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Business roundup: Sports tourism jumps in participants and dollars

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Special Olympic athletes Andy Bryant, at left, and Peter Condon light the Olympic flame during the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics Washington Winter Games held at Town Toyota Center on Friday evening. Over 1500 athletes are in town this weekend for the competitions.

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Sports tourism jumps in participants and dollars

A jump in sports tourism added up to more visitors, more dollars spent and more occupied hotel rooms for the Wenatchee Valley in 2013, the best year since the tracking of such stats began six years ago.

A combination of new events, better organization and promotion and no major disruptions — think wildfires or blizzards — boosted growth across the board for area sports tourism, said Matt Kearny, sports marketing director for the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Baseball and softball tournaments, which can draw scores of out-of-area teams, led in tourism spending.

Kearny heads Wenatchee Valley Sports, previously the Wenatchee Valley Sports Council, which has been absorbed by the Chamber to promote and track local sports tourism and the dollars it generates.

In a report issued in January, Kearny said:

Local sporting events drew 50,798 participants and their supporters to 162 events, up from 45,928 participants at 154 events last year.

Sports tourism spending for the year totalled nearly $7.4 million, up 7.5 percent from the previous year.

Hotel occupancy for sports events were up 3 percent to hit 25,270 room nights.

Baseball and softball tournaments accounted for 31.4 percent of total spending, with cycling and running events placing second with 11 percent of spending.

Top events for tourism spending were the Winter Special Olympics, $706,629; Triple Crown Baseball tournament, $591,555; the Wenatchee Marathon, $321,057; Apple Cup Soccer tournament, $305,004; and Apple Capital Invitational Swim Meet, $262,994.

It’s interesting that the top five list is composed of five different sports” said Kearny. “Having such a wide variety of events heavily attended by people from outside the area is a positive sign for a solid foundation for growth in those categories in the years to come.”

Kearny said that sports tourism in 2014 is expected to start slow but gain momentum as the year progresses.

We have some significant new events coming in, and have others that appear to be starting an upward spiral,” he said. “They should more than offset a recent trend nationwide that has seen a reduction in the number of teams participating in many baseball and softball tournaments.”

This year’s big events include the Inland Empire Swimming Long Course Championships in July and the Pacific Northwest regional figure-skating championships in October.


New Latino market opens in South Wenatchee

The 50-foot meat case at Wenatchee’s new La Mexicana Super Market is impressive enough with its piled-high cuts of beef, pork and chicken. But don’t forget the freezer in back that’s packed with goat, lamb and rabbit.

We’ve got all kinds of good meats, interesting meats,” laughed Maleny Hernandez, assisting manager to her parents Socrates and Azuceña Hernandez, owners of the store. “We’ve got a little something for everyone.”

The 11,000-square-foot store opened Jan. 10 after nearly a year of preparation and construction. Brightly lighted, the grocery aisles are packed with Mexican brands, fresh produce, breads baked daily, seafood (jumbo shrimp!), a full deli case (tamales, burritos and more), homemade salsas and sauces, stacks of canned goods, a section of cooking pots and utensils and even piñatas.

The Hernandez family’s original La Mexicana store is located in Othello. They decided to open a second store in Wenatchee, said Maleny, when they discovered the area’s bustling Hispanic community and the city’s amenities — parks, mountains, shopping. Maleny also attends Wenatchee Valley College, studying to become a physician’s assistant, and is in the Army Reserve.

It all added up to opening a new store here,” she said. “We could bring our grocery ideas to a new location, and I’d be closer to the college, the Army Reserve — all in a beautiful place.”

Details: La Mexicana Super Market, 421 S. Wenatchee Ave. Phone: 293-5392. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Haglund will be keynote speaker at Chamber banquet

The Waterville Chamber of Commerce banquet will be held Feb. 3 at the North Central Washington District Fairgrounds Community Hall.

The tickets are $18 and may still be available at Town Hall, Sterling Savings Bank, North Cascades National Bank, Coyote Pass Cafe, the Shocker Shack or from any Chamber member.

