Excellence on Main Award

Main Street Through a Child’s Eyes

Awardee: Discovery Elementary School & Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2022

City: Gig Harbor

When the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance received an email from a local elementary school teacher wanting to partner on a curriculum project, they answered with an emphatic yes. Thus, Main Street Through a Child’s Eyes was born.

The students spent a day downtown learning about what it takes to run a business and investigating the importance of being involved in their community. Breaking into groups, they each visited four downtown businesses that have a unique story and business model: Tickled Pink, Treasures4Humanity, Fox Island Trading Co, and the Harbor General Store. Ready with questions, the students’ curiosity and interest impressed the businesses, and the students were amazed by some of the things they learned – like that the Harbor General Store’s greatest expense was not its inventory, but its payroll. The stores were delighted to hear students say they needed to bring their parents back to the shop, and by the handmade thank you notes they each received from their visiting group.

A lunchtime presentation from the Downtown Waterfront Alliance shared more about their events and projects, and how a non-profit organization supports the community, and they received coloring pages for the Farmers’ Market that could be completed and returned for Market Money. Finally, they heard from the local environmental organization Harbor WildWatch.

Discussions are already in the works about what 2023’s Main Street Through a Child’s Eyes will look like. This partnership between the Alliance and the local school district has offered the opportunity to foster a sense of place and connection in local youths and to bring them into their downtown as passionate, active supporters, recognizing their futures as leaders, business owners, and Main Street directors in Gig Harbor.

Excellence on Main Award

Mary DesMarais

Award: Leadership on Main

Year: 2022

City: Gig Harbor

The year was 2009, when Gig Harbor’s newly formed Main Street organization hired Mary DesMarais to take the con of what is now lovingly referred to as “The Alliance”. If you ask any of Mary’s fellow local directors today, they’ll tell you that Gig Harbor is known for having a director who really knows the ropes and a board that is chockablock with dedicated and professional volunteers. But it wasn’t always such smooth sailing for Mary and her crew. It’s been through tremendous perseverance, hard work, and dedication to relationship-building that The Alliance has earned the reputation as a safe harbor for the small businesses and partners that make up the historic downtown waterfront district.

To quote one of her peers, “Mary is a steady voice of reason, influence, and support.” It’s a truly daunting task to try to summarize the impact that someone like Mary can make on their community. We can learn a lot about Mary’s leadership style and the Alliance’s strength as an organization through how they navigated the uncharted waters of the pandemic. While most of the world was all at sea, Mary and crew leapt into action. They became champions for public safety, the consistent and reliable source for information, and the creative engine that kept programming alive downtown. Mary is deeply connected to and respectful of her small business community, so we all bore witness to her incredibly impactful response to their ever-changing needs.

Mary is a natural leader. She seems to effortlessly lift up and highlight the skills of others around her. She cares deeply about her people – her staff, her board and volunteers, her businesses. Mary is truly a captain whose crew matters to her above all else.

Excellence on Main Award

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.

Excellence on Main Award

Centralia Block Parties

Awardee: Centralia Downtown Association

Award: Organizational Excellence

Year: 2022

City: Centralia

Realizing that their quarterly meetings were stale and that they needed a more appealing event in order to draw more people in – which was their ultimate goal – the Centralia Downtown Association (CDA) flipped their traditional meetings inside out and created a Block Party series that includes food, entertainment, and information about the CDA and downtown. They broke downtown into quadrants – hosting one event in each quadrant throughout the year – and  designated Block Captains in charge of rallying energy and participation around their section’s hosted event. Each of the four events had a $200 budget to help with food and entertainment, but each Block Captain also received an enthusiastic response of donations to host their section’s event.

Even in their pilot year of this new model, Centralia’s Block Parties have brought in 100-200 community members participating in each event. Participants include business owners, elected officials, economic development partners, residents, and more.

