Wenatchee Valley Business World




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Business roundup: Biosports, Crunch Pak grab top Innovator Awards

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Lyle McClune and Michael Hansen, owners of Biosports Physical Therapy.

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Biosports, Crunch Pak grab top Innovator Awards

Businesses that sell apples and repair humans grabbed the top awards here March 19 at the 2014 GWATA Innovator Awards luncheon.

Tony Freytag, marketing director for apple-snack producer Crunch Pak, was named Entrepreneur of the Year, while Biosports Physical Therapy and owners Michael Hansen and Lyle McClune took the Tech Savvy Business of the year honors.

The 14th annual luncheon drew more than 400 business and tech industry leaders to a packed ballroom at the Wenatchee Convention Center, where slick videos on huge screens highlighted presentations of the five awards.

GWATA, the Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance, promotes a technology-based economy for North Central Washington.

Mike and JoAnn Walker, owners of the multi-company Eagle Group and primary developers of Pybus Public Market, received GWATA’s first Lifetime Achievement Award — and a standing ovation — for tech innovation in business and community endeavors.

Alex Albert, a student at Foothills Middle School in Wenatchee, nabbed the Future Technology Leader award for invention of a hat loaded with sensors to help the visually impaired. He also developed a website to host student videos on a variety of subjects.

Jody Leonard, a teacher at Eastmont High School, received the award for Innovative Use of Technology in the Classroom. She incorporates computer programs and tech devices in her instruction to enhance student learning.

In receiving the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Freytag said part of Crunch Pak’s mission “is to get people to eat more healthfully. If we can do that, it’s a way to help solve a lot of health problems such as diabetes and obesity.”

Founded in 2000, Cashmere-based Crunch Pak produces about 1.3 million apple slices a day for its 43 apple-slice products.

Hansen and McClune of Biosports together accepted their Tech Savvy Business award. Hansen admitted he was no techie, but readily adopted the medical innovations and machines that can help a person heal faster. “Thank goodness there are great minds out there to give us these devices that give us better lives,” he said.

Wenatchee-based Biosports is a physical therapy clinic specializing in orthopedic and sports medicine rehabilitation.


Michigan rail company to buy Cold Train

The Cold Train, the refrigerated railway that delivers Northwest produce and products from here to the east coast, was sold in March to a Midwest rail company.

Federated Railways, Inc., of Farmington Hills, Mich., announced March 4 it will buy the Cold Train’s parent company, Kansas-based Rail Logistics. The purchase price was not disclosed.

The new subsidiary, called Federated Cold Train, will keep the current management team and staff — including Steve Lawson as president and CEO — along with Cold Train’s headquarters in Overland Park, Kans., and shipping operations at the Port of Quincy and in Portland, Ore.

Port of Quincy spokesman Pat Boss said Federated plans to expand Cold Train’s operations by adding at least 1,000 refrigerated containers to the fleet over the next five years. Since opening in Quincy in 2010, Cold Train’s fleet has grown from 100 to 400 containers, each 53-feet long.

Cold Train now ships refrigerated cargo from the Port of Quincy’s Intermodal Terminal to key distribution hubs in 20 states, mostly in the Midwest, far South and on the East Coast.

Cold Train also has regular express service from Washington and Oregon to Toronto.

The rail service also hauls frozen and refrigerated foods and some dry goods back from the Midwest and East Coast to Washington and Oregon.

Federated Railways’ parent company — Federated Capital Corporation — owns a variety of railroad operations, including the Great Lakes Central Railroad, a 400-mile regional railway in Michigan and Federal Railcar, Inc., owner of a fleet of refurbished passenger railcars.

Lawson said Cold Train’s popularity among regional ag producers should increase as fuel prices remain high and regulations increase for the long-haul trucking industry.


Darci Wert to lead downtown group

A former commercial pilot and public relations expert has been chosen as the new executive director of the Historic Downtown Chelan Association, the group announced last month.

Darci Wert, 51, assumed the post Feb. 14 and will lead the group’s effort to promote the downtown core and emphasize the preservation of the town’s historic features.

We’re pleased Darci has agreed to be our next executive director,” said Linda Van Lunsen, HDCA president. “She not only has an extensive background working with nonprofit groups, but also many other skills that will enhance our organization.”

A native of eastern Washington, Wert served as director of the Colorado-based Fantasy of Flight Foundation, a group using aviation to inspire students, and director of education for the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver. She’s also done public relations for the city of Longview, served as tourism coordinator for Juneau, Alaska, and worked as a website administrator, commercial pilot and flight instructor.

For more info, call Wert at 682-4322 or visit historicchelan.org.


