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Business Roundup | Cheesemaker nabs silver award in world competition

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Laurie Neal with some of her cheeses.

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Cheesemaker nabs silver award in world competition

LONDON — A Wenatchee cheesemaker has grabbed a slice of worldwide recognition by winning a Silver Award at the 30th annual World Cheese Awards in London.

Laurie Neal, owner of Laurel’s Crown Artisan Cheese, won the silver honor for her company’s Badger Mountain Blue. It was one of more than 3,000 cheeses from 35 countries judged in one day by 230 cheese experts.

We entered the competition to see how we would fare against the famous English Stiltons to which Badger is often compared,” said Neal. “It appears we were able to hold our own!”

The cheese competition was held Nov. 17 as part of the annual Taste of London. U.S. cheesemakers earned 100 awards for their widely varying entries, said a competition press release.

Laurel’’s Crown Artisan Cheese launched in 2009 in Wenatchee but moved operations in 2013 to Othello when it partnered with Pure Eire Dairy Farm for its milk supply. Neal lives part-time in Othello when cheeses are in production.

The company produces five semi-hard, organic cheeses for markets in Seattle, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Spokane and Wenatchee. The cheeses are sold exclusively in Wenatchee at The Pybus Cheese Shop at Pybus Public Market. 


Auvil Fruit repays costs in 2016 wildfire

WATERVILLE — Insurers for Auvil Fruit Co. have paid more than $424,000 to reimburse costs of the 2016 Foothills Fire, meaning a state lawsuit against the Orondo firm will be dismissed.

The company’s insurance group paid $424,378, encompassing all the costs the state Department of Natural Resources tallied up over the brushfire that burned an estimated 156 acres of state land, said Brionna Aho, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office.

That would lead the state to dismiss the lawsuit it filed Nov. 22 in Douglas County Superior Court, in which it asked for repayment of property damages and firefighting expenses.

The fire was caused by Auvil employees welding brackets to install bird netting over a cherry orchard Aug. 4, 2016. The state suit claims the company did not follow its own safety policies to prevent fires, and a spark ignited brush and grass along Highway 97 near milepost 228


Registration underway for business summit

WENATCHEE — Customer service and business “soft skills” — communication, motivation, leadership and teamwork — will be the focus of the 2018 Wenatchee Valley Professional Development Summit scheduled here next month.

The summit will feature local speakers and panelists from a varietyof industries, inlcluding health care, retail, tourism, marketing, nonprofits and government.

Keynote speakers will be Kevin Parker, owner of Dutch Bros. coffee franchises in Spokane and a leadership lecturer at Gonzaga and Whitworth universities; and Reimi Marden, a Las Vegas image consultant and corporate coach.

The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Wenatchee Convention Center, 121 N. Wenatchee Ave. Cost is $50 per person and $25 for each additional person from the same business. Register online at wenatchee.org or by calling 662-2116.


LocalTel sponsors Chamber banquet

WENATCHEE — LocalTel, the 35-year-old telecommunications company, will be the naming sponsor of the 2018 annual banquet of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The theme of this year’s banquet, the Chamber’s only fundraising event, is “Honoring the Past & Looking to the Future.”

We’re so excited about this year’s theme and working with LocalTel on this event,” said Jerrilea Crawford, the Chamber’s deputy director.

The event will be held March 14 at the Wenatchee Convention Center.

By the way, still up for grabs is a handful of banquet sponsorships — for the dinner, the auction, the registration table and the bar. 

For more info, visit wenatchee.org or call 662-2116.


City, state warn of telephone business scam 

EAST WENATCHEE — City officials spread the word recently of a telephone scam that’s targeting businesses across the state, including those in the Wenatchee Valley.

An announcement emailed by the city late last month said the state Department of Revenue (DOR) is warning business owners that scammers claiming to be from the state agency are requesting over-the-phone payment to renew expired business licenses.

Business owners should hang up.

