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Business Roundup: Cherries, cherries and more cherries

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Chelan variety cherries from the Mattawa area on the packing line at Northern Fruit Company.

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Cherries, cherries and more cherries

Here’s more sweet news for the region’s cherry growers:

The number of boxes of cherries shipped in June topped 10.3 million — a new monthly record — while demand for most varieties outpaced supply, according to the trade group Northwest Cherry Growers.

June’s record shipments are more than twice the number of boxes (4.7 million) shipped the same month in 2012, the year total cherry shipments hit 23 million boxes. So far, that record harvest still stands as No. 1, but this year’s shipments are closing in fast. Latest estimates put the 2014 harvest at just under 22 million boxes.

Prices over the Fourth of July weekend averaged about $3.06 a pound. But the selling price in North Central Washington varies from fruit stand to fruit stand. Prices range from around $1.89 to $5 a pound, depending on fruit size and variety.


Two local design-engineering firms merge

Two planning and engineering firms here have merged into one company to offer transportation design, civil engineering and land use planning.

Engineers at SCJ Alliance and environmental planners at Project Groundwork have combined specialties, said Eric Johnston, SCJ vice president.

The two companies will work from a single office at Project Groundwork’s location in the Grand Central Building, 25 N. Wenatchee Ave. SCJ will give up its current office at 15 Palouse St.

Project Groundwork’s office in Seattle will continue to operate as an independent design studio, Johnston said.

In the merger, SCJ is purchasing Project Groundwork for an undisclosed sum. The two divisions will retain their original names and many of the same employees.

Locally, Project Groundwork is known for its land use planning — trails and campgrounds — for PUDs in Chelan, Douglas and Grant counties, most recently shoreline plans for Crescent Bar near Quincy. They’ve also been involved in designing trailheads at Saddle Rock and Maiden Lane for better public access to Wenatchee’s Foothills Trails system.

SCJ Alliance’s most recent local work is the design and engineering of downtown Wenatchee’s street overlay project — $1.8 million in water, sewer, electrical and roadbed improvements to a five-block stretch of Wenatchee Avenue.

The blending of the two firms creates the horsepower and depth of services I dreamed of developing when we started Project Groundwork in 2007, said company co-founder David Stipe.

SCJ Alliance, founded in 2006 with three employees, has grown to 50 employees with six office locations in three states — Wenatchee, Seattle, Lacey, Vancouver and Boise, Idaho, and Westminister, Colo.

East Wenatchee

New golf manager takes a swing

Clint Prescott, new general manager of the Wenatchee Golf & Country Club, began his new job as the facility’s top exec June 16.

Prescott, 60, has made a career of managing private clubs of all different kinds, including seven years as head of the Metropolitan Club, an all-female social and athletic club in San Francisco. He located here to be closer to family in the Northwest.

Last month, we caught up to Prescott for a few quick questions:

Q. You’ve only been on the job here for about a month, but we’re wondering what, in your view, is unique about the Wenatchee Golf & Country Club? Why would a person become a member?

A. The first thing I noticed was how welcoming the members were. The club has an inviting and relaxed feel, and I could describe the town with the same words. This welcoming, casual environment provides the perfect opportunity for members to connect and relationships to be formed, whether on the golf course, in the bar or while playing bridge.

Q. Do you have a favorite hole on the club’s course?

A. I’ve played the game since middle school and each time on the course is fresh and new for me. The club’s course has a reputation of fast greens and being beautifully maintained. The 13th hole is my personal favorite. It’s a tree-lined, 486-yard par 5 that presents a challenging approach to the raised green. Every hole on the course tests your skills.

Q. Do you plan any big changes to the club’s non-golf amenities — such as new menu offerings or more family activities?

A. From our swim lesson program and junior golf camp to our senior golf tournaments, the club tries to keep each member engaged. We also offer an excellent culinary experience to complement other club activities. With seasonal menus, small plates in our bar and private party and special event opportunities, we cover all the bases. As we push forward, our goal will be to continue to build value in the total membership experience.


Hastings expands into lifestyle and hobby gear

Hastings Books Music & Video didn’t kid around last month when they expanded their store’s inventory.

We’re carrying more lifestyle, hobby and sports items,” said Jessica Thune, customer service manager for Wenatchee’s Hastings. “It’s part of the company strategy to be an ‘everything store,’ to give us an edge against the competition.”

Walls were torn down and aisles rearranged to give the store a fuller, brighter look, said Thune. But nothing was lost in the transition.

