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Business Roundup | Cycle Central coasts into ownership of Performance Footwear

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Cycle Central owners Carmen and Greg Frislie, at left, have bought Performance Footwear from Dan and Cheryl Van Polen.

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Cycle Central coasts into ownership of Performance Footwear

WENATCHEE — Cycle Central’s recent purchase of Performance Footwear is so harmonious that the deal warrants — believe it or not — its own rap lyrics.

No joke, y’all. Let’s kick it (to the beat of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”) …

From Cycle Central:

Walkin’ down The Ave, followed by my crew,

We’re about to show you — something new.”

Performance Footwear answers:

After 35 years of us be servin’,

We’re gonna pass the baton to someone deservin’.”

OK, so it’s not a hip-hop classic. But owners of the two downtown businesses sang each other’s praises last month following a joint announcement  that Greg and Carmen Frislie at Cycle Central had bought Performance Footwear from owners Dan and Cheryl Van Polen.

The timing is perfect,” said Dan, noting that after 35 years of running small businesses — 12 years at Performance Footwear — he and wife Cheryl are ready to transition to the next stage in life. “The kids are grown and out of the house. We’re looking forward to the freedom to travel and to follow other pursuits.”

Said Carmen, “Dan and Cheryl have done such a great job over the years to make Performance Footwear a successful, innovative business. We see good opportunities here to serve customers and grow even more.”

The deal for the business closed Dec. 31, and the purchase price was not disclosed. The store will remain at its present location with the Van Polens retaining ownership of the building. Performance Footwear’s six employees will continue in their positions.

In 2006, the Van Polens bought the three-level, 18,000-square-foot building at 24 S. Wenatchee Ave. and opened Performance Footwear in about one-sixth of the space. By 2008, they had knocked out walls and doubled the space and the inventory to include more shoes, more clothing and more gear for running, hiking and climbing. Two years later, they expanded again into the building’s 12,000-square-foot basement.

The Van Polens are also well-known for their rehabbing of the building’s upper floor into an upscale apartment, where they’ve lived since 2007. That downtown home, along with a smattering of other upstairs residences, was a forerunner in the push for living spaces in Wenatchee’s commercial core.

The Frislies opened Cycle Central in 2013 at 34 N. Wenatchee Ave. (two blocks north of Performance Footwear) and in three years had expanded into an adjacent space. Inventory grew from road and mountain bikes to include scooters, electric bikes and, last autumn, snowboards and accompanying accessories.

Our business model is simple,” said Greg. “We invite people to drop by. We talk, we listen, we help them decide which bike or gear is right for them. No pressure. No heavy sales pitch. We like to say we’re spreading the love. We’ve adopted the community, and they’ve adopted us right back.”

The Frislies said they view the purchase of Performance Footwear as an expansion of the services they provide at Cycle Central. “Many of the customers we see at the bike shop are customers at Performance Footwear,” noted Greg. “There’s a demographic that runs through both customer bases.”

The couple have no huge changes planned for the shoe-and-clothing store. Carmen said colors in decor may shift more towards an “outdoorsy” theme, the activewear department may change places with the men’s department (now in the basement) and certain lines — running, climbing, yoga — may see increases in both clothing and gear.

The message,” said Greg, “is to get up and move. We want to encourage people to get off the couch and go outside. It’s a main reason to live here.”

Cheryl noted that Performance Footwear’s sales have increased each year, even during the recession, as the Wenatchee Valley attracted an increasing number of active people — retirees, outdoor enthusiasts and even hardcore climbers, skiers and mountain bikers.

We feel we’ve been blessed by this community,” said Greg. “We owe Wenatchee a hearty thanks for years of their support. If we could say one thing as we leave the business, it would be ‘thank you, thank you so much.’”


Workshop: How businesses can survive disasters

WENATCHEE — Presentations on prepping your business for emergencies — everything from a power outage to an earthquake — will highlight a regional economic summit coming in March.

Prepare Your Business for the Unexpected” will be the theme of the second annual NCW Regional Tourism Summit and Workshop hosted by the North Central Washington Economic Development District.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 1 at the Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Way, Wenatchee.

