Beef jerky at the jail? Vending machine offers cured meats in Law and Justice lobby
WENATCHEE — Next time you’re bailing out your brother-in-law at the Chelan County Law and Justice Building, be sure to grab a bag of cured meats.
That’s right … jerky at the jail. Salami at Superior Court.
Last month, famed Owens Meats of Cle Elum installed a refrigerated vending machine in the lobby of the Law and Justice Building that sells packs of some of the company’s most popular cured and dried meats.
Think beef and turkey jerky, spicy pepperoni with cheese, summer sausage, salami and cheese, the Owens family’s signature cheddar cheese spread and landjager, a semi-dried German sausage.
Note: These packs of meats aren’t cheap. Prices range from $5.50 for 2-yards of pepperoni sticks to $10 for a combo pack of meats and cheeses to $16 for a 12-ounce pack of Owens’ best beef jerky.
Owens Meats — slogan: “The Candy Store for the Carnivore” — already has machines at Stan’s Merry Mart in Wenatchee, Smallwood’s Harvest in Peshastin, Monaco’s Corner Store in Leavenworth and other locations around the state.
“When the courthouse cafe here closed a while back, we began looking for an alternative,” said Chris Flick, facilities director for Chelan County. “I saw the machines at Stan’s and Smallwood’s and thought, wow, for us this might be the perfect match.”
Other than a dribble of electricity to keep the meats cool, there’s no cost to the county, said Flick. The vending machine doesn’t even require a dedicated data line for its credit card reader. The gizmo runs encrypted transactions through cellular networks.
“We see this as a benefit to the public, especially to visitors to the courthouse campus,” said Flick. “Cured meats,” he smiled, “can definitely enhance the courthouse experience.”
Chelan County Coroner Wayne Harris agreed. “The machine’s been here two days, and I’ve been here each day,” he said, buying a combo pack of chunked sausages and cheeses.
“The protein makes a great mid-morning snack and keeps me from eating lots of sugar and junk,” he said. “Plus, it tastes good. Really good.”
Shoplifting, counterfeit bills topics of workshop
WENATCHEE — A workshop to help business owners and employees recognize shoplifters, counterfeit bills and other types of fraud will be presented this month by the Wenatchee Police Department.
Hosted by the Wenatchee Downtown Association, the free one-hour workshop will begin at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 16 at the Wenatchee Convention Center, 121 N. Wenatchee Ave. Detective Jared Reinfeld will lead the presentation. Refreshments will be served.
“With the increase of counterfeit bills being distributed downtown and across the community, plus an increase in reports of shoplifting, we thought timing for this workshop was perfect,” said Linda Haglund, the WDA’s executive director.
To learn more or RSVP, email Haglund at email@example.com or Charlotte Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carl’s Jr. now serving in East Wenatchee
EAST WENATCHEE — Ready for a Thickburger El Diablo? Half-pound patty, jalapeño poppers, pepper jack cheese, habanero sauce and a topping of sliced jalapeños. Fire extinguisher, please.
That’s just one big burger offered by East Wenatchee’s new Carl’s Jr., which had a soft opening at June 20 at 300 Grant Road, the former location of East Wenatchee’s Dairy Queen.
Over the previous 75 days, the 4,500-square-foot building had undergone a major remodel both inside and out. The project is the latest Carl’s Jr. for Ellensburg entrepreneur Paul Jones, who now owns a total of seven — East Wenatchee, Moses Lake, Ellensburg, Yakima, Sunnyside and two in Kennewick.
On opening day, traffic lined up on Grant Road for burger lovers to place their order at the new restaurant’s drive-through window. Lunch crowds packed the the interior, which sports clean lines, tasteful colors and Wenatchee Valley-inspired art. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Doors open in Wenatchee for third Happy Crop Shoppe
WENATCHEE — Marijuana retailer The Happy Crop Shoppe opened its third location July 14 to applause and cheers from customers waiting for the doors to be unlocked.
“This is a double celebration,” said Corey Wendt, one of five partners in the business. “We’re not only having a grand opening for our third store, but also celebrating the opening of our first. Remember, we were one of the first 10 stores to open in the state.”
The company opened its first store two years ago in East Wenatchee. Their second THC location opened in Cashmere in December.
