Excellence on Main Award

Town & Country

Awardee: Jerri Lane, Bainbridge Island Downtown Association Executive Director

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2016

City: Bainbridge Island

Town & Country Market, which opened its doors on Bainbridge Island in 1957, recently underwent a major, 14-month remodel to transform it into a larger, updated and renewed market with improved layout and flow, increased seating, and many new features.

Owner Larry Nakata, a lifelong Bainbridge Island resident, knew the old structure needed extensive work. A study showed him that it would be far less expensive to construct a new building outside of the central business district, but Nakata recognized that losing the market, a long-time downtown anchor, would deal a heavy blow to the community core.

The $15 million renovation includes an enhanced entrance, improved parking, reconfigured floor plan, an expansive Culinary Resource kiosk for demonstrations and samples, touchstone kiosks with access to recipes and videos, and new equipment. Much of the work centered on modernization and sustainability – energy efficient lighting, healing and cooling systems, and solar panels, among other improvements. After the project was completed in 2015, Town & Country Market was awarded LEED® Gold from the US Green Building Council for the achievements in the building and operation of this downtown fixture.

Town & Country Market has long been a destination on Winslow Way in downtown Bainbridge Island, helping to make the community a more livable, healthy place. Larry and his crew have taken their commitment to the community a huge step further by choosing to re-invest their downtown building and adapt the business to new trends and customer demands.

Excellence on Main Award


Awardee: Ann Matthews

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2017

City: Camas

Ann Matthews opened Arktana, a boutique shoe store in downtown Camas, which is affectionately named after her family’s two states of origin – Arkansas and Montana – in 2014. With an entrepreneurial background and a robust business plan in place, Ann was able to hit the ground running to quickly develop her business into a shopping staple in the region.

Ann’s passion for her business benefits customers, employees, and the community at large. By working closely with vendors to ensure only the highest quality products and by providing creative opportunities for customers to engage with the shop through private parties, appreciation nights, and extended business hours, Arktana emphasizes customer care.

Arktana’s employees also benefit from this people-first model. Ann intentionally provides first job opportunities to young people in Camas and calls out special skills she sees in her employees.

Ann intentionally runs a very community-oriented business. Arktana recently partnered with a human services nonprofit in a promotion that resulted in Arktana donating 100 pairs of new shoes to low-income families in the Camas-Washougal area.

Ann and her staff consistently collaborate with other downtown Camas merchants for photo shoots, promotions, and events. When severe winter weather kept many customers away during pivotal sales months, Ann contacted the Downtown Camas Association to suggest a special shopping promotion to bring the community downtown. Ann lessened the burden on the DCA by helping coordinate activities, paying for the graphic work, and assisting with promotion of the event, which resulted in a successful sales weekend for many downtown merchants.

Ann is a model and champion for the role of a downtown business owner in revitalization efforts. Arktana’s positive impact on downtown Camas extends far beyond its own four walls.

Excellence on Main Award

Airways Brewing Company

Awardee: Alex and Dione Dittmar

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2015

City: Kent

Airways Brewing Company co-founders Alex and Dione Dittmar, along with their business partners Robby and Debbie Leviton, opened their original Brewery & Tap Room just outside of Kent’s historic district. Several years ago, these entrepreneurs expanded into downtown Kent with the Bistro. The space features a full kitchen serving lunch and dinner seven days a week and a huge outdoor patio with a stage and grill. Their presence extends beyond Washington as they export their award-winning beer to 37 states and Japan. They’ve won dozens of awards, including a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado for their Pre-Flight Pilsner.

Since it opened in 2011, the Bistro has become the go-to place in Kent for Washington craft brews and delicious food. It is often standing room only, and business has seen a 20% increase in revenue year after year; this has led to further expansion plans for 2015. Recently, an independent bakery opened next door, and the new outdoor space continues to generate exciting activity in the downtown core.

“Airways Brewing & Bistro has become a destination in historic downtown Kent,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “Their commitment to the community and to making great beer extends beyond the boundaries of the Bistro, and we are thrilled to recognize their outstanding commitment to the Kent Downtown Partnership and the revitalization of downtown Kent.”

Excellence on Main Award

Claim Clothing

Awardee: Megan West and Linda Johnson

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2015

City: Ellensburg

Claim Clothing co-owner Megan West began sculpting her visions of a women’s boutique that caters to an array of fashion forward, affordable styles while working towards a degree at Central Washington University, where she helped craft the clothing section at the Wildcat Shop. After a year of building her business plan for Claim Clothing, Megan began to seek out funding but was repeatedly turned down from banks based on her young age of 22. She eventually teamed up with Linda Johnson, a business advisor at the Washington Small Business Development Center, to help her achieve her vision.

Claim Clothing’s 1,600 square foot location is in the middle of historic downtown Ellensburg in the newly renovated Geddis Building. The City had recently purchased the building, and Megan had to sell her vision to the City, the Ellensburg Business Development Authority, and the Ellensburg Downtown Association before she was approved to lease space.

With help from her family, she stripped the space to expose the original brick walls, and she used reclaimed barn wood, industrial pipe, and other material sourced mostly from local stores to complete the remodel on time and 10% under budget.

On May 3, 2014, Claim Clothing opened to the public and quickly became a success. With its original tagline, “Claim Your Closet,” Megan’s overall goal is to have every type of woman come into her store and embrace her body and personal style. Claim is a place where you feel as if you are in your own closet and where you can be completely comfortable and confident. The store features many different clothing brands such as Celebrity Pink and Gypsy Bound Bracelets, all catering to a wide age range and making Claim a diverse and unique place to shop.