We have the same amount of books, CDs and DVDs as before,” she said. “Loyal customers won’t feel shortchanged — we didn’t cut back on what people know us for.”

So what’s new? Disc golf supples, paintball guns and gear, hundreds of radio-controlled cars, model-making tools and accessories, racks of skateboards, an expanded line of musical instruments , electronics, pet supplies and toys, camping gear and other items.

Hastings’ buy-back services have expanded, too. For years, the store has bought used books, CDs and DVDs from customers. Now they’ll also buy back vinyl records, comic books and vintage video games.

These latest changes are the store’s biggest expansion since it opened in 1994, said Martha Linn, book department manager. “We’re all about entertainment, and these new items — thousands of them — help keep us relevant” in the changing marketplace, she said.


Sliced apples are Marvel-ous

Crunch Pak, the Cashmere-based sliced apple snack company, announced last week that Spider-Man and the Avengers are joining Mickey Mouse on labels of some of its kid-aimed packaging.

Marvel Super Heroes represent an active lifestyle as they embody aspirational attributes like responsibility and discipline,” said Michael Jerchower, director of licensing for Marvel. “Being able to pair our exciting characters with fresh produce is a winning combination.”

Crunch Pak has cultivated lots of relationships in the entertainment industry, particularly with Disney, which owns Marvel. Crunch Pak’s apple slices have been spotted behind the scenes at the Academy Awards, the Kids Choice Awards, the County Music Awards, the Miss America Pageant and the Super Bowl.


New CEO announced for Keyes Fibre

The top job at Keyes Fibre has undergone a big change.

President and CEO Rebecca Kalis retired July 8 and an Oregon executive has replaced her, Keyes parent company, Arbor Investments, announced.

Kalis, the packaging company’s top exec since 2009, will remain with Keyes on the board of directors and help with company strategies, said an Arbor press release.

Oregon executive Ted Kozikowski will take the top chair as Keyes’ president and CEO. He was most recently president and CEO of Plastimayd LLC, a manufacturer of vinyl pool liners and safety covers. During his career, he’s held executive positions with various companies and served 10 years as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Keeping Rebecca on the board of directors while bringing in an executive like Ted will position Keyes for further profitable growth,” said Sieg Buck, an operating partner at Arbor, a Chicago-based company.

Keyes Fibre provides molded-fiber packaging for fruit and beverage industries, including trays for apples, citrus, eggs and wine. Arbor owns 32 food and beverage companies in North America and has $600 million in assets.


Time for a Klock award

Who would have thought that selling fizzy water would be such a big deal? Wenatchee’s own Kevin Klock, that’s who.

Klock is the CEO of Talking Rain and, in the last three years, oversaw huge gains in the company’s sales of Sparkling Ice, a flavored, low-calorie bottled water. We’re talking gains of $340 million since 2011.

Klock has now been recognized as the Pacific Northwest’s 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, the global financial-advisory company. They pegged Klock for his “success in innovation, financial performance and personal commitment” to the his company’s people and products.

Klock picked up his award June 20 at a gala event at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue.


Life’s good with books, coffee and a parking space

Now it’s easier and tastier than ever to grab the latest bestseller at A Book for All Seasons in Leavenworth.

The venerable bookstore, a favorite hangout for readers and writers, took steps last month to ensure customers will find two of life’s essentials: a nearby parking space and a good cup of coffee.

Owner Pat Rutledge has installed polite parking control signs to stress to interlopers that the parking lot is private, and that the dozen or so spaces are for customers of the bookstore and four other businesses located in the ABFAS building.

So far it’s worked out pretty well,” said Rutledge. “There’s usually a space for customers when they pull in — I’d say about 99 percent of the time.”

Last November the Starbucks outlet — which had been connected to the bookstore for 13 years — moved to a new location up the street. That left the bookstore’s cafe space empty for about five months.

In stepped Sherry Schichi of East Wenatchee. She opened Heidi’s Bun and Kaffe Haus, which serves espresso drinks, pastries and even a croissant sandwich.

The cafe, said Rutledge, “is a wonderful addition to our building.”


New bike repair station should have cyclists pumped

Downtown Wenatchee’s Arlberg Sports last month installed a bike repair station in the small-but-shady Hedeen Plaza, now re-purposed from itinerant hangout to bicyclist sanctuary (with sidewalk seating for the Owl Soda Fountain).

The plaza is handily located on the corner of First Street and Wenatchee Avenue, right at the base of the Riverwalk Crossing pedestrian bridge — which means you can easily coast or wobble your bike to the station from the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail.