With its third store, THC has reached the maximum allowed by a single company. It’s the fourth pot store to open within Wenatchee’s city limits.
Partners joined in an exuberant ribbon cutting that included a congratulatory speech from Shiloh Schauer, executive director of the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce.
“From the very start, The Happy Crop Shoppe has done this right,” Schauer said in a chat following the ribbon cutting. “Their promotion and store designs have been tasteful and restrained. They’ve become active in the local business community. They’re responsive to local causes.”
THC remains the only marijuana retailer so far to join the Chamber, said Schauer. They’ve even sponsored a Chamber event — a legislative preview for members held in 2014.
In Harle Center on North Wenatchee Avenue, the new store opened with around 75 strains in a variety of products. Grand opening specials included 1-ounce packs of bud for $100 (regular price $150), and everyday specials such as 3 grams of wax for $100 and 3 grams of bud for $20. Refreshments and giveaways were also on the day’s agenda.
“It’s amazing how things have changed since we first opened two years ago,” said co-owner Allie Jordan. “Supply has grown, and prices have dropped.”
She recalled that the East Wenatchee store opened with just eight strains of bud on hand. Now it stocks from 100 to 120. Prices per ounce and gram have dropped by more than half since then.
“The number of growers has increased tremendously,” she said. “We’re getting the supply we need in the quantities we need from growers that — for the most part — are located within 25 miles of here.”
Details: The Happy Crop Shoppe (store No. 3), Harle Center, 1210 N. Wenatchee. Ave., Wenatchee. Phone: 888-7957. Web: thehappycropshoppellc.com.
Crops look good, but returns could vary
NCW — Northwest Farm Credit Services last month released its bimonthly overview for crops across five Northwest states. Some excerpts:
Cherries — The outlook for this year’s sweet cherry harvest has been mixed. A warm spring resulted in one the earliest harvests on record, but adverse weather in some regions during bloom and harvest wasn’t good for the crop. Total crop projections have dropped from 18.3 million to 17 million boxes. That said, this year’s cherries look and taste great.
Apples — The 2016 crop is smaller than expected (125 to 135 million boxes total), but leftover apples from last year’s harvest will help maintain strong sales. While lower yields impact some growers, it’s a positive situation for the overall industry given labor and packing limits.
Pears — Depending on the region, projections show growers facing varied returns, with some challenged by quality and storage issues that could reduce yields and packouts. Still, prospects for the 2016 crop are positive, particularly in fruit quality and size.
Wheat — Timely rains in most regions mean Northwest wheat crop conditions are running average to above average. However, prices could trend lower due to ample supplies of stored wheat in the U.S. and across the globe.
Toy sheep fluff up winery’s product line
ENTIAT — The folks at Snowgrass Winery in Entiat must be feeling a bit sheepish.
Co-owners Alan Moen and Susan Kidd announced last month that their winery has added a fluffy new product called Snowgrass Stuffies.
Stuffies are stuffed sheep toys made entirely from the wool of real, resident sheep that keep the grass trimmed in the Snowgrass vineyard. They mow the grass by munching it, and they’ve done so for years.
“Visitors to the winery love our sheep, and always say they want to take one home,” said Kidd, a knitter who created Stuffies. ”Now they can, and they don’t have to worry about these sheep eating their roses!”
The micro-flock of Snowgrass Stuffies features several different plush toy sheep, including Baaad Boy, RamBunctious, RamBeau and Ewe-Betcha. They retail at $30 to $40 in the winery’s gift shop. (Puns are free.)
Snowgrass will hold its fourth annual “Wool Work for Wine” Fiber Arts Festival — a celebration of local spinners, knitters and weavers — on Aug. 28 at the winery.
NCW Success Summit heads to Quincy
QUINCY — Accomplishments in cities and towns across the region will be spotlighted later this year when the annual North Central Washington Community Success Summit convenes for its seventh time — this year in Quincy.
Entitled “Seeding Success, Growing ONE Community,”, the summit will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Quincy Junior High School. The event is sponsored by IRIS, the Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship. More than 160 people are expected to attend from communities in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties.
“We’re thrilled to work with the city of Quincy to host the Summit this year,” said Nancy Warner, IRIS Summit coordinator. “As people who live here know,” she said, “this community, including George and the Trinidad area, has nurtured many success stories. Our aim is to connect those stories and show how they’re growing one strong community.”
