Excellence on Main Award

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Linda Haglund

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2022

City: Wenatchee

Linda Haglund has been the Executive Director of the Wenatchee Downtown Association since 2011. Her parents met, married, raised their family, and lived lives as community servants in Wenatchee. Linda is a culture-builder and, over more than a decade in Main Street, has contributed almost as much to the positive culture of the Washington State Main Street Program network as she has to the culture of her own beloved Main Street community in Wenatchee.

Linda boldly uses words like “family” and “heart” and “cheerleader” to refer to her work. She is the first one to say “welcome”, the first one to take someone under her wing, the first one to send a message out of the blue that lets you know that she sees you and appreciates you. Linda will tell you that she’s usually not the most qualified person at the table, and yet she’s moved absolute mountains through her expert abilities to highlight opportunities and convene the right players. She is the ultimate champion for her hometown, for her beloved small businesses, for her property owners, for her partners, for “Main Street family” near and far.

Linda’s mix of tenacity, encouragement, and unrelenting optimism have made her a critical leader and partner in her hometown as well as across the state. Her work reflects her beliefs – that everybody has gifts they can share, and that we make a difference one person at a time.

Excellence on Main Award

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Rory Turner

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2016

City: Ellensburg

The Elks Building was an important part of downtown Ellensburg since 1933, but after the Elks Club disbanded in the early 2000s, the building fell into a state of disrepair and many in Ellensburg believed the building was not worth saving.

In 2014, a Central Washington University alumnus and Wenatchee resident named Rory Turner, recognizing the value to the community and purchased the building.

Rory is no novice in the world of historic property renovation; he and wife Laurel have been investing in Wenatchee’s downtown for years – properties include the Exchange Building, Wenatchee Hotel and the Dore Building. Laurel serves on the Wenatchee Downtown Association board of directors and chairs the organization’s Economic Vitality committee. Rory is currently the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce board president and was recently elected Port of Chelan County Commissioner. Despite numerous community commitments, the Turners still find time to engage in lasting change for Wenatchee’s historic downtown properties. They have been instrumental in working with the city to identify barriers and opportunities to the viability of property renovations, particularly those that add housing units to upper floors downtown and provide spaces for small start-up businesses.

In Ellensburg, the life Rory and his team have breathed into the Elks Building has spurred new businesses and new investment in nearby historic properties. Since the purchase in 2014, the Elks building has recruited three tenants, with more interested as spaces become available. The upstairs is currently being renovated to include a huge ballroom which will be available as a rentable event space.

Rory’s passion for historic preservation and for downtown has transformed significant Central Washington buildings back into viable properties and sources of great community pride. His attention to detail and preservation ethic are prevalent in everything he does, from selecting fixtures that complement the historic building to going the extra mile to involve the community in a project. We are honored to recognize Rory’s impact on Wenatchee, Ellensburg, and the entire state of Washington with the Excellence on Main Award.

Excellence on Main Award

Greg Hafner

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2017

City: Kent

The Excellence on Main Award, the highest honor presented to one community, organization, or person each year, recognizes outstanding projects and people that reflect an attitude of perseverance and dedication to community revitalization in Washington.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of talking with Barb Smith about her passion for her community knows that downtown Kent has an abundance of outstanding people. And tonight we are honored to be recognizing someone she describes as the board member that all executive directors dream about.

Greg Hafner is an avid volunteer who has made a long-term, community-minded commitment to his downtown. He has been a steady, positive force in downtown Kent’s revitalization efforts for more than a decade, serving in key roles such as legal counsel and board member.

As board president in 2016, Greg made it his mission to learn more about staff responsibilities and to better understand the scope and nuances of the organization. By doing so, Greg became even more of an advocate for the program and its staff, taking on more projects and encouraging other board members to do the same to help relieve the workload on the staff of two.

As Barb puts it, Greg inspires, empowers, and accomplishes a great deal without expecting recognition. He not only plans the event or design project but is the first one there to set-up and the last one there tearing-down.

Whether it’s help with a city permitting process or a recommendation for a good locksmith, Greg is consistently sharing information and offering his assistance to small business owners. When Greg learns about issues facing downtown, such as a historic property that has potential to be preserved and fully utilized, or the noise pollution from the trains that run through downtown Kent several times a day, Greg immediately seeks solutions, putting together working committees or advocating to the city for necessary changes. He is known for his positive attitude and follow-through, which serves the Kent Downtown Partnership extremely well as he acts as one of their strongest spokespeople.