Hastings to merge with holding company

Customers at Hastings Books Music & Video shouldn’t notice much of a change in local stores even after the parent company’s merger in coming months with a larger holding company, say Hastings execs in Amarillo, Texas.

It’ll all run smooth, and customers shouldn’t notice a thing,” said Dan Crow, chief financial officer of Hastings Entertainment. There are no plans to close any of the company’s 126 stores.

Shareholders for Hastings Entertainment, with local stores in Wenatchee and Moses Lake, will likely approve a $21.4 million merger with Hendrix Acquisition Corp. that’ll take Hastings from a public to a private company at a payoff of about $3 a share.

The holding company that’s absorbing Hastings is owned by Joel Weinshanker, who also owns the National Entertainment Collectibles Association, which licenses and sells celebrity-themed merchandise, including the music, photos, movies and TV appearances of Elvis Presley.

Weinshanker also manages Graceland, the former home of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and some rights to the merchandise of Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali and other celebrities.

A September article in the Amarillo daily newspaper said Hastings’ total revenues have declined for six consecutive years — from a high of $548 million in 2006 to $463 million in 2012.


Project Groundwork expands to Seattle

Usually it’s the big retailers or restaurants in Seattle that expand into North Central Washington. So this bit of news is a bit of a switcheroo.

Project Groundwork, the planning and design firm based in Wenatchee, has opened a new office in Seattle and added a new Puget Sound landscape architect to its staff.

Project Groundwork plans to win design work on some of the big city’s future public and private projects. The new landscape architect, Mark Garff, has extensive experience in environmental consulting, shoreline design and ecological restoration — all primary concerns for projects in the Emerald City.

In Wenatchee, Project Groundwork is located at 25 N. Wenatchee Ave., Suite 238. In Seattle, the company is located at 1631 15th Ave. W., Suite 119.


Local job picture brightens with January gains

The unemployment rate in Chelan and Douglas counties fell to 8.1 percent in January to mark the biggest year-to-year drop — 1.6 percentage points — in eight years.

Lack of snowfall across the state helped juice the January job numbers for the two counties as construction continued through winter months and skiers and snowmobilers looked to the Wenatchee Valley for decent snow conditions.

A similar decrease in year-to-year jobless rates hasn’t been seen since January 2006, said state Regional Labor Economist Don Meseck, when the rate fell 1.7 percentage points from January 2005.

This January has shown a significant improvement,” said Meseck. “A real bright spot.”

The state Employment Security Department released county unemployment numbers March 18. The state jobless rate stood at 6.9 percent.

The construction sector didn’t add many jobs in January, said Meseck, but compared to the same month last year, it didn’t shed many, either. Favorable weather conditions allowed home and apartment construction at several new developments in Chelan and Douglas counties to continue through December and January.

Meanwhile, other sectors showing gains were tourism with a 6.1 percent increase (300 jobs), retail with a 5.4 percent jump (300 jobs) and warehousing, mostly fruit packing, with a 3.3 percent rise (300 jobs).

The biggest job losses came in the federal government sector, which fell 12.5 percent (100 jobs) as seasonal forest and fire jobs ended.

Stevens Pass

Ski resort kicks off sale of seaon passes

A spring sale on season passes at Stevens Pass Mountain Resort is underway through April 30 with no price increase from last year, ski facility execs announced last month.

A standard pass for ages 16-69, called an Everyday Pass, provides unlimited access through the 2014-15 winter season. Cost is $499 for new passes and $449 for renewals. Passes purchased now and paid in full are valid for free skiing through the rest of this winter season.

Passes for weekday skiing only are $299 for new pass holders and $249 for renewals.

Also, Stevens Pass is part of the Powder Alliance, a partnership among 12 resorts in the western U.S., that allows Everyday Pass holders to ski free for three days per season at partner resorts.

We’re thrilled to be able to offer this additional benefit to our season pass holders,” said Karl Kapuscinski, president and CEO of Steven Pass. “Not only will they be able to take advantage of other resorts, but skiers from around the West will now be able to experience how truly great the skiing is here in the Cascades.”

For more details on season passes, visit stevenspass.com/passes.

East Wenatchee

Roads, utilities key to North End development

The best way to unlock the potential of one of the largest undeveloped parcels on the Wenatchee metro area’s waterfront is build roads and install utilities, experts here agreed.

All you need are a plan, lots of money and — maybe toughest of all — the cooperation of at least seven government bureaucracies that oversee the site and could potentially dash any hopes for hotels, condos, stores or a sports complex.

More than 60 of the area’s elected officials, municipal and county planners and property owners gathered here March 12 for a three-hour “Infrastructure Summit,” a first step towards development of a 300-acre site at the east end of the Odabashian Bridge.