Presenters will include Tristan Allen with the Washington Emergency Management Division, who will lead a step-by-step business continuity planning workshop, including how to prepare and respond to unforeseen natural and man-made disasters.

In addition, Michael Ballingall and Simone Carlysle-Smith from the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) will present the Route 97 annual report and provide a special update on business resiliency strategies used in the Thompson Okanagan area during the recent fires. The group gets its name from the Thompson River in British Columbia and Lake Okanagan.

The Summit is in collaboration with the state Emergency Management Division, the Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, state Department of Commerce and Canadian partners from TOTA.

Cost is free to one 2018 NCWEDD paid member per organization. Additional organization members and non-members are $20 per person. Registration includes a catered boxed lunch.

For more info and to register, visit ncwedd.com.


GWATA names officers for 2018

WENATCHEE — Top leaders in the Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance have been reappointed to serve as 2018 president and vice-president on the group’s board of directors.

Ron Brown, a GWATA officer since 2013, will again serve as president while Stacy Luckensmeyer, an officer since 2015, will continue as vice president. Board member Scott Ptolemy was named as secretary-treasurer.

The appointments were announced Dec. 29 and took effect Jan. 1.

These leaders bring insight and expertise from their industries that help guide our efforts to promote technology, support entrepreneurs and advocate for STEM education in North Central Washington” said Jenny Rojanasthien, GWATA executive director.

Outgoing board member Brandon Burke, an officer for six years, was honored Dec. 7 at GWATA’s annual holiday party for his years of “thoughtful decision-making and unwavering support,” said Rojanasthien.

For more info on the organization and its upcoming events, visit gwata.org.


Workshops to feature strategic planning for nonprofits

NCW — Planning for your nonprofit’s immediate and future success is the topic of two workshops coming in March.

Hosted by the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, the six-hour workshops — called “Strategic Planning in Nonprofits” — will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 27 at the Red Lion Hotel, 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 28 at the Aero Methow Rescue Services facility, 1005 Highway 20, Twisp.

The workshop is designed for staff, board members and others involved in strategic planning for nonprofits, said a Community Foundation press release. Topics will include preparation, listening, envisioning, planning, executing and evaluating.

Online registration ($20) is required and includes refreshments and lunch. For more info, visit cfncw.org/npiworkshops.


Launching fitness app takes lots of mental muscle

SANTA MONICA, California — Two years ago, Wenatchee whiz-kid Cory Faulkner was striving to create the world’s best fitness app. Since then, he’s been working hard to whip the thing into shape.

Now, the 24-year-old entrepreneur and Wenatchee High School grad is nearly ready to launch his Perfict fitness app — spelled “perFIcT” in promo materials to emphasize the “fit” — and people are starting to notice.

To recap, in 2016 Faulkner (a devoted gym rat) created a website and accompanying app that connected exercisers with some of the West Coast’s top personal trainers. But design of the site and app was less than stellar, so he tossed it out and rethought the project.

With a new design team, California-based Faulkner has now rebuilt the app, signed up 360 trainers and coaches, and is enlisting investors in the project at a fairly rapid pace. In late December, he took Perfict public by qualifying for Startengine.com, an investment website that touts itself as “changing the way entrepreneurs fund their dreams.”

In just two weeks, Perfict raised around $14,200 of its $30,000 target. Faulkner plans to offer it to fitness buffs sometime late this month.

The app itself will be offered for free in both Apple and Google app stores. Through the app, fitness buffs can choose exercise programs (many on video) offered by top personal coaches at a fraction of the price of in-person training. Instead of $35 to $60 per hour, an entire three-month workout program will cost from $10 to $20.

Faulkner also calls Perfict a “social fitness” app because it allows exercisers to share their workouts with friends and fellow app users through posts and photos. Tracking progress, sharing stats, offering motivation and encouragement “has never been so easy,” Faulkner says. Trainers can also communicate directly with exercisers to offer tips and assistance.

The Perfict app will guide exercisers on the why and how of working out, says Faulkner.

I like to think of Perfict as the Amazon of fitness programs,” said Faulkner. “It offers just about anything a person needs to get in better shape.”