The DOR “will never ask for or take payment for license renewals over the phone,” said an agency press release. “The department mails businesses a notice about six weeks before their renewal is due and a delinquent notice a week after the license expires.”

License renewals should be made online through a business’ secure My DOR account at secure.dor.wa.gov.

For additional information about the current telephone scam or business licensing, call the local DOR office at (509) 885-9825.


Peoples Bank to close eastside location in Safeway

EAST WENATCHEE — Fourteen years of having a Peoples Bank in a supermarket will come to an end here in the next two months.

Peoples Bank in the East Wenatchee Safeway will consolidate operations with the bank’s Wenatchee branch by March 1, Regional Retail Banking Manager Mark Swanson announced.

All East Wenatchee employees were offered the opportunity to transfer to the Wenatchee branch, he said.

After careful consideration, we determined that the size and accessibility of our East Wenatchee office, located within the Safeway store, was no longer meeting our branch standards for delivering the best … customer experience,” said Swanson. “We apologize in advance to our customers for any inconvenience that may result from this change.”

The combined branches will operate at Peoples Wenatchee offices, called the Wenatchee Financial Center, at 901 N. Mission St. The full-service branch offers personal and business banking services, real estate and commercial loans and safe deposit boxes.

Peoples’ first local branch opened in downtown Wenatchee in 2003 and moved to its financial center location in 2013. The East Wenatchee office opened in 2004 inside Safeway near the checkout lines.

As the market continues to grow, Peoples Bank will evaluate future expansion opportunities to add a full-service branch in East Wenatchee,” Swanson said.

All customer accounts, debit card access and online and mobile banking services will remain unchanged through the transition, said Swanson. Customers can contact either branch — or customer service at (800) 584-8859 — with questions about their accounts.

Hours and contact information for both branches can be found at peoplesbank-wa.com/locations/branch-locations#loc1.


Fish fans hooked by return of Skippers

EAST WENATCHEE — Rejoice, seafood lovers. Skippers Seafood ‘n’ Chowder has docked again in the Wenatchee Valley.

A take-out-only version of the venerable family restaurant opened last month inside Tony’s Market, 1688 Grant Road, East Wenatchee. Employees reported that the aisles were crowded with fish fans, all hooked by a wave of elated social media posts announcing Skippers return to the area.

Oh my gosh, we were super busy for the grand opening,” said Pinky Punn, who with her husband Sunny has owned Tony’s Market since 2013. “And it’s been that way all week. People are curious and excited about Skippers coming back to the Wenatchee area.”

Tony’s has long been known for its Chester’s Chicken, the fried tenders served up with a hefty portion of jo-jo’s. “But we wanted to expand,” said Pinky. “We wanted to offer customers something different, something they don’t find at every other neighborhood store.”

Seafood — and Skippers seafood, in particular — was the answer, she said. So the Punns investigated franchise options and found that the Skippers company, which had financial troubles back in 2007 that resulted in restaurant closures, was not only still alive, but thriving.

Today, Skippers has seven full-sized restaurants in Washington and more than 40 “Skippers Go Fleet” operations across the state in convenience stores, delis, pubs and other outlets. In East Wenatchee, Skippers provided equipment, training and seafood supplies. The Punns provided the staff and lines of hungry customers.

The menu at Tony’s is vintage Skippers: 2-,3- and 4-piece fish baskets, shrimp, clam strips, halibut, the Skippers seafood platter and, of course, tubs of clam chowder and even bread bowls (hollowed out loaves filled with chowder). The Punns decided to also experiment with a couple of additional items — funnel fries (like funnel cakes, complete with powdered sugar) and chowder bites (balls of deep-fried chowder).

All of it is cooked to order, said Pinky, so customers need to allow five to seven minutes for their order to be prepared. She encourages customers to phone ahead, particularly for larger orders.

Tony’s also sells cans of Skippers chowder and jars of cocktail and tartar sauce for you diehard fans.

