Excellence on Main Award

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Rico’s Public House

Award: Legacy on Main

Year: 2023

City: Pullman

The Legacy on Main Award is an annual award that recognizes a small business that has stood the test of time and impacted generations of community members. Rico’s Public House in Pullman is the 2023 recipient of the award not only because of its longevity but also because of its unique place in the downtown community.

Originally opened in 1909, Rico’s Public House is the oldest retail business in Pullman. Over its 114-year history, Rico’s has been a consistent presence in downtown Pullman amidst not only changes in ownership but also waves of local and national change. What started as a men’s only club survived Prohibition and the Great Depression by selling milkshakes by the thousands before ultimately securing Pullman’s first beer and wine license in the 1930s. In 1947, Tony Talerico—whose regulars called him “Rico”—bought the club with a vision to turn it into a true public house. He added a women’s restroom and hired international graduate students’ wives to his staff, hoping to encourage the transition to an establishment that welcomed the whole community.

In 1980, Roger Johnson acquired the pub and changed the name to “Rico’s” to honor Tony. Roger continued to evolve the business in several ways, serving the first microbrews in Pullman and lobbying the city to allow outdoor seating in the early 2000s. Roger and his daughter, Tawny Szumlas, who now owns Rico’s, have embraced the entrepreneurial ethic of change and adaptation. They have also used the establishment to reinforce the friendliness of Pullman and its unique college town atmosphere.

“I think of Rico’s Smokehouse as the ‘Cheers’ of the Palouse,” noted Washington Main Street Director Breanne Durham at the Excellence on Main ceremony. “There is no limit to how long you can hang out at Rico’s. Professors, graduate students, families, and children—everyone gathers here.”

Excellence on Main Award

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Moonraker Books

Award: Legacy on Main

Year: 2022

City: Langley

Everyone can probably point to that most special place in their community—the place that you go back to when you visit your hometown, the place that some of your core memories are attached to, the place that feels like it is the downtown. A small business can be our sharpest connection to a place, especially when it has stood the test of time and embraced generations of community members. When its impact reaches outside its four walls.

Josh and Glenn Hauser opened Moonraker Books—which is named after the top square sail on a boat—on a shoestring budget in 1972. They fixed up a former thrift store on First Street in downtown Langley, and Glenn converted the upstairs loft into a second floor to accommodate twice as many books. Moonraker is a booklover’s dream shop. And, as any local would tell you, from the moment they opened their doors in that turquoise building, Langley was never the same.

It is clear just how much affection the community of Langley has for this magical business and—probably especially—for Josh herself. Just one example: Langley mayor and the city council declared June 2022 to be Josh Hauser Appreciation Month.

Josh is known as the welcome wagon, a small business mentor, a person of joy who doesn’t take things too seriously. She has built spontaneous social groups to work alongside other merchants, for the purpose of welcoming new people to town, and probably also just for fun. In so many ways, Josh lives up to her reputation of being “The Heart of Langley.”

A business can contribute to the economy, activate a storefront, and provide jobs for people. But a beautiful business—one that leaves a legacy—does those things while also serving as a launching off point, and a warm environment, for building community.