Details: Perfict App, created by Cory Faulkner. Web: startengine.com/perfict.


Dashing Drivers will dash takeout orders your way

EAST WENATCHEE — It’s 8 p.m. and you’re craving a juicy bison burger with smoked cheese from Stones Gastropub in downtown Wenatchee. But changing from your jammies into winter gear to navigate icy roads just ain’t gonna happen.

Enter Elliott Morris, founder of the new Wenatchee-area delivery service Dashing Drivers. Through his company’s website (on computer or smartphone), you can order the burger — or a favorite dish from many local restaurants — and have it delivered right to your door.

It a service that’s definitely needed here,” said Morris, 56, of East Wenatchee. “Busy parents with kids, retired folks, a hostess needing last-minute party food — people have told us there’s a demand for it.”

Here’s how it works: Go to food.dashingdrivers.com and place an order with one of the delivery company’s partner restaurants (menus and pricing are on the website), pay online, tell them where you live and then sit back and wait for dinner to arrive.

You can also place and pay for an order directly with just about any non-partner restaurant in the greater Wenatchee area, and Dashing Drivers will transport it to your home or office.

The beauty of this business model, said Morris, is that local Uber and Lyft drivers make the food deliveries — say, for a pork verde burrito or chicken pad thai — between the rides provided for living, breathing humans.

Dashing Drivers’ food delivery revved up last month with three partner restaurants and more on the way, said Morris. He hopes to have 20 of the area’s key restaurants — serving a wide variety of American and ethnic foods — signed up soon.

A veteran of the tech industry (including IBM and Microsoft), Morris retired in March 2016 and immediately dove into a long list of projects around his home. But when winter hit … “Uh-oh,” he remembers saying to himself. “What’s gonna keep me busy now?”

That’s when Morris became a local Uber driver and realized that ride-share people often have extra time between customers. Dashing Drivers was born, using many of the 30 or so drivers on the local Uber and Lyft rosters. By last summer, Morris’ company was hosting and driving wine tours around the area, and he hopes that aspect of the business will include weddings and other group functions. Start-up of the delivery service came next.

Much of Dashing Drivers’ food deliveries could come from hotels, so Morris said he’ll be concentrating early marketing efforts towards notifying guests that food delivery is available. “How are visitors to know that good food is just a few (online) clicks away?” he said. “We aim to let them know.”

Morris said he loves being an Uber/Lyft driver. “I meet all kinds of interesting people,” he said. “And an unexpected perk is that it’s a perfect networking system. I drive people who know people who need food delivered. It’s classic word-of-mouth marketing.”

Details: Dashing Drivers, Wenatchee’s Food & Beverage Delivery Service, East Wenatchee. Web: food.dashingdrivers.com.


New 2 U offers old-fashioned bargains

WENATCHEE — Christy Kusar at New 2 U 2nd Hand Retail aims to put the thrift in thrift shop.

Look at these prices: 50 cents for paperback books, $1 for hardbacks, 50 cents for VHS tapes, $3 for DVDs, $1 for some clothing items, $15 for a pair of $180 fashion jeans.

What can I say?” she laughs. “I love a bargain.”

Kusar bought New 2 U in September and has been transforming the 1,100-square-foot shop into an “upscale thrift store” that offers less clutter, more style, higher quality, lower prices and, she says, “overall, the best stuff I can find.”

In Wenatchee, the shop is tucked away on North Miller Street behind Denny’s and next to the Sherwin-Williams Paint Store. Look for the curbside sandwich board that reads “Thrift Shop.”

The store is slowly becoming an expression of me,” says Kusar, “so I take its appearance and merchandise seriously — and personally. I want it to be just right.”

Kusar, 47, moved last July to Wenatchee from the Seattle area after a 20-year career as a business analyst for Boeing. Her three kids had grown up and were out of the house, her first grandchild is expected in March, and she was itching to put her management degree to practical use — yep, running a real business.

This is a second phase of life for me,” she says. “It’s really very exciting.”