We’re excited about Skippers because the customers are excited,” said Pinky. “For many of them, it’s a taste they grew up with, a meal that families would eat together.”

Details: Skippers Seafood ‘n’ Chowder (to go) inside Tony’s Market, 1688 Grant Road, East Wenatchee. Skippers hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 884-5752.


On tap soon: Craft beers and mini-golf

WENATCHEE — Admit it … haven’t you been yearning for an indoor mini-golf course with frothy brews to sip while you putt?

Your New Year’s wish has been granted. Tap & Putt, a tavern that blends mini-golf with regional craft beers, is now under construction in Wenatchee and should be open sometime this month.

A trio of partners — Dylan Buttolph, Stephanie Stone and Jackson Cochran — came up with the idea after seeing the success of a similar pub in Seattle. There, customers found respite from the rain at a fun place to tap a beer and, um, tap a golf ball.

We joked around about opening a similar place sometime, somewhere,” said Buttolph. “And then Stephanie and I were walking down the street here in Wenatchee and saw this really fantastic space. We looked at each other and said, ‘Gotta do it!’”

The 2,500-square-foot tavern at 246 N. Wenatchee Ave. (former location of Revolution Snow & Skate) will feature 12 to 15 craft beers, local wines, pub foods, big screen TVs and the putt-putt course.

Buttolph and Cochran agree that players will find the nine-hole golf course challenging, maybe even “tricky.”

Our course will test your accuracy and your judgement with obstacles and a variety of layouts,” says the Tap & Putt’s website (thetapandputt.com). A nine-hole round is $5, with reservations available for specific times on the website.

Hammers in hand, the three partners have done most of the interior work themselves — the bar, walls and the golf course’s “fairways and greens.” It comes naturally to Buttolph and Cochran, who have tool knowledge after working for years at Lowe’s Home Improvement.

The beers at Tap & Putt will include a few local brews, but also “beer from places you don’t normally see in town,” said Buttolph. Such as: GypsyWolf IPA from Dreadnought Brewing in Monroe.

We want to give folks here something special when it comes to beer,” he said.

Two other things to note about Tap & Putt:

The building’s loft space is available for rent for meetings, private parties, office celebrations and the like. It’ll have its own big-screen TV and golf-style table games.

Owners haven’t forgotten the kids. Families with teens and tots can play golf, grab a snack or watch the big game until 7 p.m. After that, it’s drinking-age only.

Details: Tap & Putt, offering craft beers and mini-golf. Location: 246 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee. Phone: 670-6183. Opens: Sometime in January. Web: thetapandputt.com.


Smooth succession as Bumps retires from Davis Furniture

WENATCHEE — Roger Bumps, the owner of Bumps’ Davis Furniture in downtown Wenatchee, will soon wrap-up 39 years of making customers comfortable — beds, sofas, easy chairs — while making new friends of many who shopped the store.

I’ve always felt we have an opportunity to contribute to a family’s well-being by helping them make a more beautiful and functional home,” said the 67-year-old Roger. “What fun it has been!”

Customers will miss Roger’s presence in the store. But here’s the good news: His daughter Sarah Bumps will take over the business — ownership and management — to bring a new generation’s energy and ideas to what’s become one of North Central Washington’s legacy businesses.

By the way, Davis Furniture had been in existence for nearly 50 years when the Bumps family bought it in 1979. Said Roger, “I worked with my dad for 10 years before his own retirement. I often see his influence in me and, as I mentor Sarah, I see the benefit of his years of experience and wisdom — which I try to pass to her.”

During the Bumps’ ownership of the business, the store (which had several owners before the Bumps took over) grew from 10,000 square feet to more than 35,000.

We cornered Roger and Sarah for a quick Q&A on their family business and what the future might bring:

Business World: Bumps’ Davis Furniture is a fixture in downtown Wenatchee. What happens to the store when Roger retires?

Roger: The store will continue as before but with Sarah as owner/general manager. She will, I’m sure, add new ideas to keep the store up-to-date and fresh.

