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Wenatchee Shari’s serves last customers

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Cashmere Chamber of Commerce president for 2013


Wenatchee Shari’s serves last customers

State cops, FBI guys and other law officers had to search last month for a new place to sip morning coffee after the Shari’s Restaurant here closed for good Jan. 2.

Those troopers and deputies have been loyal customers for more than 20 years,” said Lanna Jordan, a Shari’s supervisor and trainer. “We’re the place where they started their day, touched base with their buddies. It’s sort of sad to see that end.”

After more than two decades, the Shari’s Restaurant at 1516 N. Wenatchee Ave. closed after its lease expired. Company executives said the building would require expensive, expansive remodeling to bring it up to Shari’s new branding standards of brighter, fresher interiors.

The only other Shari’s in North Central Washington — at the Wenatchee Valley Mall in East Wenatchee — remains open.

It’s a matter of dollars and cents in a tough economy,” said Michael Kiriazis, vice president of marketing for the Beaverton, Ore., company. “Wenatchee is a small market being served by two restaurants. The lease is up, it’s expensive to remodel, so we had to make some tough decisions.”

Shari’s has no plans to shut any other of its more than 100 restaurants in 2013, said Kiriazis. Two restaurants with similar issues of expired leases and high-cost renovations were closed in 2012, he said.

Jordan, 26, a Wenatchee employee for more than six years, is one of the few employees who will be transferred to the East Wenatchee store. Other employees will be eligible for rehire as soon as positions become available, a company official said.


Valley North Center has new owners

Shoppers here won’t notice much of a change, but the home of Target, Old Navy and J.C. Penney has new owners.

A San Diego-based group of investors announced last month it had bought Valley North Center — the 20-acre shopping center with 270,000 square feet of retail space — for nearly $17 million. The deal closed in mid-December.

Center Investments, Inc., an East Wenatchee commercial real estate firm, will manage the property, oversee maintenance, handle leasing and seek new businesses for the 46-year-old commercial hub that hugs the city’s busiest intersection.

This is a very stable property with happy, longtime tenants,” said Dan Barr, lead broker for Center Investments. “These new investors recognize the center as a good property to add to their portfolio.”

The new owner, Valley North Center LLC, purchased the property and buildings that house Target, J.C. Penney, Old Navy, Rite-Aid, Pier 1 Imports, and about a dozen other retailers. Red Robin and Applebee’s restaurants are also in the mix.

According to Barr, Valley North Center is 100 percent leased and 99 percent occupied.

The purchase does not include properties for Albertson’s grocery, Starbucks, the Verizon phone store or Shopko. Those adjacent parcels are separate from Valley North and owned by other companies.

Valley North Shopping Center opened in 1966 with 165,000 square feet of retail space at a cost of $3 million. In 1999, longtime owner First Union sold the center to Center Oak Properties, a California company that at the time also owned the Wenatchee Valley Mall in East Wenatchee. About a year later, Center Oak rebuilt Valley North to eliminate its struggling enclosed mall and replaced it with a “big-box” design.

Barr said the new owners haven’t announced any big plans for the center, but the search for new tenants is ongoing. “We’re always trying to broaden the retail and restaurant mix,” he said. “Who knows? There could be some surprises in the future.”


Promotion groups merge in Chelan

The area’s top tourism group has merged with the independent committee that for more than a decade handled millions of dollars in regional promotional funds.

The Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce officially took over duties of the Lake Chelan Tourism Promotion Group in early January, uniting much of the decision-making for marketing the lake region under Chamber guidance.

We merged mostly for proficiency and efficiency,” said Chamber Executive Director Mike Steele. “The Chamber has been intimately involved with the Promotional Group for years — we sat on the board and helped make decisions — and this merger will help streamline the process.”

Formed in 2000, the Promotion Group contracted with the city of Chelan to receive its 3-percent lodging tax from rental of local hotel rooms. This year, those tax monies could total $450,000 to $500,000, Steele said.

Under the new merger, the Promotion Group will dissolve and a new Chamber committee will be established to advise on the distribution of tourism monies. The funds are earmarked for marketing only, Steele said.

Much of the funding will be used for Chamber promotions of area events and recreation, but some could be channeled to other groups’ marketing efforts in the Lake Chelan area, said Steele.

The Chamber will focus on increasing transparency and communicating our marketing goals and results to the Lake Chelan community,” he said. “New reporting systems will be put into place to monitor how the 3-percent funds are being spent, and how they help increase tourism.”

East Wenatchee

Credit union to open East Wenatchee branch

GESA Credit Union, the Richland-based outfit with offices on Wenatchee Avenue, will open a new East Wenatchee branch sometime in March, says Chief Financial Officer Jim Sheehy.

The new office, already in mid-construction, will be located at 303 Valley Mall Parkway, former home of Mattress Outlet.

GESA’s expansion is due to a quadrupling of the credit union’s local membership and deposit base since it opened in 2004, says Sheehy.

Cusick Construction & Development of Wenatchee is transforming the interior from mattress showroom to credit union. The remodel is headed up by Project Manager Dick Alexander.


Stokes begins term as cattlemen’s president

A longtime Twisp rancher assumed duties in December as the new president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association.

Vic Stokes, who raises about 200 head of cattle on his ranch south of Twisp, said top issues for cattle ranchers this year are controlling predators such as wolves and new proposals for water quality management on cattle operations.

Based in Ellensburg, the nonprofit WCA promotes the beef industry through education, legislative lobbying and legal intervention, according to its website.


Bank manager Cruz to head Cashmere Chamber

A local bank manager chosen to head the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce wants to boost member participation and increase the city’s tourism during his 2013 term.

The plan for 2013 is fairly simple,” said Alex Cruz, branch manager here at Cashmere Valley Bank. “And that’s to continue the recent wave of success the Chamber and our members have established in the past few years.”

Chamber board members chose Cruz as president in a vote taken in December. He grew up in East Wenatchee and was named Cashmere bank manager in 2011. He was also one of the Wenatchee Valley Business World’s 30 Under 35, a list of up-and-coming young business leaders in the region.

Cruz has served on the Chamber board for three years and was last year’s vice president.

The new president’s goals for the coming year include:

A more active membership. “Members are the Chamber’s most valuable asset,” said Cruz, “and we want to hear more from them.”

Increase the city’s fledgling tourism industry by promoting Cashmere to the 14,000 whitewater rafters who pull out of the river at Riverside Park each summer.

Improve Cashmere direction signs by adding solar lights to highway welcome signs, adding a visitor’s info kiosk near the Cashmere Pioneer Village and Museum and designing banners for downtown streets.

Chamber members also voted in December to add new board members Pam Catching of Milne Insurance, Teri Weedman of Weeds Cafe and Jessica Lindblom of the Mount Cashmere Golf Course. Elected to a second term were Laurie Shorett of Cascade Valley Inn, David Weber of Martin’s Market Place and Michelle Whitford of Apple Annie’s Antique Gallery.


Debut for online home magazine

Inside Design Carpet One Floor & Home, a Wenatchee flooring store, has a new online magazine with lots of tips on home design.

The debut issue of the free quarterly — called “Beautiful Design, Made Simple” — offers advice on home color choices, updating a room’s design, carpet care and new flooring trends.

Customers can download the mag at beautifuldesignmadesimple.com or Apple’s app store.