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Business roundup | American Shoe Shop honored as Business of the Year

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Josh Tarr, owner of American Shoe Shop

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American Shoe Shop honored as Business of the Year

WENATCHEE — A downtown shoe sales-and-repair store grabbed top honors March 3 at the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Banquet.

American Shoe Shop grabbed the Business of the Year award for owner Josh Tarr’s “investment in people and place” and “commitment to improve his business, his building and our community,” said Shiloh Schauer, the Chamber’s executive director.

More than 600 people turned out for the annual banquet at Town Toyota Center to applaud award winners and conduct some business-to-business networking. Theme for the night was “What Matters Most.”

Last summer’s wildfires brought incredible challenges that had all of us thinking about what matters most,” said Schauer. “This year’s program and awards addressed how our community pulled together and how we’ll shape our future.”

Other awards presented that night included:

Nonprofit of the Year to Alatheia Riding Center, an equine therapy facility owned by Nancy Grette.

The Legacy Award to Earl and Barbara Tilly for their decades of civic leadership and involvement with state and city governments, Chelan County PUD and local nonprofit organizations.

Cornerstone Award to David and Angela Lawrence, owners of the Apple Country Inn, who are leaving Wenatchee after years of “building their business to help build our community,” said Schauer.

Cornerstone Award to the Our Valley What’s Next core team, a group of local civic and business leaders “who are drawing up a vision for our future,” said Schauer. The group’s plan is part of the Wenatchee Valley’s efforts to compete in the nationwide America’s Best Communities contest.

Cornerstone Award to the Wenatchee Valley Sister City Association for their efforts to strengthen ties among the cities of East Wenatchee, Wenatchee and Misawa, Japan, by promoting cultural exchange.

 

Haggen agrees to sell core stores to Albertsons for $106 million

SEATTLE — Haggen agreed to sell its original stronghold of Pacific Northwest stores to Albertsons in what seems to be the final chapter of a convoluted grocery-empire saga.

In a news release March 11, the Bellingham grocer said Albertsons will acquire 29 of its so-called core stores — including the one in Wenatchee. The stores in Washington and Oregon were those that Haggen had intended to retreat into when it became apparent its big expansion in the U.S. Southwest was doomed.

A lengthy contract filed in bankruptcy court indicates Albertsons will pay a “base amount” of $106 million, subject to various adjustments. The deal requires approval from the bankruptcy court in Delaware overseeing the dismantling of Haggen’s remains.

An auction previously scheduled for March 18 was canceled.

Albertsons bid for only 29 of Haggen’s locations. On Friday Haggen notified Washington state authorities it will be laying off 78 employees in Puyallup and 67 in Port Angeles, as these stores were not included in the deal. The Oregon City, Oregon, Haggen also will be closed, provided the court gives its approval to going-out-of-business sales.

The deal brings an unlikely ending to an unusually ambitious expansion that briefly led Haggen, a private equity-controlled regional grocer, to become one of the biggest supermarket chains in the West Coast.

Its failure is also a black eye for the antitrust regulators that enabled Haggen to buy 146 stores from Albertsons and Safeway when these companies merged. They wanted to see a strong competitor emerge, but they got pretty much the contrary: Albertsons is far stronger after having absorbed not only Safeway, but a regional Pacific Northwest grocer that dated to 1933.

Neither Albertsons nor the Federal Trade Commission immediately responded to a request for comment. Haggen said it had no comment beyond the news release.

 

Blink eyes solution to tech problems

WENATCHEE — A tech consultant that doesn’t use “geek speak”? Plug us in.

We’re hoping to clear away some of the confusion that often surrounds computers,” said Michael Everson, founder of Wenatchee-based Blink Technology Solutions. “We try to explain things as simply as we can, avoid the tech talk and help our customers to understand.”

Everson, wife Amy and their three-person Blink tech crew work with local businesses — from mom-and-pop retailers to major companies — to determine the type of computers they need, set up the system, train them to use it and keep it running.

We offer a complete service, start to finish,” said Everson. “We take over the burden of keeping computers running smoothly so business people can get on with what they do.”