Kusar says that as a long-time single mom she appreciates the thrill of searching for a good deal and the satisfaction of finding one. As a thrift store owner, she makes frequent trips to Seattle to find interesting items — “it’s like a treasure hunt,” she says — but also accepts donations from local sources.

Featured items in the store include some furniture and antiques, lots of clothes and jeans, accessories (shoes and hats), media (video games, DVDs, VHS tapes, books), jewelry, art and home decor items and lots more.

Does she have a favorite item? “Purses,” she laughs, pointing to an alcove packed with them. “They’re my downfall.”

Kusar says she runs her business by following two principles: Price items at their true value or less, and “turn it fast” (meaning she keeps inventory fresh by making sure it sells quickly).

People are always coming up to me and asking, ‘Do you know the real value of this item? Are you sure you want to sell it so cheaply?’” she says.

And I tell them I don’t know what the heck it is,” she chuckles. “But that’s the price. You just got a bargain.”

Details: New 2 U 2nd Hand Retail, 1505 N. Miller St., Wenatchee. Phone: (509) 596-9147. 


New foundry on track to forge diamonds

WENATCHEE — Some find it hard to believe that by year’s end a San Francisco company will be making real diamonds right here in Wenatchee. Right up the street from Denny’s restaurant.

The Diamond Foundry and its big reactors — the high-heat plasma generators that create the gems — will be churning out jewels in a former fruit-packing shed that was heavily burned from drifting embers in 2015’s Sleepy Hollow Fire.

But it’s all happening, said Kyle Gazay, the Diamond Foundry’s chief operating officer, at the Port of Chelan County’s quarterly business breakfast last month. More than 80 business and civic leaders attended.

We’ll be cultivating diamonds above ground,” said Gazay, who explained that the company’s process mimics “atom by atom” the natural creation of diamonds that’s occurred in only in key areas around the globe. In Wenatchee, he said, “we’ll be building the world’s most sophisticated diamond ‘mine’.”

Diamond Foundry’s products aren’t synthetic, say company execs. Sure, the gems are man-made, but they’re also the real thing — coveted by jewelers and, we’re guessing, the newly engaged.

Three pertinent points from the company’s recent presentation:

<> Why Wenatchee? Diamond Foundry searched all over the world for the perfect location. “The U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia,” he said, “but we kept returning to Wenatchee.”

Here’s why: They wanted to keep production in the U.S. They wanted to use renewable energy — wind, solar or (you guessed it) hydro. They wanted easy access by highway and airport. In the end, they figured the final choice of location might as well be a beautiful place. And it should definitely have, said Gazay, a forward-thinking community where their company can grow.

<> Explain it again: How do they make diamonds? They start with a teensy bit of real diamond that’s the seed for growing a bigger one. That seed goes into a high-heat, high-pressure reactor where, said Gazay, “the magic happens.” Ultra-hot plasma fuses carbon to build the diamond and keeps fusing it until — a few weeks later — the diamond emerges.

Every stone is unique,” said Gazay. “And pretty soon, we can say they were grown in Wenatchee.”

<> Also at Wednesday’s presentation was Lee de la Torre, Diamond Foundry’s operations director, who provided a quick timeline for diamond production in Wenatchee.

About five months ago, crews began rebuilding the former packing shed (owned by Stemilt Growers) that was partially damaged by flames in the Sleepy Hollow Fire. It’s a major project to whip the 54,000-square-foot warehouse into shape, so occupancy of the space probably won’t happen until the second quarter of 2018. The first diamond won’t likely sparkle in Wenatchee’s famed sunshine until the fourth quarter of this year, Torre said.

Details: Diamond Foundry, 1610 N. Miller St., Wenatchee. Web: diamondfoundry.com.


2017: Home markets roiled as prices peak, inventories tumble and sales slacken

WENATCHEE — Fewer listings, higher prices.

That pretty much sums up a 2017 Wenatchee housing market that sizzled with record prices and, at times, a chilling lack of entry-level homes. Markets in Leavenworth and Cashmere also roiled, but in their own distinctive ways.

Some weeks I’d add up listings in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee for homes $300,000 and below,” said Perrin Cornell, a broker for Century 21 in Wenatchee. “Not much there, not much at all.”