She noted that the Quincy community will help IRIS create its first bilingual summit, a model the nonprofit plans to follow as they hold the event in a different rural community each year.
“Over time we will showcase and pass on a collection of success stories that can help the next generation thrive,” she said.
Topics planned for discussion at the November summit include building a healthy environment, using cross-generation relationships to foster a sense of belonging, creating jobs for the region, reducing waste and increasing the sharing of resources in NCW.
The summit will also include lunch, live music and, at the Quincy Library, an exhibit called “A Picture of Health in NCW,” which celebrates how residents are nurturing well-being at the individual, community and environmental levels.
For more info, call IRIS at 888-7374 or email email@example.com. An agenda and registration information will be posted later this year at irisncw.org.
Arlberg pedals its peddles in Leavenworth
LEAVENWORTH — Put your hands together and make some noise. Arlberg Sports is in das Haus.
Wenatchee’s venerable sports retailer has expanded into the Bavarian Village with the opening of Arlberg Sports Haus, a bike and ski sales-rentals-and-service shop that operated for 15 years as Das Rad Haus.
“Locating in Leavenworth makes sense for our company,” said Scott Paton, co-owner with wife Nalini of Arlberg Sports. “In the last decade, we’ve seen the tourism market here evolve tremendously — from basic vacationers and sightseers to active enthusiasts such a bikers, hikers, skiers and rock climbers. You know, our good customers.”
Arlberg Sports Haus — employees call it simply the Haus — opened in April when Das Rad Haus owner James Munly decided sell his shop and work almost full-time to build bike trails. Arlberg did some extensive renovations to accommodate expanded inventory and reopened the store on April 20, just in time to catch the spring riding season.
In warm weather, the shop will feature all things for mountain bikes — helmets, gloves, pads, other accessories and four brands of bikes (Kona, Giant, Pivot, Transition). In winter, the shop will shift focus to skiing — both Nordic and alpine — to outfit enthusiasts hitting the slopes and trails at Stevens Pass, Mission Ridge and the local Leavenworth Ski Hill.
“The Ski Hill is one of our favorite spots,” said Paton. “It’s right up the road, very accessible and a great spawning ground for new skiers. Parents don’t have to worry about their kids getting lost in the backcountry — every trail and track winds up right at the base of the hill.”
And while sales and rentals are important, said Paton, the Haus aims to have service and advice at the core of its business. “Our goal has always been to have the best mechanics,” he said. “We measure our success by how much quality service we can provide. Of course, we’re lucky to have some the best bike mechanics around.”
Paton is talking about longtime bike gearheads Tom Hite and Tom Ford — known at the Haus as the “Tom & Tom Show” — who keep avid Upper Valley mountain bikers on the trails.
Arlberg Sports Haus will also continue to support local bike-ski causes and events, said Paton. This spring, the business has been a big fan of the new Leavenworth Pump Track, a paved bike, board and scooter track that opened in May and is one of the few municipal-supported facilities of its kind in the country.
In partnership with Icicle Brewing Company, the Haus has launched a bike loaner program in downtown Leavenworth. For no charge, visitors can grab a bike from in front of the brewery and use them to tool around town. Paton said the program has been rolling for three weeks and, so far, no bikes have been taken or lost.
The Haus is also sponsor of a few upcoming events in Leavenworth, including the Blood, Sweat & Beers ride on July 23 and weekly bike excursions each Tuesday evening. Check arlbergsports.com for a complete schedule.
Paton said he and staff will spend this summer fine-tuning the business to meet customer needs, but plans call for bike-ski shop to serve beer, wine and some food in a small cafe behind the Haus. In winter, a “wax bar” will give patrons a place to wax their skis and grab some hot tea or coffee.
“After a hot day biking, it’d be really nice to sit in the shade and sip a cold beer,” said Paton. “We’ll be working on this through winter with plans to open in the spring.”
And how is it being part of the Bavarian Village’s business community?
“Being in Leavenworth is a different — and refreshing — experience,” said Paton. “The Bavarian theme, the city’s busy tourist atmosphere, the visitors from around the world — all of it makes business fun and interesting.”