Each Block Party highlights what that specific area brings to downtown – which businesses are there, improvements to the neighborhood, and any partnerships emerging for future growth. At one Block Party, the guest speaker from the nearby community college shared about a  new sports complex that will impact downtown; at another, the Economic Alliance of Lewis County provided information about an early learning center opening on that end of downtown. The summer Block Party honored a legacy business in the district.

There are many aspects of organizational excellence at play here – willingness to change, a commitment to bringing more people in through education and fun, putting the spotlight on both the organization and the district, and showing value to elected officials, downtown stakeholders, and other partners.

Excellence on Main Award

Ridgeline Lighting

Awardee: Downtown Camas Association

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2022

City: Camas

For over a decade, a committee of Downtown Camas Association (DCA) volunteers called the Light Brigade have installed and maintained roofline lighting on downtown buildings, now lining 21 buildings and serving 39 businesses. If you’ve spent an evening in downtown Camas, you know personally how this lighting contributes to their charming downtown aesthetic. It has the added bonus of increasing downtown safety at night, helping residents and visitors feel safer enjoying an evening downtown.

In July 2020, due to new code compliance issues, the fire marshal told DCA that they had ninety days to either upgrade their existing downtown lighting or have it removed. It came as quite the surprise, especially considering they had just upgraded their incandescent bulbs into energy-efficient LED bulbs in 2019 contributing to a more sustainable lighting plan – thanks to a grant from Clark Public Utilities.

The DCA Board and Light Brigade worked together with the fire marshal’s office to come up with a temporary solution and formulate a longer term plan. Still, they only had two years to find the funding, determine the best upgrade methods, choose a contractor, coordinate with property owners, and facilitate the upgrades.

The funding came first: With available funds through the Main Street Tax Credit Program increased in 2021, DCA saw unexpected donations at the end of the year – enough to fund this $50,000 project. They chose an electrical contractor and, for the first time, made formal access agreements with property owners for lighting upgrades and continued maintenance.

With Light Brigade volunteers on hand for support, the electricians upgraded all 21 buildings in only 3 days. With the City, DCA staff and volunteers, and property and business owners all working together, alongside the hired contractor, the project was an incredible success.

With a waiting list of new businesses requesting ridgeline lighting, DCA was thrilled to come in far under budget and now has funding for phase 2: lighting 5 new buildings in downtown, enhancing the façade of 11 businesses, and extending this charming lighting off of their main street to activate more of their downtown.

Excellence on Main Award

Pandemic Economic Recovery Effort

Awardee: Olympia Downtown Alliance

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2022

City: Olympia

The Olympia Downtown Alliance and City of Olympia began working together in the early days of the pandemic. The partnership itself is noteworthy and marked a major step in strengthening the trust and shared goals between the City and the Alliance. The two groups worked together to craft a wide-ranging scope of work to support the downtown district–both the small businesses and the community at large, which relies on downtown as its gathering place. The City contracted with the Alliance to the tune of $625,000 to execute the multi-pronged approach, which included:

– Physical improvement grants to businesses to accommodate COVID-related activities

– Support for a business recruitment and retention strategy and a Creative Districts strategic plan formation

– Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design lighting projects

– Noteworthy placemaking initiatives, including a “Celebrating our Diverse Leaders” banner project in which 20 diverse leaders past and present were celebrated throughout downtown

– Marketing campaigns, including the “Why I Go Downtown” visitor guide that highlighted downtown’s unique businesses

– And a new outdoor street festival called “Love Oly Summer Fest” that attracted thousands of downtown customers in a safe outdoor environment

This suite of services helped struggling businesses pivot to new models, improved safety in the district, and created an environment where the Olympia community felt safe coming together.

Excellence on Main Award

#StevensonStrong Campaign

Awardee: Stevenson Downtown Association

Award: Outstanding Promotional Campaign

Year: 2022

City: Stevenson

When the pandemic started in 2020, the Stevenson Downtown Association was ready to rally for downtown businesses. Open to all small downtown brick-and-mortar food and retail locations, their #StevensonStrong campaign started in October 2020, encouraging locals to shop and eat downtown, especially during the tourism off-season.