We all know that downtown revitalization does not happen overnight, but rather takes long-term commitment, passion, and innovation – all of which Greg Hafner has in spades.

Excellence on Main Award

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Heritage Distilling

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2018

City: Gig Harbor

Heritage Distilling is a majority women-owned, family-operated craft distillery founded and based in Gig Harbor. Jennifer and Justin Stiefel opened the business six years ago after moving back to Washington State from the other Washington, where they both earned master’s degrees and began their professional careers. The Stiefels value their own families’ heritages in the Northwest and have built a brand and an award-winning business around core concepts of community, customers, shareholders, and employees.

Justin distilled his first batch of liquor as a science project in 7th grade (he received an “A”!). Fast forward to 2018, and Justin and Jennifer have grown their business into Washington’s largest independently-owned craft distillery. After opening the flagship distillery in Gig Harbor in 2012, they now have four locations, with another three to be opened soon, and a wide menu of products, including multiple flavors of gin, vodka, whiskey, and bourbon.

Heritage Distilling’s most recent opening, in 2017, is in Roslyn’s historic Northwest Improvement Company building, in the heart of downtown. The company’s focus on honoring cultural heritage made it the perfect fit to anchor the development in which it now operates a tasting bar and a production area with six operating stills, all named after families from Roslyn’s early days.

The company continues to innovate and grow. Among the many ways Heritage engages its customers include their “My Batch” educational sessions, in which attendees can make their own whiskey, and the opportunity to join the Cask Club, which allows members to design and age their own alcohol at home. Heritage products have also made their way into professional sporting arenas, starting at Safeco Field. Knowing the ballpark’s reputation for supporting local suppliers, Justin pitched that Safeco carry the distillery’s award-winning Brown Sugar Boubon, which is now the featured spirit in the Mariners’ new BSB Lounge.

Heritage Distilling has quickly made a name for itself, and for the local communities in which it has invested. Cheri Marusa of the Roslyn Downtown Association says that Heritage is a transformative business for her community. Mary DesMarais of the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance says that Heritage has breathed new life and vitality into a prime, highly visible corner of downtown Gig Harbor, and that they are proud that the company calls their small community home base.

Heritage Distilling is an excellent example of the power of entrepreneurial spirit to create jobs and destinations by embracing the trend of manufacturing moving back to Main Street. But more than that, the Stiefels have shown great commitment to the places and people that make up their business family by highlighting their heritage and investing in the communities themselves.

Excellence on Main Award

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Orchard Corset

Awardee: Jeff and Leanna Kurpuis

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2015

City: Wenatchee

Opening in 1997, Orchard Corset is an industry leader in off-the-rack, steel-boned corsets. From humble beginnings selling vintage clothing on eBay, Jeff and Leanna Kurpuis have grown their company into one of the Wenatchee Valley’s largest online retailers. Having outgrown several locations over the years, the company was desperate for expansion space, and in May 2014, Orchard Corset found a new home in the historic Elks Lodge in downtown Wenatchee.

Construction was completed on the original lodge in 1922, but a major fire in 1958 necessitated a complete overhaul of the building, including the construction of its iconic and somewhat nondescript mid-century façade. When the Kurpuis’ purchased the building, it had sat unused for years – boards covering the basement windows had been in place for over 30 years.

This 40,000 square foot building is now bustling! All of Orchard Corsets’ inventory, shopping, web design, media production, and photography is done in-house. Since moving into the Elks Lodge the staff has grown from 13 to 25, and orders have been flooding in at the rate of close to 7,000 per month.

The interior of the lodge is being rebuilt and repaired and still features some fantastic amenities once enjoyed only by the Elks. Probably one of the highlights is the third-story ballroom, which has become an 8,000 square foot roller rink. Complete with chandeliers, 120 pairs of skates are available for employee use, and the Roller Derby girls use the space for practice twice a week. An indoor swimming pool in the basement should be rehabbed in time for July pool parties. Additional work will include upgrades to electrical and HVAC systems and the installation of high-speed fiber optic lines.