Inventor’s new product ‘duzn’t suck’
Leave it to the inventor of an inflatable lounging device to promote optimism and good cheer. Well, more like fair-to-middling cheer.
Peshastin-based inventor Melissa Ortega, owner of online retailer Castle & Bay and inventor of the Sphinx Personal Lounger, announced a couple of weeks ago that her new venture — “This duzn’t suck” — is now online and open for business.
Say what? Yes, Ortega has trademarked the phrase “this duzn’t suck” and emblazoned it on a variety of products — T-shirts, coffee mugs, baseball-style hats, tote bags — so that eternal (but grumpy) optimists can express their so-so exuberance for whatever life hands them.
Ortega says she got the idea from firefighter friends “who don’t always have a life-is-good attitude due to the type of work they do and tragedy they encounter. But they are eternal optimists!” So these firefighter friends often deliver highest praise for an event or personal activity with the phrase “this doesn’t suck.”
That’s when the light bulb fired up above Ortega’s head. “Hey, we need that on a T-shirt!” she told her friends. She modified spelling of the phrase to grab a catchy website address — thisduzntsuck.com — and avoid any copyright problems, and then started producing “duzn’t” products by the duzns.
So far, shoppers can nab “this duzn’t suck” short-sleeved tees, tank tops, hats, mugs and totes. They can also buy those same products imprinted with other original slogans and themes, including items that promote fishing, camping, golf, shooting, skiing, beach life, beer drinking, Norwegian Fjord horses and the Alatheia Riding Center in Wenatchee and other topics.
Ortega’s Sphinx Personal Lounger was a real success after being featured on NBC’s Today Show, the Hallmark Channel, reviewed in magazines and spotlighted at new-product trade shows. The Sphinx inflates into a reading-and-relaxing chair for use poolside or on the beach.
Details: This Duzn’t Suck products. Contact the company at (808) 895-6678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wenatchee, Chelan earn Main Street America designation
NCW — Wenatchee and Chelan are again national Main Street America cities.
The two cities’ downtown organizations — the Wenatchee Downtown Association and the Historic Downtown Chelan Association — earned accreditation last month from the National Main Street Center for their revitalization efforts, including boosting the economy, engaging residents and maintaining a distinctive character and sense of place.
Linda Haglund, executive director of the WDA, said, “We honor our downtown’s history, but also work hard on the economic development side. We’re the cheerleaders for small business in our thriving downtown. After all, this is the heart of our community and a great asset.”
It’s Wenatchee’s 26th straight year to earn the accreditation. Chelan has been accredited each year since 2008.
Wenatchee and Chelan are two of only 13 cities in the state have earned the national accreditation. Thirty-four cities have earned state accreditation under the Washington Main Street Community program.
Each year, the state’s Main Street Program Coordinator Breanne Durham evaluates accredited city organizations to ensure they’re meeting 10 performance standards, including strengthening the community’s economy, fostering public-private partnerships and preserving historic buildings.
For more info, visit ow.ly/Fcbe301Z906.
What’s brewing at Caffé Mela? A quick Q&A
WENATCHEE — Nearly 10 years after Caffè Mela began fueling downtown Wenatchee with high-class coffee, the popular java-and-social hub is undergoing a few changes.
Nothing drastic, mind you. But the company’s honchos said they felt it was time to rebrand the operation to better reflect how the popular cafe has evolved over the last decade. Such as: tweaking the name, expanding the menu and enlarging the coffee-roasting operation.
Kyle Hendrickson, Mela’s chief partner, responded last month to a few quick questions about the business, where it’s been and where it’s going.
Q. The old “Caffè Mela” sign has disappeared from the front of the building. What’s up with that?
A. It was probably almost a year ago that we decided it was time to refresh our logo and branding. We felt we needed to bring the logo up to speed with how the company had grown over its first decade. Our whole team wrestled for months with the branding and new logo designs. Then suddenly the logo design (from “Caffè Mela” to a stylized “Mela”) was perfect and everyone on our team loved it. Customer response has been overwhelmingly positive too.
Months ago we started the slow process of replacing all the old branding with the new, including the signs on the building. The building front is the last piece that needs to be upgraded in the cafe. The old sign is down and we are still deciding what to do with the big striped facade.