We’re looking for clarity and consistency for how development should proceed for this parcel,” said Lisa Parks, executive director of the Port of Douglas County, which organized the summit. “We’re hoping we can map out how to move forward.”

That path still isn’t clear, but officials did agree by summit’s end that slicing through politics, coordinating goals and policies and “shepherding” developers through the permitting process are crucial for a smart, smooth build-out of the waterfront property.

The acreage, called the North End, encompasses eight separate parcels between Sunset Highway and the Columbia River around the intersection of Highway 2/97 and 28. The area lies within East Wenatchee’s urban growth boundary and is already zoned for mixed-use commercial development.

For the past year, port consultants have studied the area to identify challenges and opportunities for its development, and they presented some of their findings at the Wednesday summit. The full report on the property will be available in coming weeks.

The consulting company, Seattle-based ECONorthwest, offered examples of how the land might be developed, including tourism (hotels, restaurants), recreation (ballfields and indoor facilities), ag tourism (wineries, markets), higher education (college campus expansion) and mixed use (hotels, restaurants, retail, residential).

But no matter how it’s developed, bringing roads and utilities to the North End property could be expensive, ECONorthwest planners Morgan Shook and Erik Rundell told the gathered officials. Primary roads into the area could cost more than $26 million; water and sewer installations could hit $10 million.


Food Pavilion closes in Olds Station

A 12-can case of peas: $3.31. A pound of saltwater taffy: $1.04. Hundreds of greeting cards: 25 cents each. Food Pavilion’s shelves emptied fast, but bargains could still be found in mid-March as prices dipped 80 percent and the Olds Station supermarket shuffled towards its final hours. Doors closed for good at March 15.

So far, hopes of a new grocery filling the vacant store space are nothing more than unfounded rumors, said commercial developer Dan Barr with Center Investments. A new tenant is being sought, he said, but any deal is far from closing.

Too bad this is the end,” said Jenny Krause, Ephrata, who spotted the “Food Pavilion Closing” signs from an auto dealership across the street. “They always carried stuff I could never find anywhere else.”

Food Pavilion’s Bellingham-based parent company, The Markets LLC, in January announced closure of the 56,000-square-foot market, one of the region’s largest grocery stores. Its sister store, East Wenatchee’s Food Pavilion, will remain open.

The Markets, then known as Brown & Cole Stores, acquired the Wenatchee store in 1999 when it bought Ennen Food Stores, a five-store chain. At the time, the Olds Station store was named The Fair Market, but the name soon changed when it joined the new owner’s list of stores named Food Pavilion, CostCutter, Save-On Foods, Food Depot and others.

About half of the Olds Station store’s 40 employees were reassigned to the East Wenatchee store, confirmed employees who asked not to be named.


More restaurants means more choices


Options for where to chow down in the Wenatchee Valley have expanded dramatically since the beginning of the year. New restaurants have opened — including (you guessed it) a couple of Mexican eateries — and established ones have expanded or changed their menus.

All of a sudden, you have a choice of Irish Nachos (potato chips, corned beef, green chiles), Mexican corundas (green corn husk tamales in season) and hot-rod-themed burgers (the Road Runner, the Blown Hemi).

So let’s pull up a chair, loosen our belts and dig in to a sampling of what’s new in the valley’s restaurant scene:

Almas Mexican Kitchen

WENATCHEE — It was a natural move for Alma Cuevas to get into the restaurant business. For years, she’d provided her Michoacán-based recipes for tacos and burritos at the annual Fiesta Mexicana in south Wenatchee’s Lincoln Park. Eaters’ eager responses to her cooking pointed, she said, to having a place of her own.

On Feb. 15, she opened Almas Mexican Kitchen at the former location of Hart’s British Fish & Chips and, more recently, Chuck’s Seafood Grotto. Alma’s son, Luis Ramirez, said “it all came together — a vacant restaurant space in a great location — so we decided to make the leap.”

The informal, taqueria-style eatery specializes in high-flavor tacos, burritos, enchiladas and tamales. It’s one of the few Mexican restaurants in the region to offer uchepos, a no-meat tamale, and corundas, a green husk corn tamale that’s a rare treat during the corn harvest. “Green husks give the tamale a whole different taste,” said Ramirez. 609 N. Wenatchee Ave. 470-9371.

Blom’s American Grill and Irish Pub

CASHMERE — No blarney. Owners Karin and Lee Blomquist were encouraged to open their new Irish-themed restaurant by none other than Shawn O’Donnell, the (some say) legendary owner of the downtown Seattle hangout that carries his name.

