Excellence on Main Award

Downtown Farmer’s Market

Awardee: Shane Laib of the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2017

City: Walla Walla

During the 1990s, as downtown Walla Walla was beginning the extensive Local Improvement District rehabilitation process, an idea was brought forth to develop a farmers market to enhance and showcase the local agricultural and artisan offerings of the Walla Walla Valley. The overall goal was to attract local shoppers to the downtown core.

Original plans involved the city building a market structure on an abandoned lumber yard adjacent to downtown, but it was soon clear that this was a cost prohibitive plan. Not willing to let the proposed market die, the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation and members of the City Council developed a new plan to build an open-air market on the vacant block. The market kicked off its first season in 1997.

Several nay-sayers said it wouldn’t last, but through the efforts of the vendors, volunteers, staff, sponsors, and patrons alike, the market recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Originally subsidized by the city and private donations, the market is now 100% self-sustaining.

With its central location in the downtown core, the market has become one of the unique gathering places for residents and tourists alike. In 2016, survey results showed that 42% of market visitors were from out of town and 92% of them planned to purchase during their visit. The 2016 market produced an additional $500,000 in sales for the local economy.

Market vendors transitioning to successful brick and mortar locations and local chefs purchasing products for their restaurants on a regular basis are signs of a market that is fully integrated and serving as an economic engine in the community. The Downtown Farmers Market is a vibrant, healthy market that is a consistent source of economic impact on the local economy.

Excellence on Main Award

Colfax Mercantile

Awardee: Colfax Downtown Association

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2020

City: Colfax

The Colfax Mercantile was first imagined by the Colfax Downtown Association’s Economic Vitality committee – researching business incubator programs in other towns to pick just the right pieces to fit their vision. They knew they wanted to attract and educate entrepreneurs about how to run a business so they could fill storefronts and bring a buzz back to historic downtown buildings. They began by saving one themselves.

The 1893 Ellis-Waite building on Main Street had been vacant and boarded up for 15 years when a partnership between the Economic Vitality committee and local business owners Laura and Austin Storm determined that one of the three storefronts within the property would become the Colfax Mercantile. The other storefronts are also being revitalized with plans for the Storms to expand their retail business already underway. The Mercantile vision added incentive to the investment being made by the Storms, who say they feel like there is a Colfax downtown revival going on right now.

That downtown revival includes seven new businesses that are being incubated in the Colfax Mercantile that now offer vintage finds, frozen yogurt, homemade cookies, furniture, and clothing. The new incubator businesses have created a ripple effect on Main Street – more shops are opening, more storefronts are being updated and filled, and more people from surrounding areas are recognizing Colfax as the gem that it is.

The Downtown Association, Chamber of Commerce, County and City, Mayor, business owners, and citizens all pitched in to make this business incubator a reality – from sweat equity updating the storefront to donating 80 umbrellas to create a one-of-a-kind ceiling display, this is truly a community project.

Excellence on Main Award

Colville Together

Award: Organizational Excellence

Year: 2020

City: Colville

Newly designated a Washington Main Street Community just this year, Colville Together has emerged as a standard of quality and cooperation.

At the encouragement of the City Planner, a Main Street team began coming together in 2014. This effort was spearheaded by a steering committee of community volunteers, the Chamber of Commerce, Tri County Economic Development District, and the City of Colville. They were focused on learning more about the Main Street Approach and eventually joining Washington Main Street. As the committee gained momentum, funding became a hot topic. The group knew they wanted to hire an executive director, but the ability to hire staff felt like a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.

The answer came in the form of formalizing the partnership as an independent but unified nonprofit now known as Colville Together, which then was able to apply for Lodging Tax dollars and other funding. In 2018, Colville Together hired Rosemary Shaw as its first executive director.

Momentum has truly been building in Colville, with much credit to the strong alliance that came together to form – and continues to support – its Main Street organization. As Rosemary puts it, “Working together makes any goal achievable!”

Excellence on Main Award

Sayers Building

Award: Bricks & Mortar Rehabilitation

Year: 2019

City: Walla Walla

Located in the heart of downtown, the historic Sayers Building is a Walla Walla landmark. Not only has the building long been a cornerstone of downtown Walla Walla’s built environment and economic prosperity, it is in itself a living reminder of local craftsmanship, from its time of construction in 1890 to 2018 when the exterior was meticulously restored.

The Sayers Building is also known as the Beehive Building, referring to the Beehive Department Store that occupied the space from 1898 until 1977. It is currently home to Starbucks and Coffee Perk.

When Michael Corliss acquired the building in 2015, the roof was leaking, the masonry deteriorating, second story windows were broken, and the parapet was unstable and in danger of falling from the building. Michael and his son Eben set to work on plans to construct a water tight building envelope and restore the building’s structural integrity while preserving its historic character. Their design team included Tarragon Northwest, RadarTangen, DeMambro Architecture, Swenson Say Faget, and CDH Drafting and Consulting, as well as the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, Whitman College Penrose Library, and Joe Drazan as historical resources. The building’s community significance and distinctive Late Victorian Italianate characteristics were given top priority in the rehabilitation design.

The $350,000 project, which utilized Special Valuation, commenced in April 2017. A team of specialty tradespeople was engaged to complete the work with meticulous attention to detail and celebration of the original design. Some of the contractors were multi-generational tradespeople who recalled having worked on the Sayers Building as young apprentices. That team included PBS Engineering and Environmental Inc., Jackson Contractor Group, Modern Masonry, All-Safe Abatement Services, Gillespie Roofing, Jeff Moeller Construction, Meticulous Touch (for painting and metal finishes), Integrity Metal, Ken Adams Plumbing, and Walla Walla Refrigeration – all local companies.

The owners’ investment and the combined efforts of their many partners restored a spectacular building that highlights the history and local talents of Walla Walla. The project has also served as a catalyst for historic preservation investment throughout the downtown district.