A silent auction and social hour will begin at 5:30 p.m. and dinner served at 6:30 p.m. Music will be provided by the Confluence Jazz Trio from Wenatchee.

Linda Haglund, from the Wenatchee Downtown Association, will speak on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program and its relevance in Waterville. Various awards will also be presented.

For more information, call 745-9555.


Brews worth celebrating at upcoming porter festival

Alan Moen, owner of Snowgrass Winery in Entiat and a noted beer writer, has once again organized the annual Great Washington Porter Festival, which is on tap for Feb. 14-15 at the Saddle Rock Pub & Brewery in Wenatchee.

The event will showcase beers made in the porter style, which means dark with a creamy head and a roasty flavor. Moen said the two-day Porter Fest will feature about a dozen porters from around the Northwest, including “brown porters, robust porters, imperial porters, smoked porters, barrel-aged porters and others.”

The event will also feature a homebrew contest, the winner of which will have his or her porter brewed by Saddle Rock sometime in the future.

There’s no charge to get into the Festival, but beers will be sold as samples or by the glass. Food will be available. Participants must be 21 or older.

Get more info from Moen at 784-5101 or the brewery at 888-4790.


Business mentoring group SCORE names new officers

New officers were named in January for SCORE, a group of local advisers who offer free mentoring to owners and managers of new and existing businesses.

The nonprofit’s new officers include Chair Paul Bondo, Vice Chair Doug Morgan, Secretary Ken Matson and Treasurer Randy Benton. Support and administrative services will be provided by Jim Thornton.

SCORE also offers low-cost forums on business topics.

SCORE may also be contacted through Chamber of Commerce offices in Chelan, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Omak, Okanogan, Brewster, Quincy, Ephrata and Moses Lake.


No closure here in latest round of retail cuts

Wenatchee Valley commerce dodged another bullet last month as two more national retailers announced store closures — but not for here.

Clothier J.C. Penney announced closure of 33 stores nationwide while the grocery chain Albertson’s said seven stores would be shuttered in Washington and Oregon.

The closures follow an announcement in early January by Macy’s to shut five stores nationwide and lay off 2,500 workers. The Macy’s store in East Wenatchee survived the cuts.

With more than 1,100 stores, J.C. Penney said the new cuts would save more than $65 million annually. No stores in Washington, Oregon or Idaho were part of the closures. Two stores in Montana — in Butte and Cut Bank — will be shut down.

With 111 Northwest stores, Albertson’s announced closures of two stores in Tacoma, two in Vancouver, and one each in Bothell, Albany, Ore., and Pendelton, Ore.


Firm changes name to Evergreen Accounting

The local accounting firm Sauvageau & Co. has changed its name to Evergreen Accounting following expansion this month into Chelan.

Company president Tom Sauvageau said the name change better explains services offered by the firm’s offices in Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Maple Valley and now Chelan. Those services include bookkeeping, payroll, tax preparation and business consulting. Sauvageau acquired the three-employee Ronald L. Sturtz accounting office in Chelan late last year. The new Evergreen Accounting name took effect Jan. 1.

Sauvageau & Co. launched in 2006 as a bookkeeping and external accounting business based in Wenatchee. Its four offices now have 11 employees.


Arts economy healthy in North Central Washington

The state Arts Commission released a study in January that shows the state’s art economy — including that of North Central Washington — grew by 7 percent in 2011. Measured categories included musicians, photographers, writers, dancers, designers, art directors, nonprofit organizations and arts retailers such as galleries, book stores, music stores and arts supply houses.

The study uses something called the Creative Vitality Index (CVI) to measure art participation — including revenues and jobs — in 12 regions across the state. The NCW region includes Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Grant and Adams counties.

The latest data shows that NCW’s arts economy grew 6.91 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year. That’s the fifth-highest growth rate of the 12 regions, with the greatest growth in urban areas such as Spokane and Seattle.

In 2011, our five-county area added 153 arts jobs to bring our total to 2,367. By comparison, the Yakima-Kittitas-Klickitat region grew 0.47 percent and added only 12 jobs (2,554 total).

