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

PTeRider

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.

Excellence on Main Award

Port Townsend Going Green Initiative

Awardee: Port Townsend Main Street board members Kris Nelson, Kevin Prime, Amy Howard, and Wendy Duede

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2018

City: Port Townsend

Port Townsend Main Street Program’s hosts its popular Concerts on the Dock summer music series on Thursdays in July and August, bringing over 400 people downtown each week. The event features local beer, wine, and cider – always a crowd favorite!

Inspired by Northwest Maritime Center, which uses mason jars at their own major event, Port Townsend Main Street researched options for making reusable drinkware available to concert-goers. The board invested in the program in 2017 by purchasing 1,000 stainless steel cups for beer. Steel isn’t ideal for wine and cider, so local pottery studio, LaughinGnome, was contracted to make reusable pottery cups to add to the collection. They donated 200 and the Main Street program purchased an additional 45.

Attendees can rent a cup for a $5.00 deposit, which is refunded at the end of the night when they return it. Main Street volunteers and staff rent out the cups from the information booth and the beer garden itself, and also wash the cups after each concert.

The stainless-steel cups and pottery cups were hugely popular! Port Townsend is an environmentally-minded community, and in previous years, thousands of plastic cups, which are not recyclable in this county, were used at the concerts. While free plastic cups are still available, the majority of the public chose to participate in the rental program.

Darby Huffman, owner of LaughinGnome, also expanded on the concept by providing a portable water system every week. This effort further reduced the event’s reliance on plastic cups and water bottles. The Main Street program plans to continue the successful program in its coming seasons of Concerts on the Dock.

Port Townsend’s ‘going green’ initiative capitalizes on a Main Street principle that incremental projects can make a big difference.

Excellence on Main Award

Bunny Daze

Awardee: Donna Christiansen, Langley Main Street Association Promotions Chair

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2018

City: Langley

Langley has been experiencing an overpopulation of rabbits for nearly a decade. The problem grew exponentially, as these things tend to do, and reached the national news cycle in 2016. Amidst a heated local discussion about “what to do about the bunnies,” the Langley Main Street Association decided to create a whimsical event to add levity to the issue and draw people to downtown for the benefit of the business community.

Bunny Daze, a weeklong promotion culminating in a special event on the Saturday before Easter, was born. The Main Street Promotions Committee sought local artists to design marketing, began thrifting for gently-used stuffed rabbits, and reached out to merchants to encourage them to use the theme to decorate their shops and offer special promotions throughout the week.

The Saturday event included games, like Hippity-Hopscotch, and a mayoral proclamation (declaring it to be “Langley Bunny Day,” acknowledging that on this day, especially, Langley loves its bunnies). The highlight was the “Bunny Hunt and Adoption Program”, which involved volunteers hiding 150 stuffed rabbits throughout the downtown and encouraging children find themselves a “wasscally wabbit”. The stuffed animals each had a tag reading, “Bunny Relocation Program – Please Take Me Home.” Volunteers handed out daffodils to all attendees and, at one point in the day, a spontaneous sing-along of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” burst out in the crowd.

Bunny Daze is poised to become a Langley tradition. The third annual event took place on March 31, 2018.

The Langley Main Street Association was able to take less-than-stellar press about an overpopulation of rabbits and show that they are not only creative, but that they can take things in stride.

Excellence on Main Award

Frick Lane

Awardee: Langley Main Street Association Board President Janet Ploof and Langley Mayor Tim Callison

Award: Visual Impact

Year: 2017

City: Langley

Frick Lane is a walkway from First to Second Streets in downtown Langley. The lane, which runs between two historic buildings, was overgrown with foliage and not living up to its potential as being a major pedestrian corridor connecting Langley’s two most significant downtown streets. Determined to bring the lane back to life, the Design Committee of the Langley Main Street Association began planning for improvements in 2015.

Stumps were removed, electrical and concrete work was completed, antique street light fixtures were installed, the archway was restored, and landscaping improvements were made. The team of Main Street volunteers also created and installed five steel and fiberglass panels, each with photographs and descriptions of the town’s early history. The project, which cost just under $15,000, was completed in April 2016. Hundreds of LMSA volunteer hours made the Frick Lane improvements possible, with an estimated labor value of over $7,500.

Frick Lane is now visited by locals and visitors alike on a daily basis, and serves as an attractive and entertaining connection between First and Second Streets. The project has also spurred interest from several partners: nearby property owners with renewed interest in improving their historic buildings, shop owners requesting historic photos of their building to put on display, and the Port of South Whidbey which intends to install 10 history panels at the marina.

Frick Lane is an example of underutilized public spaces holding the key to inspiring change and reinvestment community-wide.

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

Sustainable Connections’ Community Energy Challenge

Awardee: Sustainable Connections

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2015

City: Bellingham

In 2010, Sustainable Connections started outreach to local businesses and property owners about the Community Energy Challenge (CEC) and encouraged them to sign up for free energy assessments. Over the past five years, 471 businesses and property owners have participated, 84 of which are in downtown Bellingham. These 84 business and property owners represent 91 buildings in the downtown core and include a variety of spaces, many of them historic.