As a downtown business, Megan has become a major asset to the community. She is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and has been involved with Ellensburg Downtown Association events. In spring 2014, Megan organized the first Fashion Night Out with the EDA and Mangos Salon, and it was a huge success. She has also made connections with Central Washington University by offering internships and mentoring opportunities.

After only six months of being open for business, Claim met its sales goal for the first year of operation. The store started with one employee and hired a second within five months, and they anticipate hiring a third this summer when they launch a fully functional online retail store. Megan explains that her success cannot be measured in numbers but that her success is defined by seeing her employees grow as individuals and witnessing her customer base increase by offering a unique and positive experience.

Excellence on Main Award

Phoebe & Jonathan Carpenter Eells

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2020

City: Mount Vernon

Phoebe Carpenter Eells was a well-loved middle school teacher in 2009 when she rediscovered a love (and a knack!) for linocut block printing. She turned this hobby into a side hustle and, as sometimes happens when great passion and talent collide — 10 years later finds herself the owner of an historic downtown building and two flourishing businesses. If you want to keep up with Phoebe and Jonathon, her husband and business partner, you’ll have to lace up your sneakers.

After successfully making and selling art as a hobby, in 2012 Phoebe decided to turn her craft into full time work with business elSage Designs. She began vending at a local farmers market that summer, and within a few years, had expanded to multiple markets, regional craft shows, and wholesale production for retail outlets both local and out of state. The enterprise grew so much that in 2014 Jonathon also resigned his middle school teaching position to dedicate himself full time to the family venture. In 2016, the couple signed a lease on their first brick-and-mortar location downtown. Phoebe and Jonathon celebrated their one-year storefront anniversary by holding a pop-up makers market in their parking lot, complete with live music and a food truck. The event included a dozen other artisans, their way of paying it forward and encouraging others.

Like so much of what Phoebe and Jonathan touch, the market was successful, brought people together, enhanced the local economy, and catapulted them into a new business arm – regular artisan events known as Valley Made Markets.

Of course, that wasn’t all Phoebe and Jonathon were up to. In the last two years, the couple has purchased and renovated the historic building in which they were originally tenants, moved elSage to a prime retail location on Mount Vernon’s Main Street, and opened a second business (Fern Creative Coworking) in their newly renovated building. The coworking space realized a long-held recruitment priority of the Mount Vernon Downtown Association but even more importantly clearly filled a community need since initial membership subscriptions reached the equivalent of 8 FTEs – within one month of opening!

There is so much to admire about Phoebe and Jonathan – their grit, work ethic, love of family, and dedication to lifting others up.

Excellence on Main Award

Mario Alfaro Lopez

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2019

City: Ellensburg

Mario Alfaro Lopez is the definition of dreams coming true through hard work, dedication, and kindness. He will say he is “not a chef,” however, his success in running a food truck turned full service restaurant would say otherwise!

Mario launched the Red Pickle food truck in 2016. His cuisine, focused largely on food inspired by his Guatemalan roots, was an immediate hit and he found various events and venues from which to expose his business. After striking up a friendship with another local business – Whipsaw Brewing – the Red Pickle became a staple at the brewery and was able to build up a regular clientele.

As he grew his business, Mario kept an eye out for the perfect brick and mortar location, a place that would allow him to expand his food offerings and showcase his passion for mixology. When a former coffee shop on Pine Street in downtown Ellensburg became available, Mario jumped on it. His dream of owning his own cocktail bar and restaurant became a reality in November 2018 when he opened the doors to The Red Pickle.

The community is thrilled to see Mario succeed in opening his restaurant. Having the Red Pickle downtown in its new capacity has not only increased foot traffic and created a new dining experience, but it has reminded the community that when you support your favorite local spots, they grow into something even more amazing.

As a business owner Mario has embraced innovation and community-mindedness. He hosted pop-up dinners in funky locations and volunteered his time to speak to leadership and entrepreneurship classes. He sources his products from local farmers and is always looking for ways to contribute to the success of the downtown district. He connects with customers and treats them like family, brings joy to the community, and supports others. It is no surprise to hear Mario’s philosophy on food is that “sharing a meal is an expression of love.”

Excellence on Main Award

Justin Dennis

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2018

City: Gig Harbor

Justin Dennis approached the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance in Spring 2017 to present his proposed product – succulent planters utilizing recycled Cougar Gold cheese tins – for sale at the Gig Harbor Waterfront Farmers Market. Justin received coaching from his father, Chet Dennis, prior to the presentation, including advice to “be sure to look them in the eye when you are talking to them”. His product was approved by the jury and Justin set to work preparing to be a vendor at the market that summer.

Justin had found his inspiration after visiting the WSU Creamery in Pullman and seeing a large stack of empty tins. With guidance from his parents, Justin has taken responsibility for every aspect of the business, including putting together his plan, buying supplies, meeting permit requirements, managing multiple methods of payment, and social media promotions. Each week spent at his “WSU Table Plants by Justin” booth included different learning opportunities on topics such as salesmanship and taxes.

The Waterfront Alliance staff were impressed by Justin’s creativity and commitment. He arrived on time for set-up, and always had his booth taken down quickly at the end of each market day.

Justin’s goal is to create a “Kids’ Farmers Market Booth” at the market so that other young people can join him. He is actively working toward this goal, as well as on introducing new products into his own line. In addition to his budding entrepreneurship, Justin has also shown himself to have a philanthropic nature; he sold his planters at Gig Harbor’s Girls Night Out, and donated $1 from every sale to a local charity.

Main Streets are, at their best, places for people of all ages to learn, explore, challenge themselves, and engage in their local economy. We are delighted to recognize Justin for his entrepreneurial and community-minded spirit.