Blink has also helped clients set up anti-virus and spyware protection, trained staff to use the cloud, launched disaster recovery for lost information, offered Web design and hosting and guided small businesses in establishing work-from-home programs for their staffs.

Blink guarantees, said Everson, to have a technician working on a client’s problem in 60 minutes or less, with most issues resolved in 24 hours.

Some top clients include GP Graders in East Wenatchee, Ultra Tanning Center in East Wenatchee, Wok About Grill in Wenatchee and The Wenatchee World. A host of smaller businesses round out their client list.

Everson said Blink also caters to residential users “facing tough challenges in keeping their computers operating, maintained or repaired.” The company’s techies “love to help out the grandmother who’s mystified by her home computer and why it won’t work,” he said.

Blink opened in 2014, “but in a sense I’ve always been in the tech business,” said the 34-year-old Everson.

Ever since he was a kid, his parents owned and operated small businesses that relied on computers that occasionally failed, “I was the guy — even when I was very young — they called to fix their computer problems,” Everson said. “I learned at an early age.”

Details: Blink Technology Solutions, 103 Palouse St., Wenatchee. Phone: 888-9994. Web: blinkmsp.com.

 

Sweetwood BBQ combines Country Boys and Dilly Deli

WENATCHEE — Two of the Wenatchee Valley’s top meal makers are combining talents for a smokin’ hot new restaurant in Wenatchee. In fact, the meat smokers have already been installed.

Benj Dew, of the renowned Dew family who runs Country Boy’s BBQ in Cashmere, and wife Kelsey Dew, founder and sandwich creator at Dilly Deli, will open their new Sweetwood BBQ restaurant sometime in mid- to late May in Wenatchee.

This is a completely separate operation from Country Boy’s,” said Benj, who for the last 11 years has helped his parents, Tom and Anitra Dew, serve up thousands of orders of babyback ribs and barbecued chicken thighs. “The menu items might be similar, and the recipes similar, but business-wise we’re branching out.”

Benj and Kelsey are remodeling around 2,000 square feet of space at Skookum Plaza at the corner of Ninth Street and North Wenatchee Avenue to contain a dining area, kitchen, meat smokers, storage and office. The new rib joint will be smack-dab between the Dilly Deli and Good Spirits liquor store, and adjacent to The Back Porch marijuana retailer.

(Barbecue, booze, doobies and big juicy sandwiches — some of you might argue that all of life’s necessities are right there in one location.)

While Benj brings barbecue know-how to the new enterprise, Kelsey brings years of hands-on restaurant experience — devising menus, creating recipes, training people to deliver great customer service.

Our concept is quick-serve,” said Kelsey. “Very much like both Country Boy’s and Dilly Deli — order at a counter, take a seat, food comes out hot and ready to eat.”

The couple has also applied for a beer and wine license.

 

U-Haul trucks into Entiat

ENTIAT — Hey, where you going?

Wherever it is, you’ll be happy to learn that U-Haul, the trailer-and-truck rental outfit, has arrived in Entiat.

Entiat Storage & Service, owned by Rhonda Reyes, is operator of the new U-Haul dealership, which will offer trucks, towing equipment and other moving gear. They’re open seven days a week (call for times) with after-hours drop off available.

Aside from do-it-yourself moving, Reyes and U-Haul are thinking green with sustainable business practices — such as truck sharing, which allows a folks to rent haulers from a huge company fleet.

U-Haul says every one of its trucks rented in Entiat (and other towns) helps keep 19 personally-owned large-capacity vehicles (pickups, SUVs, vans) off the road. That means less fuel burned and less pollution.

And here’s something to note: Entiat Storage & Service is encouraging area residents to become “U-Haul Famous” by snapping a photo of themselves in front of a U-Haul truck, trailer, towing bar, packing box or other company product. That photo could land on the side of a U-Haul truck and travel across America. Learn more at uhaulfamous.com.

Details: U-Haul at Entiat Storage & Service, 15037 Highway 97A, Entiat. Phone: 293-9323. Web: http://ow.ly/Z2VYG.