Not only have the Kurpuis’ breathed life into a Wenatchee landmark, they have created an amazing working environment for their valued employees; the Kurpuis’ understand that customer service is the key to their business’s success, and that happy employees make happy customers. Their generosity doesn’t stop there – they are huge supporters of the Wenatchee Downtown Association. They have funded a scholarship program to any business, new or old, that needs training in online marketing and promotions, which includes a membership in the Wenatchee Downtown Association. They also are willing and able to provide mentoring and support to downtown businesses in need of a boost.

“Orchard Corset has been an incredibly dynamic addition to Wenatchee’s downtown district, and their love and care of the historic Elks Lodge is truly a game-changer,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Coordinator. “Jeff, Leanne, and their entire staff have become supporters and mentors to all entrepreneurs in Wenatchee, and we are honored to recognize their incredible generosity and commitment to Wenatchee with the Excellence on Main Award.”

Excellence on Main Award

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Mercantile Wenatchee

Awardee: Jeff & Heather Ostenson and Rick & Cory Wray

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2020

City: Wenatchee

We honor Wenatchee’s coworking space, The Mercantile, and its owners Jeff & Heather Ostenson and Rick & Cory Wray for their transformative rehabilitation of an historic building in the heart of downtown and their tremendous dedication to community and collaboration.

Linda Haglund, executive director of the Wenatchee Downtown Association, won’t mince words about the state of the building before the foursome got their hands on it. Originally built as a mercantile, the Ellis-Forde Building has been a staple of the city center since 1905. It was a Sears-Roebuck, then a JCPenney, and after that a Bonanza. The Emporium apartments were in the upper floors. Over a hundred years of Wenatchee history is infused in the bones of this building, and now it provides a future-focused service for entrepreneurs and remote employees who have made wonderful Wenatchee home.

But before the grand opening last fall, there was a tremendous amount of work to bring the Ellis-Forde Building into the 21st century. Heather took on researching the history of the building and worked with local historians and the city to keep character where it existed and bring it back to light where it had been hidden. Where possible, they highlighted original elements like the brick they exposed on the south wall of the front lobby and the windows facing the alley that had been bricked over. Where new materials were needed, the team chose with sourcing and sustainability in mind – such as the timber purchased from a Colville lumber company that conserves old growth through responsibly harvesting practices.

The success of The Mercantile’s restoration inspired other building owners downtown, and the Ostensons and Wrays are generous in passing their wisdom on to these other projects.

The partners have created an open and collaborative culture within The Mercantile, which represents 31 unique businesses and nonprofits, and offers conference rooms and event space for the public. The vision of the Merc – to promote health, happiness and productivity in your workplace – is as evergreen as our state.

Excellence on Main Award

Kris Nelson

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2019

City: Port Townsend

Each year the Excellence on Main selection committee chooses one exceptional person or project that most embodies the Main Street spirit to receive our top award. If you tell Kris Nelson of Port Townsend that owning four successful restaurants, employing more than seventy people, giving generously to her community, and serving as a leader in her local Main Street program – all while being an avid traveler and Zumba instructor – makes her exceptional, she’d say, “I thought that’s just what people did.” Kris’s level of energy for and dedication to her downtown district is nothing short of extraordinary.

Let’s start with Kris as an entrepreneur and downtown property owner – she has owned Sirens Pub, a local institution, for 18 years and has seen growth each year. Her other restaurants – Alchemy Bistro and Wine BarThe Old Whiskey Mill, and her newest establishment, The In-Between – are all located in the heart of downtown Port Townsend.

As an employer, Kris cultivates her staff and pushes them to become entrepreneurs themselves, often serving as an informal adviser to them. Kris’s personal philosophy is “you are only as good as the people around you, and you should give them the opportunity to be their best.”

Kris has served for 11 years on the board of the Jefferson County Chamber and 6 years on the board of the Port Townsend Main Street Program, of which she is currently board president. Her past civic service has included leadership roles on city council, the planning commission, and the community foundation board. She is exceedingly generous with the profits from her businesses, supporting many festivals, organizations, and arts programs.

Kris has been instrumental in many of the Port Townsend Main Street Program’s initiatives over the last several years – from the Water Street construction project and bringing RevitalizeWA to town to chairing the team that oversees the downtown loan program and participating on the Creative Districts planning committee, and much more – Kris is continuously striving to make her community more prosperous and vibrant.

People sometimes say they are too busy to volunteer in service to their community; they may say “their plate is full.” Then there’s Kris. Port Townsend is fortunate to have her vision, energy, and community spirit light up their town.