Fourteen businesses chose to participate, each receiving marketing materials, branded shopping bags, and direct reimbursement for promo code discounts redeemed by customers. Marketing extended to ads in local newspapers – also hurting during the pandemic – as well as social media, posters, rack cards, and window clings. The 9 participating dine-in food locations also received takeout boxes with #StevensonStrong stickers.

Locals rallied around the campaign, with many people hesitant to use the discount for fear of hurting business, until they learned each participating business was getting reimbursed. To get started, their board redirected existing funds for the project. Support followed in the form of a grant from the Economic Development Council and Covid Cares funds from the city. The Chamber of Commerce also redirected some of their funding to purchase #StevensonStrong shopping bags and some of the takeout boxes.

Overall, the Stevenson Downtown Association reimbursed more than $21,000 to businesses for customers redeeming their promo codes. They invested an additional $14,000 in takeout boxes and shopping bags, distributing nearly 10,000 kraft shopping bags and over 60,000 takeout boxes to participating businesses.

As Stevenson rallied together to be #StevensonStrong, no downtown businesses closed due to the pandemic. We are certain this promotion was no small part of that success story.

Excellence on Main Award

Finholm’s Market

Awardee: Mary DesMarais, Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance Executive Director

Award: Visual Impact

Year: 2016

City: Gig Harbor

In 2013, during the University of Washington Storefront Studio Project, the Finholm District of Gig Harbor’s downtown waterfront was identified as having the “potential to be a bustling neighborhood commercial district engaging both sides of the street.” In the final project report, several options were recommended for updating the exterior of the Finholm’s Market, an anchor building in the district. As it sat, there was a worn and faded mural across the main stucco wall of the structure, and non-working neon signage.

Following recommendations from a Washington State Department of Archaeology & History Preservation building assessment in early 2015, property owners Monte & Teddi Hester repainted building surfaces, refurbished the building’s neon sign, and commissioned local artists to paint a mural on the building. Improvements cost approximately $250,000, a worthy investment for the Hesters, who have longstanding ties to the building. Teddi’s father, John Finholm, was the former building owner and founded the Finholm Market in 1935.

The Hesters wanted the new building mural to celebrate the history of the Finholm district and the Finholm family. Finding inspiration from a historic photograph of the market, artists Lita Dawn Ancich and Bob Henry created a sepia toned painting featuring John Finholm and his brother Edward with their original delivery truck.

This project improved the overall appearance of the Finholm district and has helped the history of the building re-emerge with the painting of the historical mural. Market owners say the exterior improvements have made a huge difference for their business.

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

Port Townsend 30th Anniversary

Awardee: Mari Mullen and Amy Smith Howard

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2016

City: Port Townsend

The Port Townsend Main Street Program was founded in 1985 as one of the first five pilot Main Street programs in Washington State. With thirty years and countless economic, design, and promotional successes under their belt, the Main Street Program board rolled out multiple projects and celebrations in 2015.

From a declaration from city council proclaiming August 30th “Main Street Day” to gathering hundreds of citizens in front of an historic building downtown to take a “family portrait”, it was a very visible and memorable year for the program.

In 2015, the Main Street Program coordinated 26 successful events, sold out their Insiders’ Building Tours, launched a “Look Here First” campaign, attracted new sponsors, collaborated with many partners, and accomplished many other organizational goals.

The board of directors and other volunteers stepped up tremendously to put the spotlight on the program in 2015. Thirty volunteers came together to host “Celebrate Main Street”, a cornerstone anniversary event that included the Family Portrait Town Photo and an “al fresco” picnic dinner on Taylor Street. The photo included 752 people, seven dogs, and a seagull. The dinner was attended by over 200 guests, some of whom had been involved with the program since its inception, and others – such as PTMSP’s first Executive Director, David Kahley – who made a special trip back to Port Townsend to celebrate the program’s anniversary.