Dan Baber, manager of Arlberg Sports’ bike shop, and staffers maintain the station, which which was installed June 13. It includes:

A vending machine packed with tubes, tools, patch kits, energy snacks and other bicycling necessities.

A repair stand on which to hoist your bike for some serious repairs using the station’s 10 tools — wrenches, screwdrivers, tire levers — attached to the stand with cables.

A hand-operated floor pump. After all, you just patched the tire, and now that sucker needs inflating. Maybe your ego does, too.

Baber said he believes this is the first bike repair station of its kind in the state, although a similar one is installed in Bend, Ore.


SCORE mentors offer free advice

Free advice on how to start a business or run an existing one is available from SCORE, a local group of 15 volunteer business advisers.

The experience these mentors have will help you get through the difficult process of getting your ideas for a small business underway,” said group spokesman Harold Miller. Counseling is also available for businesses wanting to expand.

SCORE mentors give good and confidential advice,” said Miller. “And it won’t cost you anything but your time. Now that’s a bargain.”

For more info or to schedule an appointment, call SCORE at 888-2900 or email score663office@gmail.com.

East Wenatchee

Drive-through banking at Numerica?

Goodbye, old Numerica. Hello, new Numerica.

Excavators took huge bites here last month of the old Numerica Credit Union building at the corner of Grant Road and Eastmont Avenue. The demolition helps prep for a new bank building to be built on the site. It should be open by early 2015.

The Spokane-based credit union — with 18 branches in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho — plans for the new building’s design to be “open and transparent,” said company spokeswoman Kelli Hawkins. “We want our customers to walk in and feel comfortable and welcome.”

The new 3,784-square-foot building will be “bright, open and even relaxing,” said Hawkins. It’ll include a tech bar with iPads for customers to access online banking, learn about Numerica services or check their email. It’ll feature a refreshment bar with coffee, cookies, water and other snacks. It’ll have comfortable chairs and a few sofas.

In the meantime, East Wenatchee’s Numerica has relocated services (and its seven employees) to a temporary space across the street in Eastpoint Plaza, 509 Grant Road, the location of Glazed Doughnuts, Mountain View Fitness and Jack in the Box.


New building to house machine repair shop, art studio

General contractor, heavy equipment operator and male model Lloyd Palm broke ground last month on an 8,000-square-foot building that’ll house a huge machine repair shop, private museum and art studio and gallery.

We just wanted a place where we could fix machines and display a little art.” he said.

The ground-breaking included Palm, girlfriend and author Judi Moreo, building erector Corey Davis of Western Ranch Buildings, a ceremonial golden shovel, Palm’s own golden Dodge Ram 2500 and a giant 125-ton excavator. The machine is most likely one of the biggest of its kind in the region, Palm said.

Construction of the steel building began July 14 and should be finished in about three months. It’s located on the site of Palm’s Ram Ridge Gravel Sales in Olds Station and is the first industrial building on the property. Four more adjacent lots could be developed in the near future.

Last year, Palm was a top 10 finalist in AARP’s “Faces of 50+” nationwide modeling search. He was encouraged to participate by girlfriend Moreo, a national motivational speaker, author and artist. The new building will provide an upstairs art space where she can paint, show work and give lessons. Also upstairs: A production studio where Moreo can record podcasts for her online radio show — “Choices … with Judi Moreo” — on blogtalkradio.com.

After decades as a general contractor, Palm now specializes in buying, repairing and reselling used heavy equipment.

East Wenatchee

Tovars cooking up new restaurant in Entiat

Salvador and Oralia Tovar have brought their Mexican recipes home.

The Tovars, owners of Tacos Chava in Wenatchee Valley Mall, last month expanded into their adopted hometown of Entiat with a new restaurant in a prominent location — the old Chevron station and former bakery next door to the Entiat Food Center. They’re aimed to have the place open by July 31.

This is a good building for us,” said Salvador, who’s leading a crew of family members to completely renovate the structure. “The right size, lots of natural light, beautiful views of the Columbia River.”

The Tovar construction crew has stripped out the building’s interior down to the studs, removed a couple of walls, added five huge windows, rewired and re-plumbed the kitchen area and will add a new patio for outside dining.

The 70-seat Entiat location will employ around three to four workers, mostly family members or experienced employees transplanted from the East Wenatchee restaurant.

An Entiat resident since 1986, Salvador said he and wife Oralia have come to love the town. “It’s why we decided to invest in a building right downtown,” he said. “We feel good about the place. We can feel it’s going to work for us.”