By performing the free assessments, Sustainable Connections was able to identify the most impactful upgrades and retrofits for each space, providing a personalized action plan and assistance with financing options, including access to incentives and rebates. They recommended vetted contractors to do the work and provided ongoing support and monitoring to ensure that energy saving goals are met.

Energy retrofits reduce the environmental impact of those that work and live in the downtown core, and facility upgrades, coupled with energy savings, give property owners a competitive edge in leasing spaces. Businesses are able to enjoy a reduced environmental impact as well as highly desirable spaces with increased comfort and lower energy bills.

The impact of the CEC is substantial. Over $6,000,000 and more than 6,000 tons of greenhouse gases have been saved; over 80 jobs have been supported, and over $16,000,000 in economic activity has been generated. A 2014 study found that every dollar of public funds spent on the CEC projects yields $5.27 in local economic activity. Additionally, Sustainable Connections is currently helping beta test “America Saves!,” an energy efficiency pilot program through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The Community Energy Challenge has, to date, exceeded all its participation goals to realize the massive energy savings potential in historic downtowns,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “Sustainable Connections has incentivized energy efficiency retrofits within the context of historic preservation and the needs of small businesses, creating a model program that will have a lasting impact on the community.”

Excellence on Main Award

Camas First Fridays

Awardee: Downtown Camas Association

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2015

City: Camas

2015 marks the tenth anniversary for Camas First Fridays, which is hosted by the Downtown Camas Association. The event, like many other First Fridays across the country, provides a reason for people to break from daily routine and interact with the community. What makes Camas First Fridays unique is their ability to keep the event fresh and engaging for the participants.

Typically an art-based event, Camas knew early on that art alone would not be a sustainable draw with only two small art galleries in the community, so they opted to feature monthly themes and family-friendly activities. The consistency of the event keeps it top of mind, while the changing themes keep it exciting. Examples of successful themes include “A Chocolate Affair to Remember” with chocolate treats and a candy guessing game in each store; “Go Green!” with a Lucky Leprechaun hunt in stores, businesses posting how they are green, and green activities for the families; and “Spring Into History,” a tribute to the mill and town history with a trivia hunt in stores and a toilet paper toss as tribute to the mill.

One of the most successful themes was the “Camas Car Show,” which ultimately grew into its own event. The “Pumpkin Pageant” theme, where each merchant carves pumpkins and competes in a community vote, is also popular. All events are free and appeal to families and adults out for a fun night.

One of the more tangible benefits the event has for the community is the boost it provides to local merchants. The event draws locals and visitors off the sidewalks and into stores, making it an opportunity for participating merchants to boost sales. This design is highly intentional and introduces shoppers to merchants and products they may have overlooked otherwise. Restaurants that used to participate are now too busy with customers to participate and other stores claim record sales on First Fridays month after month, and many are expanding!

Other benefits of the event include the promotion of a collaborative environment for downtown merchants, opportunity for students and volunteers to be involved in the community, a place for non-profits to advance their missions, a way for local artists to showcase their work, and a way to entertain kids while instilling a sense of community pride. Since the start of 2014, general attendance has increased by 30%, and attendance for children has increased by 50%.

“The Downtown Camas Association has found a way to keep this event fresh and dynamic month after month,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “Not only are retail and restaurant businesses benefiting, but this has created a mechanism for the entire community to become invested in downtown.”

Excellence on Main Award

Musselfest

Awardee: Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association and Penn Cove Shellfish

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2015

City: Coupeville

Every March, Coupeville hosts Penn Cove Musselfest – a three-day festival featuring mussel eating competitions, farm tours, activities, and a friendly chowder tasting competition. Originally started to encourage eating out during the off-season, the festival has turned into an event drawing 10,000 visitors to a town with a population one-fifth that number. In addition to the strong support from both residents and visitors, 100% of Coupeville restaurants participate in the chowder tasting competition.

The festival represents strong partnerships in the community. Restaurant owners used to finance the event until Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association (CHWA) took it over in 2007, offering to organize and finance the event. Penn Cove Shellfish added a mussel tasting beer and wine garden, and all profits are donated to the Coupeville Boys and Girls Club as well as the Coupeville High School Science Scholarship. The CHWA and Penn Cove Shellfish also provide fifty pounds of mussels, onions, and potatoes for the chowder tasting, Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle provides free transportation and Puget Sound Express ferries visitors to Shellfish Farm for a tour and education on the environmental guidelines of farmed mussels.

The event also draws ten to twelve chefs who provide a series of free mussel cooking demonstrations for visitors. Chefs are recruited from Whidbey Island, Seattle, the greater Puget Sound area, and Portland.

The impact the event has on the community is significant. The restaurants and businesses in the four-block event area remain the focus of the weekend. Without street vendors, Musselfest becomes the best retail weekend of the year for merchants. The event also creates fundraising opportunities for the Coupeville Boys and Girls Club, the Island County Historical Museum, and the Coupeville High School Booster Club.

In 2015, the 10,000 visitors booked every hotel in the immediate area, north or south. Restaurants were filled to capacity, and many merchants had the best sales in their history. Attendees willingly waited in ferry lines for two to three hours to participate, and tickets were sold out in hours. In every regard, this event has gone above and beyond to boost shoulder season revenues for merchants.

“The community has truly embraced this event, and the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association has made it one of the biggest events of the year,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “We are thrilled to be honoring such a long-standing event!”