For a program with a thirty year track record of significant contributions to the community, the Port Townsend Main Street Program’s year of impact and celebration set the bar high for creativity and volunteer commitment. Congratulations and cheers to the next thirty years!

Excellence on Main Award

Waterfront Walking Tours

Awardee: Josh Sherwin, Rahna Lovrovich, and Lindsey Johnson

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2016

City: Gig Harbor

In 2015, the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance initiated a new event designed to reclaim hidden history, build civic pride, and encourage economic vitality. The guided Waterfront Walking Tours of the downtown waterfront were free and open to the public. Targeting visitors and locals alike, the tours introduced participants to a “behind the scenes” view of the community and spurred interest in future explorations and patronage of the downtown business community.

A two-hour guided walking tour of the downtown waterfront was offered every Saturday throughout the summer. An average of 20 people participated in each tour, with a total over more than 300 attendees over the course of the Gig Harbor’ Waterfront Walking Tour’s first season in 2015.

The 1.3 mile informative tour offered a general overview of Gig Harbor history and wildlife along the downtown waterfront.

The Alliance partnered with two local non-profits – Harbor WildWatch (a marine and environmental education organization) and Harbor History Museum (a regional maritime and history museum) – to design content and lead tours. The final scrip incorporated history, natural history, and even a little local folklore. Each tour had two guides, one of whom was a wildlife expert.

The impact of the walking tours on the community is significant. The Alliance worked with local hotels to promote the tours to visitors, and encouraged all attendees to round out their tour with lunch at a nearby downtown restaurant. Attendees reported extremely positive reactions to the tours, and the Alliance is confident that positive word of mouth about the historic downtown waterfront district will be a long-term benefit of the tours, which they plan to continue and expand upon in future years.

Excellence on Main Award


Awardee: Port Townsend Main Street board members Connie Segal and Sandy Spencer

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2017

City: Port Townsend

In 2015, Kate Dwyer and Myron Gauger, both artists in Port Townsend, were inspired to start an all-electric, short distance taxi service in their own town after experiencing a similar service in Portland.

After speaking with local business leaders and developing a plan for what they were to dub “PTeRiders”, establishing the legal framework proved to be a challenge. Because low speed electric taxi services did not yet exist in Washington, each step – including insurance, licensing, and taxes – was a first in the state. Kate and Myron crossed many hurdles to see their vision through, including amending state law to allow low speed electric vehicles on highways with speed limits of 30 MPH or less.

PTeRider hit the streets with two electric roadsters in 2016 to much fanfare and a more successful first season than expected. Kate and Myron themselves are the drivers and de facto tour guides. It was clear to the couple even in the first days of opening up the service to the public that the greatest interest was in utilizing the historic tour aspect, which Kate estimates made up 75% of their business in the first year.

PTeRider has also become highly integrated into Port Townsend’s active tourism economy, providing shuttle service for ship passengers and boaters who dock downtown, as well as event attendees for various festivals, races, and other events.

Kate and Myron have demonstrated ingenuity in every step they’ve taken since hatching the idea for PTeRiders. Significantly, they have also paved the way for other Washington communities to invest in lively and inviting forms of energy efficient transportation.

Excellence on Main Award

Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance

Awardee: Alliance Board President Pat Schmidt and Executive Director Mary DesMarais

Award: Organizational Excellence

Year: 2017

City: Gig Harbor

The Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance was formed in 2008 after three forward-thinking citizens attended the National Main Street Conference in Seattle the previous year. They adopted the Main Street Approach, formed a nonprofit, and achieved state designation as a Washington Main Street Community in 2011 and National Accreditation by 2012.

Today, the Alliance is a well-oiled machine, boasting four strong and active committees overseen by an engaged board of directors and a highly capable staff of three: Mary DesMarais, Josh Sherwin and Heidi Gerling.

Volunteerism and passion define the people that together make up the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance. In 2016 alone, the Alliance logged nearly 4,000 volunteer hours.

The Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance is a leading example of Main Street principles at work: local people working together to make change. The Alliance’s impact on Gig Harbor cannot be overstated.

As one downtown shop manager put it, “The Downtown Waterfront Alliance works hard to bring our waterfront district together. They help us make the most out of ourselves and our neighboring merchants.”

Excellence on Main Award

Morning Jam

Awardee: Alice Clark, Marissa McGrath, and Morgan Henry

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2017

City: Bellingham

Many makers and creators call Bellingham home, yet the community was largely unaware of this and the creators themselves seemed to lack support and a network. The Downtown Bellingham Partnership knew that these individuals and their initiatives are essential to the downtown’s vitality, so they launched a creative lecture series called Morning Jam in June 2015.

The speaking series highlights the creative, entrepreneurial energy of downtown Bellingham, with a different individual featured each month. The speakers  represent a huge range of passions — animation, documentary film making, projection mapping, sustainable farming, math theory, mural creating, seaweed foraging, wine making, desired light design, small business bootstrapping, metal working, portraiture, and elevated mobile experiences…just to name a few.

Morgan Henry, Downtown Bellingham Programming and Events Coordinator, personally scouts speakers and interacts with various media platforms including local community radio station and a Sound Cloud account which holds monthly recorded content for a growing body of online listeners.

Morning Jam takes place on the second Wednesday of every month. Attendees arrive at the Pickford Film Center, pour themselves a cup of Block Dog Coffee, and prep their breakfast at the toast bar using refurbished toasters from Bellingham’s Toaster Museum.

Local blogger and regular attendee Tammy Thiele says that Morning Jam has changed her relationships with the town she has lived in for 20 years. She says, “My curiosity for Bellingham and my neighbors has grown and I find myself felling much more connected to my community and my place in it.”

We are all thirsty to connect with the people around us and the places we call home, and Morning Jam provides a platform that is building invaluable social capital in Bellingham’s downtown.

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

Langley Partnerships

Awardee: Langley Main Street Association

Award: Community Partnership

Year: 2015

City: Langley

The Langley Main Street Association (LMSA) and the City of Langley have worked together on a variety of projects, often gaining support from other community partners as well as the strong volunteer base in the Langley community. Such projects that came to fruition in 2014 include the Langley Whale Center, a downtown banner project, and a complete overhaul of Second Street that included bump out garden beds with an accompanying electric watering cart.

The Langley Whale Center began as a vacant and overgrown historic building downtown until LMSA and the City teamed with the Orca Network, the Port of South Whidbey, Mystic Sea Charters, and over twenty volunteers to create a whale information center with a strong tourism draw of over 6,000 visitors its first year. The center also provides office space to LMSA and has improved perception on economic development in Langley.

Economic vitality in Langley was also enhanced in 2014 by way of the banner project implemented through the LMSA Promotion Committee, the Langley Chamber, the City of Langley, and many non-profit and for-profit community organizations. The project oversaw the installation of 12 banner poles throughout town, and organizations provide promotional banners for events. The community attributes combined sales tax and hotel/motel tax revenue increases of over $30,000 in large part to the banner project.

Expanding on a previous edible garden project between the City and LMSA, the curb bump out gardens completed the Second Street renovation and spared the City $9,000 in potential landscaping costs through the use of volunteers and wholesale plants. An electric cart used to take visitors around town now also pulls a water tank to make upkeep manageable and sustainable.

Excellence on Main Award

The CoLab

Awardee: Heather Dudley-Nollette and Frank DePalma

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2015

City: Port Townsend

Framed by floor-to-ceiling windows in an airy, cleverly designed 2,300 square foot space – created by local designers and contractors – the Port Townsend CoLab fosters inspiration and energy in Port Townsend. Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people who work independently but share values and take interest in the spillover effects that occur when talented people share a space. The concept appeals to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently and otherwise work in relative isolation. Port Townsend entrepreneurs Heather Dudley-Nollette and Frank DePalma researched the market for two years prior to making the decision that such a space was a sustainable business idea for the community.