Q. So, does that means Caffè Mela will have a new name? If so, why?
A. We love the name Mela and won’t ever change that! (It means “apple” in Italian.) All we did was a pretty simple change from Caffè Mela to Mela Coffee Roasting Co. One of our great laments is when customers don’t know we roast our own coffee. We figured we would get off to a better start if we just put it in the name.
Sourcing and roasting specialty coffee is the core of what we do and what we are about, so it’s nice to lead off clearly with that. Internally, we all still just call it Mela. Seems like most of our customers do too. We are happy with that.
Q. We see the Mela name on a downtown building that, right now, is being remodeled. What are your plans for that location?
A. 3 Orondo Ave is the address of our amazing new roasting facility. It’s a block and a half down the alley from the cafe and across Columbia Street from Badger Mountain Brewery. The cafe isn’t moving or changing at all. Pretty soon, probably sometime this fall, we will be starting public coffee cuppings (i.e. tastings) at the 3 Orondo location. We are cupping coffee all the time as we develop new lots and origins. It will be really fun to get to welcome people into that experience.
We had all our roasting stuff moved into the new space by July 1. We will really be up and running there as soon as possible, depending on finishing out improvements to the space. It’s a really cool location and a great old building. It was the original location of Pybus. We’re excited to get to be involved with a little part of downtown Wenatchee history.
Q. What other changes are planned for downtown Wenatchee’s most popular coffee spot? Anything big?
A. We now serve breakfast on Sunday, which means customers can now get breakfast seven days a week at the cafe. We will also be launching a nice new website really soon. That will allow us to seriously move into online sales of our coffee roasted at the new building. We have some other interesting projects on the back burner waiting for the new roasting facility to be finished, but those are really still too new to give many details. Hopefully, we can share more on those projects soon.
Blue Bird back in business
WENATCHEE — General Manager Ron Gonsalves stood on a walkway above Blue Bird Inc.’s new high-tech packing line and nodded to the hundreds of workers processing gazillions of cherries below.
“We’re back. We’re working. We’re better than ever,” he said with a grin.
After losing tens of millions of dollars in fruit, equipment and buildings to wildfire last summer, grower and packer Blue Bird cranked up operations at its rebuilt, now fire-resistant North Wenatchee facility on May 27 — almost exactly 11 months from the day of destruction.
On June 28, 2015, high winds from the Sleepy Hollow Fire west of Wenatchee blew embers across two miles of city to ignite a cluster of buildings in the North Wenatchee warehouse district. Facilities for Blue Bird, Northwest Wholesale, Stemilt Growers and the Michelsen Packaging Company were either damaged or destroyed. Estimates for warehouse property charred in the blaze ranged from $60 to $100 million. On the western edge of the city, 30 homes were also lost in the wind-driven blaze.
The fire hit Peshastin-based Blue Bird particularly hard. With the 2015 cherry harvest nearing its peak, the Wenatchee facility’s storage areas were piled high with Bings and Rainiers ready to be packed and shipped using a spanking-new high-tech system for sorting and boxing the fruit.
Sifting later through rubble, Blue Bird managers found $5 million worth of fruit destroyed and the new $8 million packing line, just a month old, a total loss. More than 115,000 square feet of the company’s Wenatchee packing facility and warehouse were damaged or razed, including an apple packing line and other equipment, offices and employee common areas.
Three days after the fire, Blue Bird execs committed to rebuilding on the site. Demolition and site prep took another 10 weeks. Construction of the new facility was underway by the first week of November.
“We promised our growers that we’d be up and operating for this year’s cherry harvest,” said Gonsalves, referring to Blue Bird’s 193 producers of cherries, apples and pears. “And here we are.”
“Here” is a 125,000-square-foot building — slightly larger than the original structure — divided to house cherry lines in the south half of the building and a soon-to-be-installed organic apple line to the north. Offices line the east wall; lunch and break rooms for two shifts of workers — more than 400 in all — divide the two sorting-packing rooms.
The facility’s star attraction, said Gonsalves, is the French-built optical cherry-sorting equipment and accompanying packing lines. To accommodate increasingly larger harvests, Blue Bird installed 42 sizing lines — up from the original 28 — that are fed by robotic bin lifts that ease cherries onto hydraulic sluices to move the fruit from washing to sorting to packaging.