 

Smeltzer named Apple Citizen of the Year

WENATCHEE — A longtime leader in the state fruit industry has been named the 2016 Apple Citizen of the Year.

David Smeltzer, chief financial officer of Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, was awarded the honor last month in a surprise presentation at the company’s offices by royalty of the 2016 Washington State Apple Blossom Festival.

Now in its 35th year, the Apple Citizen of the Year Award honors industry notables “who have worked to make this the Apple Capital of the World,” said an ABF press release. Smeltzer will be in the spotlight May 4 at the ABF’s All Service Club Luncheon and again May 7 in the Stemilt Growers Grand Parade.

Smeltzer, a 1971 graduate of Wenatchee High School, earned an accounting degree from Washington State University before joining Peshastin Fruit Growers Association as an accountant. In 1978, he went to work as office manager for Cascadian Fruit Shippers and worked his way up to general manager.

When Cascadian was purchased by Custom Apple/Starr Ranch in 1997, Smeltzer transitioned to plant manager and currently serves as the company’s CFO.

Smeltzer has served as president of the Wenatchee Traffic Association and on the board of the newly-formed Washington State Tree Fruit Association.

He is a board member and past chairman of the Northwest Horticultural Council, a past member of the U.S. Apple Association and currently serves on the board of Northwest Fruit Exporters. He is a member of the Saddlerock Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Smeltzer and wife Ruth have been married for 39 years and have three children.

 

Uptown funk? Some have reservations about sign

WENATCHEE — The big blue-and-white Uptowner Motel sign, located downtown and up high, may soon be checking out.

A suggestion to remove or replace the decades-old sign painted above the sixth floor of the Cascadian Apartments building was under discussion last month among downtown merchants. The Wenatchee Downtown Association was gathering comments on exactly what to do with it.

As it stands, the bold, three-story-high sign — which can be seen for blocks — touts the Uptowner Motel. Problem is, the motel closed at least three decades ago and has since been converted into apartments.

An arrow on the sign points to the former 1960s-era motel on the northeast corner of North Mission and First streets. After the motel closed in the 1980s, the building was renamed and operated as the Courtyard Apartments. A renovation in 2002-03 brought new life to the building, which reopened as the Poolside Deluxe Studio Apartments.

All we’re doing is helping to get the conversation started about what to do with the sign,” said Linda Haglund, the WDA’s executive director. “We’ve got this big obnoxious sign for a motel that closed a long time ago, and some people downtown are thinking it’s served its time and should perhaps go away.”

Haglund said the sign has no historical significance and the current owner of the Cascadian has agreed to allow changes to the sign.

Dale Rowe, who owns a downtown building next to the Cascadian, initiated the discussion with a letter to the WDA earlier this month.

As downtown Wenatchee is continually revitalizing,” wrote Rowe, “timing is good for eliminating the faded blue and white Motel sign, high and huge, on the north side of the Cascadian that has greeted visitors for many years.”

He continued, “The Cascadian, although modified occasionally through the years, is a classic building (art deco, constructed by Howard Wright in the 1930s). Painting over the sign with a mural depicting a scene that reflects Wenatchee history or current downtown recreation activities would be a great improvement.” He suggested a design contest for the new sign or mural.

Of course, repainting the sign could have its own challenges. It rises from the base of the Cascadian’s seventh floor and continues up to the tenth floor.

I’m sure it can be repainted,” said Haglund, “but I’m not exactly sure how. Scaffolding? Ropes? Seems like it could be tricky.”

To comment on the sign’s future, call Haglund at 662-0059 or email linda@wendowntown.org.

 

Tumbleweed on a roll for Downtown’s Best Award

WENATCHEE — A jewelry-and-accessory retailer has captured top honors for the third straight year at the Wenatchee Downtown Association’s annual awards banquet.

Tumbleweed Shop & Studio, owned by Jessica and Tyler Russell, was voted Best of Downtown at the WDA’s Downtown Appreciation Dinner held Feb. 25 at the Wenatchee Convention Center. More than 120 business and civic people attended.