The fastest growing creative jobs around the state are radio & TV announcers with 95.28 percent growth, musicians and singers with 88.15 percent growth and graphic designers with 73.81 percent growth. The Arts Commission study highlights the explosion of film and video production in eastern Washington and the surge in the music economy of Seattle (from indie bands to the Seattle Youth Symphony).

In total, statewide, arts-related nonprofits and businesses had revenues of $1.84 billion in 2011. Art nonprofits revenues were 15 percent higher than the national baseline and book and record sales were 13 percent higher.

East Wenatchee

Fresh tastes for tacos, tortas, tostadas

As a 17-year-old street vendor in Mexico, Jaime Aguilar dreamed of one day running his very own restaurant. More than two decades later, his dream has come true.

Three months ago, Aguilar, 39, and his wife Maria opened Tacos Y Tortas El Pueblo, a bright and comfortable East Wenatchee restaurant that specializes in the 3 Ts — tacos, tortas and tostadas.

Everything’s made with fresh ingredients,” said Mary Solorio, Aguilar’s sister-in-law and do-it-all employee. “Fresh tomatoes in the salsa, fresh vegetables on the tortas, handmade hot sauce that gives it just the right amount of spice. Even the beans are cooked from scratch.”

Aguilar said he uses the traditional ingredients and recipes from his home state of Michoacán. All three of the Ts are piled high with the customer’s choice of meats, veggies and sauces. Menudo served with homemade tortillas is available on Saturdays.

It makes me happy to know I’m pleasing customers with good food,” said Aguilar. “It makes me happy, too, to have a restaurant of our own.”

Details: Tacos Y Tortas El Pueblo, 936 Valley Mall Parkway, East Wenatchee. Phone 888-7262.

Stevens Pass

Resort unveils new chairlift and terrain improvements

Stevens Pass Mountain Resort opened $4.5 million in improvements Dec. 21 with the launching of a new high-speed chairlift and expanded terrain on the mountain’s backside.

The detachable quad chairlift, called the Jupiter Express, is the resort’s first new lift in 15 years and the only new chairlift in the state this year. It replaces an older lift and will cut skiers’ ride time in half — from 8.5 minutes to about 4 minutes, 10 seconds — on the 3,775-foot span.

Construction of the lift began in April and took eight months to install.

The December grand opening of the lift “is an exciting moment for the resort,” said Karl Kapuscinski, president and CEO of Stevens Pass Mountain Resort, LLC. “The new lift is going to drastically change how our guests are able to enjoy skiing and riding on the (facility’s) backside.”

On the mountain’s backside, new gladed terrain has been opened in five Mill Valley ski areas, including South Park, Lower Gemini, Shooting Star, Pegasus Gulch and Borealis. Terrain has also been expanded in the South Park area to provide more tree skiing.

The new lift and terrain improvements mark the first major capital improvements for Stevens Pass Mountain Resort which acquired the resort in 2011 from Harbor Properties.


Downtown benefits from tax credit donations

Fifteen local businesses contributed more than $127,300 last year to the Historic Downtown Chelan Association as part of a state tax credit program.

The donations helped the HDCA sponsor $8,000 worth of ice carving blocks for last month’s Lake Chelan Winterfest and help fund downtown’s hanging flower baskets, a new program to erect plaques on designated historical buildings and other projects.

Donations to the Main Street Tax Credit Incentive Program allow businesses to cut their state business and occupation taxes by an amount equal to 75 percent of their annual donation. “The tax credit gives businesses a choice about where their B&O taxes dollars are spent,” said Cindy Salazar, HDCA’s executive director.

The 15 area businesses and organizations participating in 2013 were: Campbell’s Resort, Chelan Printing and Custom Signs, Chelan Vacation Properties, city of Chelan, Coldwell Banker, Lake Chelan Sports, Orondo Cider Works, NCW Appraisal, Riverwalk Books, Sage Rentals, Spirals, Terwedo Financial Services, the Dock Company, the Variety Store and Zippy Disposal Service.