The CoLab opened its doors on the second floor of the historic Elks Building in January 2013. It’s amenities include shared conference space, high speed internet, office equipment, a kitchen area serving locally roasted organic Sunrise Coffee, and a supportive sounding board for the members to brainstorm ideas and work together on projects. They offer targeted free and low-cost business classes to assist entrepreneurs and host the Young Professional Test Labs for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, which is a peer-driven business topic brainstorm. The CoLab also offers one-on-one coaching sessions using volunteer services of Team Jefferson/EDC and CoLab members.

“Coworking is not only about the physical space but in the collaboration and innovation that comes from having creative people working in the same space,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “The beautiful and clever reuse of this historic space has brought together 130 drop-in and meeting space users as well as 20 full and part-time entrepreneurs dedicated to fostering a healthy and vibrant economy in Port Townsend. It is sure to be a model for other communities across the country.”

Excellence on Main Award

Innovative Partnership Campaign

Awardee: Vancouver Downtown Association

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2015

City: Vancouver

The Vancouver Downtown Association (VDA) knew that the City of Vancouver was given the Innovative Partnership Zone designation by the State of Washington in an effort to attract more creative businesses. As one of two areas in the city that would receive special focus, the downtown association knew they would be working with several partners, including the Columbia River Economic Development Council and the City, and that it was the VDA’s responsibility to define downtown in a compelling way.

The VDA chose to fund two projects to tell Vancouver’s story and meet the identified goals of attracting visionary businesses and their employees to the downtown core. Additionally, VDA needed to identify ways to keep those employees as residents and demonstrate how nearby recreational opportunities and other quality of life factors are optimized in the city center.

The recruitment brochure is the reincarnation of a six-year-old version with updated information and partnerships and a new layout. The video component is intended to tell three stories about investing in downtown Vancouver: what it is like to live downtown, what it is like to own a business downtown, and what it is like to develop projects downtown.

Since the promotional materials were introduced, they have been incorporated into the region’s recruitment efforts and have been a valuable tool for landlords to fill spaces downtown. The video has been viewed nearly 9,000 times since it was posted, and the brochure has been viewed hundreds of times online and is in its second printing.

“The VDA has done an amazing job of communicating to the business community the value of a vibrant downtown,” says Sarah Hansen, Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “This high-spirited approach to business recruitment has been a great success and has really conveyed the personality of downtown Vancouver.”

Excellence on Main Award

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

Polson Building

Award: Bricks & Mortar Rehabilitation

Year: 2018

City: Mount Vernon

The Polson Building was built in 1927 for the Golden Rule Department Store, but had recently fallen victim to neglect and several unfortunate alterations before Steve Broman and Vern Curtis purchased it in 2016.

Steve and Vern immediately commenced work on the building, including painstakingly exposing much of the original brickwork and windows, sectioning the commercial space into multiple bays, adding a residential apartment in the underutilized mezzanine level, and remodeling the upstairs office.

Steve and Vern are not only the owners but also the general contractors. They arranged their own financing, handled building design and floorplans, negotiated leases, and were on site through the entire process from demolition to helping new tenants move in. They were at the building every day for a full year, stating that as they discovered more hidden details of the building, they found themselves adding to the budget, justifying it by saying the “building was worth it”.

The Polson Building is the fourth rehabilitation project Steve and Vern have completed together in the last two decades. Three of their four buildings are in downtown Mount Vernon. Their commitment to quality rehabilitation, ownership and property management make them what Ellen Gamson of the Downtown Mount Vernon Association “the kind of property owners that organizations like ours wish for.”

The building was fully leased before the work was completed and the project has served as a positive example of the city’s recently adopted design standards and has inspired additional renovations in nearby properties.

The Polson Building stands as tangible proof of how respectful rehabilitation of an historic building can enliven an entire district. Built as an anchor retail establishment, the building now has a renewed purpose and place in the community.