Pacific Appraisal Associates, a Wenatchee-based appraisal and consulting firm, last month released their year-end real estate numbers for the Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Cashmere markets. The Wenatchee market includes Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Malaga, Orondo and Rock Island.

Throughout 2017, real estate agents in the Wenatchee Valley reported sales of lower-cost homes closing quickly — sometimes before they were even listed — and often with competing buyers making multiple offers.

I listed a nicely-priced home on Thursday evening,” said Jerry Paine, managing broker at Windermere Wenatchee, “and by Friday morning I had 10 offers. Competition drove up the price by $20,000.”

Paine said he saw more multiple offers in 2017 that he’d in any of his 27 years in the real estate business.

In Leavenworth, the market was hit by a double dose of rising stats — both prices and sales climbed despite a year-long decline in listings.

Inventory fell and prices rose, as expected,” noted Geordie Romer, a Windermere broker in Leavenworth. “But sales went up, too — way up. More sales than I can remember in the last 10 years.”

Home sales in Leavenworth rose 7 percent for the year to hit 204.

In Cashmere, sales fell about 8 percent despite a 7 percent rise in listings. The market median price jumped 11 percent to hit $284,350 and may have slowed seller momentum.

Brokers agreed that much of the market pressure came in 2017 from Seattle-area residents looking to the Wenatchee Valley for second homes or retirement residences, along with young families seeking a first home.

Folks from Seattle, where the market has exploded, have a ton of equity in their westside homes,” said Romer. “High salaries, lots of discretionary income, ample equity — it all means they arrive here feeling confident about their own buying power, about the economy, about the success of their industries. They arrive here ready to buy.”

Cornell noted that Wenatchee Valley markets may also have been affected by another factor: a growing number of real estate agents competing to list and sell a dwindling inventory of homes.

He said the area’s multiple listing service (MLS) had a roster 263 active sales agents closing 1,564 home deals in 2017 — roughly about six sales per agent at a total annual income of around $30,000 each.

Cornell said some of the area’s most successful agents sold far more than six homes. According to the MLS, the top agent closed 80 real estate deals and another closed 70. Cornell said he closed 36 sales for the year.

A lot of new people have come into the industry in the last few years,” he said. “So we’re now dividing a small sprinkling among a whole lot of hungry fish. Some Realtors are successful, but many don’t come close to making a living.”


PetSmart adds grooming, training, pet adoption to mall mix

EAST WENATCHEE — PetSmart spokesman Patrick McKennon walked down brightly-lighted aisles stacked with thousands of sacks of dog and cat food all aimed, he said, at making pets healthier and happier.

Good nutrition is one of the most important ways to care for your pet,” said McKennon. “It’s the foundation that will help give your dog or cat a long and active life. PetSmart believes strongly in this.”

Just look at the names of the pet food lines — Simply Nourish, Rachel Ray Nutrish, Pinnacle Holistic Pet Nutrition. No wonder dogs in the store’s wall-sized graphics are smiling.

McKennon, a 17-year veteran of PetSmart and manager of the national chain’s Kennewick store, was in East Wenatchee last month to help local Store Leader Kim Kasner ready the new location for its grand opening. The celebration launched with a ribbon cutting and included giveaways, store tours and pet photos.

The PetSmart outlet, newest in the 1,500-location national chain, fills more than 18,000 square feet — the north half of the former Food Pavilion space at Wenatchee Valley Mall — with products and services for a wide assortment of pets: dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and rodentia (hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice).

We joke that this is the East Wenatchee zoo,” said McKennon, pointing to a radiant green conure (a small parrot) in an immaculately clean enclosure. “We’ve only been open a few days, but we already see that the animals here could be a big attraction, especially for kids.”

The 20-employee outlet enters a market already populated by national competitor Petco, located about three blocks north, Firehouse Pet Shop & Grooming across the Columbia River in downtown Wenatchee and established pet departments in a scattering of retail stores — Fred Meyer, Coastal Farm & Ranch, Ace Hardware and Stan’s Merry Mart, to name a few.