BW: Looks like your retirement sale is moving inventory pretty fast. Does this mean that Sarah will put her stamp on furniture lines and styles that the store will soon carry?

Roger: The inventory is already being refreshed, and the warehouse will stay full as new items go on display. Sarah will shop the markets in North Carolina as well as Las Vegas. She will keep up with the latest trends, and I’m sure add new lines and update established lines.

Sarah: I’ve learned over time to listen to what customers want and let our local market dictate our product selection. At the same time, I like to incorporate some fresh and unique looks and styles whenever I can.

BW: Any other changes customers might see at the store in coming months?

Roger: We’re currently looking to add to our sales staff. So customers might see some new faces on the sales floor.

Sarah: As I’ve mentioned, styles and products will change as trends change and evolve. We travel to furniture markets a few times a year for new product, and we’re always looking for distinct items to add to our everyday assortment of furniture.

BW: Hey, Roger … what piece of furniture have you liked best over the years?

Roger: (Mum to the question.)

Sarah: I joined the business 10 years ago, and on that very day dad told me: “My favorite piece of furniture in the store is the one with a sold sign!” That hasn’t changed much over the years.

BW: And what will you do, Roger, after you retire?

Roger: Oh, I’ll do some traveling, play golf, manage our commercial-residential property, play with our two beautiful grandkids and take Sarah to lunch — where I hope use my two ears more than my one mouth.


Law firm consolidates business with Davis Arneil

WENATCHEE — The law group that manages legal affairs for the cities of Wenatchee and Waterville has made a “lateral transfer” of its attorneys and caseload to become part of another local firm.

Johnson Gaukroger Smith and Marchant dissolved effective Jan. 1, joining the Davis Arneil Law Firm. Its two partners, Steve Smith and Danielle Marchant, and two associate attorneys integrated with Davis Arneil’s team of seven partners and two associates.

Smith, managing partner of Johnson Gaukroger, said the consolidation meant the end of his longtime firm’s name, established by Phillip Johnson and Robin Gaukroger in 1991. Both founding partners are now semi-retired.

I think the decision is rooted in running an efficient practice, which is best for us from a business point of view, but also best for our clients,” he said.

Lateral transfer” is Smith’s preferred term for the reorganization, rather than “merger.” The firms negotiated the move over the summer, based in large part on common areas of civil practice and expertise between their attorneys.

As an example, Steve Smith does a fair amount of construction law,” said Davis Arneil partner Tom O’Connell. “I do as well, so if Steve’s unavailable or out of the office for some reason, I could provide coverage, or vice versa. Both firms also have some municipal clients, so there’s that overlap, as well as the knowledge base.” Davis Arneil attorneys handle legal affairs for the city of Chelan and, occasionally, Quincy.

Smith, a Waterville native, came to work for attorney Phil Johnson in 1987, four years before Johnson’s partnership with Gaukroger. Today, Smith acts as city attorney under contract for both Wenatchee and Waterville, and his firm has prosecuted traffic and misdemeanor cases brought under Wenatchee ordinances. The conjoined firm will maintain a satellite office in Waterville, established there by Johnson Gaukroger in 1992.

But the lateral transfer came with a reduction in Johnson Gaukroger staff, meaning the Waterville office will only be staffed Wednesdays instead of five days a week. Three clerical staffers were let go with the decision to consolidate. “That was the hardest part of this whole thing,” Smith said.

There is no name change above the door at Davis Arneil, whose late partners James Arneil and Harvey Davis went into business together in 1963 but worked in predecessor firms dating back to 1925. The Johnson Gaukroger lawyers moved out of their space on Worthen Street to join Davis Arneil at 617 Washington St.

Every single office is now going to be taken,” O’Connell said. “We’re cramming everybody in, but we don’t have to remodel or anything. If they had one more attorney, it’d be a problem.”

I’m such a creature of habit,” Smith said at the Worthen Street conference room. “I will probably drive to this office by mistake more than once.