Street.

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While new electronic gizmos threaten traditional newspaper, magazines and books in the last decade, one prized and popular bookstore here has stayed alive through the digital onslaught.

A Book for All Seasons is a haven for readers (an eclectic selection), authors (they speak and sign there frequently) and coffee drinkers (Starbucks is right next door).

On March 10, ABFAS celebrated its 20th anniversary. Owner Pat Rutledge, along with store manager Stephen Sharpe and staff, hosted a party that featured five authors (fantasy, mystery, nonfiction), a few prizes and snacks.

Two decades of bookselling is worth noting, so Business World cornered Rutledge for a quick chat about keeping her business alive in a competitive industry.

Q. The Digital Age has brought huge changes to the book industry. How have you survived against such heavy hitters as Amazon, Walmart, Barnes & Noble and myriad online options to buy and read books?

A. Basically we focus on personal service to our customers, who come to our store for a different experience than shopping online or in discount stores. We know what’s on our shelves and select it carefully. We have a wide selection, but not overwhelming, and are willing to talk books with whoever comes through the door. If you feel like you need a push, you can ask one of our staff to lead you toward a good read.

Plus, people in our local community have been our staunchest supporters. Perhaps they like the idea of having an independent bookstore in their town, a place where they can peruse the shelves for just the right gem of a book. Or perhaps they just want to support their local economy. Whatever the reason, we thank them.

We’ve also come to realize that folks who come to Leavenworth for a getaway visit our store as part of their holiday experience. Away from work and home, they’re often looking for a book to relax with.

Q. We see ABFAS now sells e-books. Have you personally tried an e-reader? Do you like it? If so, do you have a favorite machine? Is this trend a fad or a serious step away from the printed books?

A. Sure, I’ve used e-books but personally still prefer reading an actual book to reading a book in digital form. When reading on an e-reader, I always feel I’m missing something — not necessarily content-wise, but in the whole sensory experience of reading a book. You know … flipping pages in my hand, feeling the paper’s grain, seeing ink on the page.

By the way, the book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” deals with this topic directly, as well as many others, and is worth a look.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call e-books a fad, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it a step away from books either. Perhaps it’s more like, well, something that’s happening parallel to books. A new market has been created for these e-readers, and every company is rushing to get their foot in the door, but only time will tell if we really want to use these devices in the long-term, after all the excitement wears off.

Of course, it has had an impact on book sales, but like everybody else, we have yet to fully understand how e-readers will affect reading culture in the future.

Q. A visitor to your store on a snowy weekend wants to hole up in their hotel with a good novel while the kids go skiing. Do you have a bookseller’s favorite you regularly recommend? Or maybe a more recent title that’s caught your attention?

A. First of all, I’d suggest they stay at the Innsbrucker Inn, which is right above the bookstore and features author-themed rooms.

As for book recommendations, there’s no preset answer. We tailor our recommendations to customers’ needs. First, I always like to find out my customer’s reading tastes and then maybe lead them toward something new or different in that same genre. Or, perhaps, stretch them out of their comfort zone. For one person, it might be a brand new release. For another, local history or national politics.

We’re pretty careful in what we recommend. After all, we wouldn’t want to serve prime-rib to a vegan.


Area banks doing fine, says financial survey

Banks and credit unions in North Central Washington ranked average or better in fourth-quarter findings released March 12 by an independent bank-rating institution.

Bauer Financial, a Florida-based bank research firm, ranks banks nationwide based on assets, on-hand capital, quarterly profits and other risk factors.

The firm gave its highest five-star rating to Farmers State Bank in Winthrop and Spokane-based Wheatland Bank, which has branches in Chelan and Wenatchee.

Banks earning four-star rankings were Cashmere Valley Bank, Cashmere; Key Bank, Cleveland, Ohio; Peoples Bank, Lynden, Wash.; and U.S. Bank, Cincinatti, Ohio.

Three-and-half-star rankings went to North Cascades National Bank, Chelan; Washington Trust Bank, Spokane; and JP Morgan Chase Bank, Columbus, Ohio.

Three-star ratings were earned by Banner Bank, Walla Walla; Sterling Savings Bank, Spokane; Bank of America, Charlotte, N.C.; and Wells Fargo Bank, Sioux Falls, N.D.

Local credit unions all earned a four-star rating. They include Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union, Coulee Dam; GESA Credit Union, Richland; Numerica Credit Union, Spokane Valley; and Wenatchee Valley Federal Credit Union, Wenatchee.

East Wenatchee

McDonald’s orders up a new location

The golden arches here are likely headed across the street.

The city’s McDonald’s, one of three in the Wenatchee Valley, plans to hoist its buns and move east this year to a new location about 150 feet away. Construction could begin as early as May.

Our understanding is that it’s all about better access to the drive-through window,” said Lori Barnett, the city’s community development director. “Right now, it gets pretty crowded in that single lane.”

If built, the new 4,800-square-foot restaurant — about one-third larger than the current store — will feature a double-ordering system to speed drive-through customers, two entrances, more parking and the company’s new upscale, earth-tone design that some have called “Starbuck-ish.”

The restaurant would be built on a vacant lot in Valley Mall Square, a development at 201 Valley Mall Parkway, between 2nd and 3rd streets Northeast. It’ll sit just west of Super China Star Buffet. The site is part of the former Town Central Park, a mobile home development closed in 2004.