For more info on the HDCA or the tax credit program, call Salazar at 682-4322.


Realtors liking where housing market is headed

Home buying in the Wenatchee market climbed in 2013 for the third straight year to hit over $200 million in sales, the highest dollar volume in more than half a decade.

Rising prices and quicker sales led sellers to list more homes as buyers sought bargains in a market where the median price is under $214,000.

We can sum up the year in one word,” said broker Jerry Paine, spokesman for the North Central Washington Association of Realtors. “Good. It was a very good year. And we’re hoping this continues through 2014.”

Pacific Appraisal Associates, a Wenatchee-based appraisal and consulting firm, released year-end numbers Tuesday for the home market that includes Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Malaga, Orondo and Rock Island.

Sales of homes under $250,000 dominated the market to sell at a rate of around 55 each month. By comparison, about one home priced $500,000 or more sold per month.

Continued low interest rates, a slight easing of credit requirements and an improving economy all contributed to the banner year, said Paine.

What’s best for the Wenatchee housing market would be an increase in homes with prices at $220,000 or under, said Paine. Although listings rose 11 percent in 2013 over the previous year, the number of homes on the market shrank in the last quarter from 15 to 18 percent as buyers made quick decisions to grab lower-priced homes.

Paine noted that two new housing developments — one in East Wenatchee and one in South Wenatchee — are on the drawing boards, but the number of building permits issued in the last two years has remained mostly flat. “No question that the existing home inventory fueled last year’s uptick in the market,” he said. “And those lower-priced homes are getting snatched up as quickly as they go on the market.”

  • Other year-end highlights of the local housing market:
  • Dollar volume of homes sold rose 21 percent over 2012 to hit $200.3 million.
  • The number of units sold jumped 16 percent to 819 from 705 last year.
  • The average home price rose 4 percent to $244,508 from a 2012 average of $235,429. The median home price gained 2 percent to land at $213,500.
  • The dollar volume of homes listed increased 6 percent to $328.7 million, while the number of homes listed jumped 11 percent to 1,202.
  • Building permits for single-family homes rose 5 percent to 192 from 182 last year.


Governor helps celebrate Alcoa’s 125th anniversary

The manager of Alcoa Wenatchee Works joined here Dec. 20 with other company officials from around the state and Gov. Jay Inslee to celebrate the aluminum company’s 125th anniversary.

Wenatchee’s Don Walton and managers from facilities in Kent and Ferndale received Inslee’s proclamation in an afternoon ceremony at the governor’s offices.

The governor praised the company for its eco-friendly innovations, including increased energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, in helping the state achieve sustainability goals, said a company press release.

Alcoa started in 1888 as the Pittsburgh Reduction Company when co-founder Charles Martin Hall discovered an affordable way to create aluminum with electrolysis. Alcoa built its first plant in the state in 1952 on the Columbia River in Wenatchee and later expanded into the Puget Sound area in 1969.


Bistro dishes up more space to sit and sip

Bella Bistro has become a buzzing place with the addition of space for more seating and more eating.

The downtown coffee shop has nearly tripled its seating space with a cleverly-designed winter expando-room — a 360-square-foot portable extension that provides a comfy, heated area for sitting and sipping.

The temporary structure is made of 8-foot panels, including huge windows, that go up when the temps go down and come down when the temps go up. In spring, the room will be dismantled to allow more outdoor patio seating.

Bella Bistro owners Flint and Jamie Hartwig said the expansion has proven to be a huge success. “We thought our regular crowd would just have more elbow room,” said Flint. “But the new space — the sofa and easy chairs, in particular — has drawn a whole new crowd.”

Plus, by the end of February, Bistro owners plan to expand offerings to include local wines and craft beers, more pastries and, by summer, add cheese plates and tapas-style items.

Our plans are to keep expanding, slowly but surely,” said Flint. “To keep making it interesting for our customers.”

Details: Bella Bistro, 317 Orondo Ave., Wenatchee. Phone 293-5518. Facebook keywords “bella bistro.”