The optical scanners take 60 photos of each cherry to determine size, firmness and quality before sending the fruit on its to packaging, shipping and market. Three parallel electronic sizers have capacity to process about 30 tons of cherries per hour.
“Of course, all this technology still takes a human touch,” said Gonsalves. Around 245 workers per shift — 20 fewer than needed on non-computerized lines from two years ago — eyeball the crop as it whisks past to cull low-quality and small-sized fruit and remove any twigs or clusters of leaves.
Throughout the building — and particularly on the roof — Blue Bird has taken measures to thwart a repeat of last summer’s rooftop ignition.
The exterior of the structure is made of concrete and steel with no wood or other flammable materials. On the roof, metal decking tops a layer of noncombustible fiberboard with a two-hour resistance rating to delay flames. A rooftop water system has also been installed.
“We’re just being smart,” said Gonsalves. “You experience something like this once, and you don’t want to repeat it. At the very least, you want to be ready if it happens again.”
Rebuilding the facility and opening in time for this year’s cherry harvest, “demonstrated Blue Bird’s focus and commitment,” said Gonsalves. “Believe me, it’s a huge sense of accomplishment for management and growers to see this operation up and running — bigger, better and more efficient.”
Said Gonsalves, “Our company lost much in the fire. Our city and residents suffered serious losses, too. For our company, right now, it feels good to put our losses behind us and move forward.
Sweetwood brings barbecue back to Wenatchee
WENATCHEE — Across the railroad tracks and halfway to the river, you can actually smell the pork ribs cooking.
“This smoker can hold 700 pounds of meat,” said Benj Dew, co-owner with wife Kelsey of the new Sweetwood BBQ in Wenatchee’s Skookum Plaza. “We vent out the back — smoky barbecue and cherry wood.” The aroma wafts down the block.
For months, barbecue fans have been sniffing around Sweetwood — waiting for it to open — ever since word leaked out that Benj was the son of Tom and Anitra Dew, owners of the popular Country Boy’s Southern-Style BBQ in Cashmere. Sweetwood had a soft opening June 28, and even with limited publicity the crowds have been steady and enthusiastic.
“We’ve heard good things so far from customers,” said Kelsey, who owns and operates the Dilly Deli, a favorite sandwich-and-salad lunch spot located right next door. “One has even been here every day since we opened. Let’s see … that’s six days straight.”
Benj and Kelsey admit that some of Sweetwood’s offerings are similar to Country Boy’s. For the most part, however, the couple has created their own brand of barbecue, side dishes, salads and — the biggest shift from Country Boy’s — a beverage list that includes beers and wines.
For instance, Sweetwood’s barbecue sauce is tweaked slightly from Country Boy’s and a spicier version is available, while the potato salad and cornbread follow Dew family recipes. New side dishes are influenced by what’s available each season.
The couple has moved away from standard baby-back ribs to a St. Louis-style rack, a middle-cut of ribs that is consistently larger and more tender. They’ve also added double-cooked chicken thighs that are first smoked and then fried for a crispy crunch. Several kinds of sausages are made in-house.
And salads share nearly equal space with meat on the menu, a reflection of Kelsey’s preference for fresh, healthy fare at her Dilly Deli restaurant. Salads include a smoked chicken Caesar, smoked turkey and bacon Cobb and a beef brisket Southwestern.
Beers on tap trend towards regional microbrews, said Kelsey, but customers have also given a thumbs-up to older, bottled brands such as Miller, Pabst and Hamm’s. “There’s just something about eating barbecue and drinking those old-style beers that’s really fun and enjoyable,” she said.
Food aside, Sweetwood seats 59 customers in an interior designed for casual dining, including larger groups of friends and family. The space is highlighted with 100-year-old timbers salvaged from Skookum apple warehouses from the 1920s and 30s. The packing sheds, demolished decades ago, provided boards and timbers that have been recut for Sweetwood’s countertops, table tops, booths, wall decor and signs.
“We think this is a fantastic use of the wood,” said Benj. “We’re giving these timbers — historic in many ways — a new life.”
The emphasis at Sweetwood is to serve delicious food to a local clientele, said the Dews. “We want to be casual and friendly — the kind of place where we get to know people by name and what their favorite dishes might be,” said Kelsey. “That makes it fun for them, and fun for us, too.”