He said, ‘Either you do it or I come over and do it myself’,” laughed Karin. “So here we are — opening an Irish restaurant right before St. Patrick’s Day.”

The menu sports lots of American comfort foods (burgers, chicken, steaks), but specializes in Irish delights such as the previously mentioned Irish Nachos and bangers and mash with corned beef. You might want to also try the deep-fried Oreos. “Oh my, they’re good,” said Karin. 112 Elberta Ave. 782-5667.

The Hot Rod Cafe

MONITOR — Ron and Heidi Sprugasci, both car buffs AND burger fans, found the perfect outlet for their combined interests in the Hot Rod Cafe. The couple opened the auto-themed burger-and-shakes diner Feb. 1 in the former location of Tom, Dick and Harry’s Fabulous Burgers at the corner of Highway 2/97 and Easy Street.

It’s a family-owned, family-operated restaurant,” said Heidi. “And cars? Did we mention we like cars?”

Auto logos and memorabilia line the walls, and the burgers have vroom-vroom names: the Blown Hemi (double patties, double cheese, ham and bacon), the Burn Out (single patty, jalapeños, chipotle mayo and pepper jack cheese) and the Prius (deluxe veggie burger, of course).

The Hot Rod is also open early for breakfast and is a favorite hangout for local car clubs. 2960 Easy St. 470-8345.

Fonda Oaxaqueña

EAST WENATCHEE — Owners Anna Patricia Alvarez and Paul Lopez, along with chef Rosa Olguin, deliver the flavors of Oaxaca in banana-leaf wrapped tamales, chile rellenos, four kinds of made-from-scratch mole sauce, tacos, enchiladas, soups and — special on weekends — goat tacos and menudo. 136 Eastmont Ave. 888-7317.

Bella Bistro

WENATCHEE — This popular coffee and lunch spot has expanded into dinners on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 4 to 9 p.m. Two yummy specialties: slow-roasted pork shoulder with apple chutney and meat loaf with roasted mushroom sauce and crispy kale chips. Also salads, deserts and an interesting wine and beer list. 317 Orondo Ave. 293-5518.

Blue Flame Asian Bistro

EAST WENATCHEE — Tasty Asian-fusion dishes beautifully prepared and served are the specialties of Blue Flame’s second location (the original is in Cashmere). For starters try the calamari with sweet chili sauce veggie springs rolls. And don’t miss the Singapore Street Noodles (curry, egg, scallions with choice of beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu). 307 Valley Mall Parkway. 470-8899.

Upper Eastside Coffee Company

EAST WENATCHEE — Big plans for one the area’s most popular coffeehouses include (coming soon) a 750-square-foot expansion into the adjacent office space. That’ll give owner Kristen Kennedy more room for evening activities — addition of wine and beer, a new menu of small-plate items and a stage area for expanded live music. If you can’t wait for an Upper Eastside fix, try now the Empire State sandwich stacked high with salami, ham, cheddar, apple-smoke sauce and fixings. 1610 Grant Road. 470-7812.


Salvation Army unveils larger thrift store

The Salvation Army unveiled its new thrift store March 7 with a ribbon cutting at its new twice-as-large location.

The new location at 1219 N. Wenatchee Ave. (next to the Red Lion hotel) has 17,150 square feet of selling space — double the old store’s size — which provides more and larger display areas. A 15,000-square-foot receiving and processing space is located on the store’s lower level.

The store also features the 1219 North Café, which will sell coffee drinks and pastries.

Longtime employee Brandon Booth will manage the store, with Loriel Stutzman as assistant manager. It’ll employ four full-time workers and a dozen part-time workers.

Sales at Salvation Army’s thrift stores raise money to help fund local programs for kids and families.

Last year, more than 8,600 people were helped by the Wenatchee branch — including more than 5,000 meals served, more than 4,000 bags of groceries given to families in need and nearly 5,500 gifts given to kids and families at Christmas.

Store shopping hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Donations will be accepted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


Icicle Broadcasting hit with $46,000 fine

The Federal Communication Commission has fined Icicle Broadcasting $46,000 and shortened station licenses after the company failed to fully maintain a file of public documents.

Icicle Broadcasting on March 5 was fined $12,000 for each of three stations — KOZI-AM and KOZI-FM in Chelan, and KZAL-FM in Manson — and $10,000 for its flagship station, KOHO-FM in Wenatchee. Licensing terms for the two KOZI stations and KZAL were also halved from the standard eight-year period to four years.

Basically, we turned ourselves in when we learned the documents were missing from the file,” said Elliott Salmon, general manager of Icicle Broadcasting. The company realized its error last summer during the license renewal process for the stations.