Not all the paperwork’s done — city permits and business applications are pending — but architectural work has mostly been completed and schematics submitted to the city planning department.

On March 13, the East Wenatchee City Council held a hearing for a first reading of a draft agreement that would waive requirements for trees along the new restaurant’s frontage on Valley Mall Parkway. Instead, property owner Calvin White and McDonald’s would build a decorative retaining wall that includes a strip of landscaping between the wall and the city’s sidewalk.

The 6-foot retaining wall is necessary to level the property, which slopes toward Valley Mall Parkway, said Barnett. A date for a second reading of the agreement has not been set.

Chuck Hillis of Wenatchee owns all of the seven McDonald’s in North Central Washington. Locations are in East Wenatchee, Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Quincy, Ephrata, Brewster and Omak.


Dino offers up Jurassic joy

Leapin’ lizards! That’s one big dinosaur overlooking a South Wenatchee intersection.

The custom-made, life-like triceratops, installed March 8, is the first of three monster statues planned for the parking lot of a new Latino market set to open in April. A woolly mammoth and T. Rex could stomp into place next.

We wanted something fun and eye-catching,” said Allen Dearie, owner of Central Market in Quincy and his company’s new, bright yellow market at 960 S. Wenatchee Ave. in front of Staples. “We wanted something that’d excite the kids and bring in families.”

He added, “Kids love dinosaurs — the bigger, the better.”

Some dino stats? This one’s height is 10 feet 4 inches. Width is 8 feet 8 inches. Length is 21 feet. Weight is 540 pounds. Cost is about $5,000.

Dearie said the statue has a skeleton of criss-crossing rebar and an exterior skin of sheet metal. It was made by friends who run a company in Rosarito, Mexico, south of Tijuana, that specializes in just this kind of beastly art.

The fun really began in Mexico, said Dearie, when he loaded the triceratops onto an open trailer and hauled it 1,300 miles north to Wenatchee.

You ever try to cross the border into the U.S. with a giant dinosaur hooked to your truck?” he asked. “They (the border guards) had a good time with it. They got a good laugh.”

Then, heading north on Interstate 5, “people would pull up on either side of the dinosaur and start snapping photos,” said Dearie. “It brought smiles along every mile we drove.”

And, of course, there’s a business angle to this dino-mite installation.

The deli in our new Wenatchee store will offer the Dinosaur Burrito,” said Dearie. “It’ll have a pound of carne asada and be loaded with all the trimmings. We might have a special offer like ‘eat two and they’re free.’ Maybe.”

He thought about this a little more. “That’s a big burrito, eh? But then, it’s the dinosaur of burritos. ”


Stemilt teams up with Wenatchee Learns

A community program for better education in Wenatchee is teaming up with one of the region’s largest companies to help fund a college scholarship for a graduating high school student.

Stemilt Growers will donate $1 for every new “Like” on Wenatchee Learns’ Facebook page up to a maximum of $1,500, the fruit company announced March 14. The money will go to the Washington Apple Education Foundation, which will review applicants and announce a scholarship recipient in mid-May. The campaign began March 17.

Those eligible for the scholarship funds are 2012 graduates of Wenatchee High School and WestSide High School as well as any private and home-school students in Wenatchee who are graduating this year.

The $1,500 scholarship may be used at any accredited trade school or two- or four-year college or university.

Stemilt Growers is one of the world’s largest non-citrus tree fruit growing, packing and shipping companies. Based in Wenatchee, the company is owned and operated by the Mathison family.


The many sides of Del’s Triangle

Del Hurt, 74, can gauge his nearly 50 years of selling gas and fixing engines by the classic cars and motorcycles he’s restored.

Down through the years: The old ’53 Galaxy Fastback, the ’65 Buick Wildcat, the ’66 Mustang, the ’68 Buick Regal (a gift from a good customer), the 42-year-old Yamaha 650 motorcycle and the ’83 Yamaha Venture touring bike.

Turns out, though, that his current project — a ’56 Ford Victoria — marks a career-capping milestone for Del. It’s the car he restored at retirement.

After nearly half a century at Del’s Triangle, the venerable (former) service station at the split of Miller Street and Wenatchee Avenue in North Wenatchee, the owner and chief mechanic is about to hang up his wrenches. Sort of.

There’s nothing sad about this,” said Del, waxing philosophical to a group of friends who dropped by March 15 to wish him well. “I’m done here, but not done for good. I’ll still be playing with my toys — fixin’ them, rebuilding them, playing with them when I get the chance.”

Del’s last day on-site was March 31. By then, he had most of his leftover tools and machines moved out and memories packed up, ready to go — old photos, caps bearing oil company logos, toy models of oil tanker trucks, posters from Texaco and BP Petroleum.

Standing at a counter in the station’s office, Del pulled out a photo from around 1965 of him — young and handsome — sitting at a desk in that very same office. “Got my start right here,” he said, tapping the counter top.

In 1963, Del began working at Triangle Texaco for owner Howard Ziegler. He soon joined with a couple of buddies to buy and run the station, and owned it outright by 1967. In the late 1990s, Del stopped selling gasoline, citing rising costs of fuel, insurance, oil-company contracts and environmental safeguards. He then devoted himself to fixing cars.

Local developer and businessman Dave Mehelich has bought the Triangle and — to continue the car-care theme — will lease the space to Quality Color Service, an automotive paint and supply dealer. They moved in April 1 from their current location on North Miller.