Jewelry designer Jessica Russell opened Tumbleweed online in 2002 and a brick-and-mortar store in 2012 at 105 Palouse St. The store specializes in handcrafted jewelry but also stocks art pieces, fashion accessories, home decor, kitchen goods, baby gear and other items.

Customers just love the store and vote it the best for good reasons,” said WDA Executive Director. “It’s fun and packed with beautiful merchandise.”

Other businesses receiving Downtown Best awards were:

Downtown’s Best New Business: Firehouse Pet Shop, pet supplies and grooming.

Downtown’s Best Customer Service (two winners): Pickle Papers, a card and stationery store, and Alphabet Garden, an online and in-store retailer of vinyl wall decals and art.

Downtown’s Best Bite: McGlinn’s Public House, a downtown family restaurant since 1991.

Downtown’s Best After-Hours Spot: The Sidecar Lounge, a cocktail bar.

Downtown’s Best Window Display: The Gilded Lily, a home decor and gift shop.

The WDA’s Preserving History Awards were given to Josh Tarr, owner of the American Shoe Shop for extensive renovation of his store’s new location at 126 N. Wenatchee Ave., and Mike Doneen and family for significant facade improvements to a row of family-owned buildings in South Wenatchee.

The awards banquet culminated with presentation of the Spirit of Downtown Award to Dean and Donna Parsons of Parsons Photography. In business for 60 years, Parsons “has reached out to our community in many, many ways,” said Haglund.

More specifically, she said, for years Parsons Photography has provided free photos with Santa for kids and families each holiday season at WDA-sponsored events.

We figure this adds up to more than 4,500 free portraits,” Haglund said. “It’s an amazing — and generous — donation to our community.”

For more information and photos, see the WDA’s Facebook page.

 

Costly delays halt low-cost housing project

LEAVENWORTH — Upper Valley MEND announced March 18 that it has halted its once-promising and highly lauded Meadowlark affordable-housing project due to insufficient funding, rising costs and unforeseen delays.

We worked hard to get our cost structure down. The contractors were trying to work with us, but we just couldn’t get there,” Chuck Reppas, executive director of the non-profit human-services organization said Saturday by phone. “We feel that… the numbers are never going to improve over time. It’s not feasible, period.”

The 23-acre project is $1.5 million over budget, the result of rising construction costs and costly delays since the project was approved for development in 2013, the news release said.

MEND proved unable to resolve development challenges related to wetlands on the property and a stormwater-and-irrigation flowage easement that crosses the property. Neither issue surfaced until after the project’s plans had been approved, he said.

Meanwhile, interest, payroll and re-engineering costs mounted.

These are costs that we would not have incurred had we started two years ago,” he said. “What reserves we had were spent during the delay period. Then we started to face the much higher house construction costs. Our financial model cratered.”

Meadowlark was slated to be a 53-home neighborhood on a picturesque lot between Titus Road and Chumstick Highway.

Thirty of the homes would have been sold at “affordable” prices, because the buyer would have bought the house only. MEND would have retained ownership of the underlying land, Reppas said.

The full market prices, including underlying land, fetched for the other 23 homes were to help fund the affordable ones.

MEND built and operates two, 10-home affordable subdivisions, Aldea Village and Alpine Heights. Both are within Leavenworth city limits and operating well, Reppas said.

MEND’s decision to abandon Meadowlark comes as affordable housing in Leavenworth is at “an absolutely crisis level,” he said.

According to the 2010 Census, 27-35 percent of the homes in Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed tourist magnet, are vacation rentals or second homes. Little is available to rent or buy at modest to mid-level prices. Scarcity drives costs up on the already limited remaining homes, a MEND news release said.

The non-profit will continue to work with city officials to create affordable housing, Reppas said. For now, the future of the Meadowlark property is uncertain.

MEND may study developing the site as an affordable rental-home property. More grant funding and financing is available for rental-home projects, Reppas said. Or, the non-profit could sell the property, repay its investors and, possibly, have a little left over to dedicate to smaller, less complex projects.

Upper Valley MEND — Meeting Each Demand with Dignity — began as a food bank created in 1983 by eight churches and volunteers. It has grown ever since.