The FCC requires radio stations to keep quarterly records of public service broadcasts — topics, air dates, contact info — in an “issues and programs” file, one of 12 such files available for public scrutiny. Others include, for example, correspondence sent to each station and political ad prices and policies.

While filling out paperwork for 2014 license renewals, Icicle Broadcasting discovered that staff at stations in Chelan and Manson had not filled the proper number of issues-and-program reports since 2006, said Salmon. Some documents, although fewer, were also missing from Wenatchee station’s file.

The number of missing quarterly reports ranged from 12 to 26, depending on the station. The base fine for this type of violation is $10,000, but the FCC raised the fine amount to $12,000 because violations over the last seven years at three of the stations were extensive, said the agency decision.

The FCC also decided to grant four-year license renewals for the three stations instead of eight-year renewals to allow quicker review of the stations’ compliance with agency rules, the decision stated.

The $46,000 in total penalties “is huge,” said Salmon. A check of penalties across the country showed $10,000 per station is typical, but fining four stations owned by a single company isn’t common.

Icicle Broadcasting has adopted a variety of procedures “to make sure there will be no gap in record-keeping,” said Salmon in a prepared response to the FCC decision.

He added, “Regardless of which stations had the reports or didn’t, this was an embarrassing moment for our company. The FCC doesn’t fine stations who have their house in order.”

Salmon was station manager and program director of KOHO for several years before becoming general manager of Icicle Broadcasting last October.

East Wenatchee

Sears in gear at mall

Fans of Diehard, Craftsman and Kenmore brands will give a rousing Roebuck roar upon learning that the reincarnation of Sears in the Wenatchee Valley is now complete.

The new Sears Hometown Store at Wenatchee Valley Mall, which opened last year on Black Friday (Nov. 29), held its official, grand opening on Feb. 28. City and company officials were on hand, including Mayor Steve Lacy and owner Cliff Phillips, of Moses Lake, who owns four other Sears Hometown stores in central Washington.

The new store here fills 10,813 square feet. It also fills the vacuum left by the closure in August of a larger Sears store, which operated locally for nearly 80 years (first in Wenatchee, then East Wenatchee).


All’s ducky in Chelan

As promoters, the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce is definitely all it’s quacked up to be.

The group is hosting its very first Rubber Duck Race on May 3 to raise money for nonprofit events and organizations throughout the Chelan area.

It works like this: Contestants pay $5 for one rubber duck. All the rubber ducks are released from the Woodin Avenue Bridge in downtown Chelan and float downstream. The lucky-ducky winner receives a $3,500 Lake Chelan vacation package.

Interested? Then plan to waddle to downtown Chelan for the three-hour duck fest. The race starts at 1 p.m. on May 3.

For more info, call the Chamber at 682-3503.


Coffee bar and ski info will join Pybus vendor mix

Pybus Public Market announced today that two new tenants — a

coffee bar-bakery and an info and sales space for Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort — will open soon inside the market.

Design and construction of the new businesses are underway with plans to open in April.

Café Columbia Coffee Bar and Bakery will offer espresso, house-baked goods and breakfast and lunch sandwiches and salads, according to owners Dan and Cathy Rodriguez, who also operate Pybus retailer Almond Blossom Roasted Nuts.

The Rodriguezes plan to move Almond Blossom to an adjacent vacant space, which will provide Café Columbia with seating areas in the bar, on the market concourse and on the outdoor patio.

Mission Ridge will open a year-round space adjacent to the market’s west entrance, where the resort will sell season and day passes, ski lessons, outdoor merchandise and provide info about the facility.

In the off-season, the Mission Ridge space feature info about other muscle-powered sports in the region.

All summer the Pybus staff fielded questions about bike and walking trails, how to get to Saddle Rock, what rivers are best to float and other outdoor activities,” said Steve Robinson, Pybus Market executive director.

Mission Ridge’s plans for the space is consistent with Wenatchee’s growing recognition as a special place to ski and enjoy year-round outdoor activities.”


Tourism increases, but growth rate slows

The Washington Tourism Alliance last month released some industry stats from 2013. As a whole, it seems that tourism in the state grew last year, but at a slower pace than the year before.

Take a look:

  • Direct visitor spending across Washington was up 2. 4 percent over 2012, but that trails the year-over-year increase of 3.4 percent posted from 2011 to 2012.
  • Travel and tourism supported more than 154,500 jobs in 2013, up 1.6 percent, following growth of 1.9 percent in 2012.
  • The industry generated earnings (including payroll) of around $5 billion, up 3.9 percent following growth of 5.4 percent in 2012.