The new PetSmart store is loaded, of course, with pet toys, leashes, collars, harnesses, carriers, cushions, cat trees, aquariums, grooming tools, flea and tick products … you name it. But McKennon seemed most excited by services — grooming, training, care and nutrition advice — the store offers pet lovers.

Top of the list: pet adoption. The store features an “upscale” cat-adoption area and playroom that spotlights individual animals while providing social interaction — with each other and with potential adoptive “parents.”

Last year, PetSmart had over 7 million animal adoptions, while the Kennewick store found homes for over 1,000 cats.

This is serious business for our company,” said McKennon. “At my store in Kennewick, we partner with 17 adoption organizations — all providing us with animals that need good homes. We can see something similar happening here.”

The East Wenatchee store has joined with the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society to feature felines, and by Wednesday (three days after the store opened) four cats had already been adopted. McKennon said store employees have been in contact with other adoption groups in North Central Washington and have an open call for others to participate. Weekend dog adoptions are in the works.

The store also offers professional grooming, brushing, bathing and nail-trimming from groomers trained by the company during 800 hours of classes and practical workshops. A full “pet salon” at the front of the store has six grooming stations, bathing facilities (with eight kinds of shampoos for different coat and skin types) and dozens of large kennel cages where dogs can, said Mckennon, “relax and wait comfortably.”

PetSmart’s aim “is to be active in the community,” said McKennon. “We want to offer products and services that make owning a pet a fun and rewarding experience. If we do that, we’ve accomplished our mission.”


Three years and growing: Firehouse Pet Shop expands space and services

WENATCHEE — No one seems more surprised by the continuing growth and expansion of downtown Wenatchee’s Firehouse Pet Shop & Grooming than owners Jennifer and Allen Larsen.

Oh my gosh,” said Jennifer. “It’s been an incredible three years of learning and adapting — introducing new products, hiring more staff, adding more services and more space. And meeting new people, new customers. They’ve been fantastic.”

It was customers, for instance, who first suggested the store carry dog strollers. “We were dubious at first, unsure about how popular they might be,” said Allen. “But, whoa, sales have taken off. We line them up outside on the sidewalk, and it looks like a car dealership.”

To accommodate its growth, Firehouse just completed a 400-square-foot expansion into an adjacent space that provides more “breathing room” for pet lovers to shop product-packed aisles, more racks of pet toys and accessories and more brands of high-quality pet foods, including expansion of fresh and frozen offerings. The store is located at 17 S. Wenatchee Ave.

In coming months, Firehouse will launch online sales of more than 9,000 items, a service that coincides with the recent installation of a new point-of-sale system. “We’ve gone high-tech,” laughed Jennifer, reaching for the walkie-talkie that keeps her in touch with the store’s 18 employees on two floors. Firehouse had four employees when it opened in 2015.

One day last month, a steady flow of customers streamed through store aisles, many just stopping by for a “cat experience” at Firehouse’s adoption center. “People on their lunch hour, out for a walk, stop by to say ‘hi’ to the cats,” said Allen. “For some visitors, its a soothing few minutes, sort of like pet therapy.”

Firehouse houses from two to seven cats at a time, with most being adopted within one or two weeks. “We encourage customer interaction with the cats so people can see each animal’s personality,” said Allen. “A certain amount of bonding can take place (between human and animal), and we love for that to happen.”

Downstairs, pet owners lead their dogs to bathing stations, the grooming salon, nail-trimming counter and a special area for carriers, kennel cages, beds and cushions, cat trees and other furniture. Some customers go downstairs just to watch big dogs get washed — a soapy, satisfying experience, said Allen.

The Larsens acknowledged that it’s likely customer service that sets Firehouse apart from the national pet-supply chains. Last week, Allen stood at the front entry and welcomed customers — some by name — and directed staff to assist each one. Placing a special order, returning an item, advice on choosing a squeak toy — “all done with a smile and a thank-you,” he added.

If there’s any secret to our success,” said Jennifer, “it’s that this community loves local — local owners, local products, local adoption agencies. Local gets their support. Local gets their love.”