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

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

Claim Clothing

Awardee: Megan West and Linda Johnson

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2015

City: Ellensburg

Claim Clothing co-owner Megan West began sculpting her visions of a women’s boutique that caters to an array of fashion forward, affordable styles while working towards a degree at Central Washington University, where she helped craft the clothing section at the Wildcat Shop. After a year of building her business plan for Claim Clothing, Megan began to seek out funding but was repeatedly turned down from banks based on her young age of 22. She eventually teamed up with Linda Johnson, a business advisor at the Washington Small Business Development Center, to help her achieve her vision.

Claim Clothing’s 1,600 square foot location is in the middle of historic downtown Ellensburg in the newly renovated Geddis Building. The City had recently purchased the building, and Megan had to sell her vision to the City, the Ellensburg Business Development Authority, and the Ellensburg Downtown Association before she was approved to lease space.

With help from her family, she stripped the space to expose the original brick walls, and she used reclaimed barn wood, industrial pipe, and other material sourced mostly from local stores to complete the remodel on time and 10% under budget.

On May 3, 2014, Claim Clothing opened to the public and quickly became a success. With its original tagline, “Claim Your Closet,” Megan’s overall goal is to have every type of woman come into her store and embrace her body and personal style. Claim is a place where you feel as if you are in your own closet and where you can be completely comfortable and confident. The store features many different clothing brands such as Celebrity Pink and Gypsy Bound Bracelets, all catering to a wide age range and making Claim a diverse and unique place to shop.

As a downtown business, Megan has become a major asset to the community. She is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and has been involved with Ellensburg Downtown Association events. In spring 2014, Megan organized the first Fashion Night Out with the EDA and Mangos Salon, and it was a huge success. She has also made connections with Central Washington University by offering internships and mentoring opportunities.

After only six months of being open for business, Claim met its sales goal for the first year of operation. The store started with one employee and hired a second within five months, and they anticipate hiring a third this summer when they launch a fully functional online retail store. Megan explains that her success cannot be measured in numbers but that her success is defined by seeing her employees grow as individuals and witnessing her customer base increase by offering a unique and positive experience.

Excellence on Main Award

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

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

Ellensburg Downtown Association

Award: Organizational Excellence

Year: 2015

City: Ellensburg

The Ellensburg Downtown Association (EDA) is a grassroots local non-profit working to preserve and revitalize Ellensburg’s historic downtown core. The EDA formed in 2004 and is a nationally accredited Main Street program. While they have been a Main Street program since 2004, the list of accomplishments over the past several years is truly impressive. Staff has increased from one to three employees, and the organization’s budget has more than doubled.

The EDA’s partnerships within the community have contributed to the rehabilitation of four historic buildings and the construction of two new buildings, including apartments. Partnering with the Rotary led to the creation of the Elmira Downtown Event Center. The venue includes two storefronts: one features a serving area/bar, restrooms, and a commercial kitchen while the other features 2,000 square feet of usable space with a sound system, projector, screen, stage, and sound booth.

The most dramatic project downtown has been the overhaul of the historic Geddis Building, an iconic building in the core of downtown. Working strategically with the “Downtowners” – a collaborative community group, which included representatives from the EDA, the Ellensburg Business Development Authority (EBDA and the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce – the City of Ellensburg was able to purchase the building. Now, the building is almost fully leased, and the upstairs apartments are full. In fact, there are only four retail spaces currently available downtown.

The holidays are brighter downtown thanks to the addition of 180 lighted snowflakes on light poles throughout the district, and this year the EDA is completing roofline lighting. During the nicer months, residents and visitors enjoy beautiful new planters, trash receptacles, and benches designed and manufactured right in Ellensburg. Events have continued to grow and now include Buskers in the Burg, a fantastic celebration of busking throughout downtown; Hoedown in the Downtown in partnership with the Rodeo; and Fashion Night Out, featuring clothing and jewelry from downtown retailers. Hometown Holidays expanded to cover the entire month of December, and Girls Night Out is flourishing, bringing in over $50,000 in revenue for downtown merchants this year.

“Under the leadership of Executive Director Carolyn Honeycutt and a fantastic board of directors, the EDA has grown tremendously,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Coordinator. “The impact of this Main Street organization on downtown Ellensburg cannot be overstated, and we continue to be blown away by their innovation, passion, and record of success.”

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


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!”

Excellence on Main Award

Monsters on Machines

Awardee: Langley Main Street Association, The Commons, SRV Construction Company and Moonraker Bookstore

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2015

City: Langley

Langley’s city center was dramatically impacted by a six-month street replacement project that closed Second Street, one of three main streets in the downtown district. Business access was very limited, and traffic was rerouted differently every day. The entire street was dug out and put back in, taking a significant toll on businesses along the corridor.

Monsters on Machines provided a solution to bring people downtown and allow them to embrace the goals of the Second Street project and witness the progress. The Monsters on Machines event used the construction as an asset by providing an enormous family friendly photo op in the midst of mud, gravel, heavy equipment and roadblocks. The solution mitigated six months of construction chaos and brought patience and community loyalty to the streets.

Local author, Deb Lund, wrote the children’s book, “Monsters on Machines,” which inspired the event. The book features little monsters that can build big things, and the community adopted the theme with Lund’s permission. The Commons Coffee Shop served Monsteroni and Cheese, and the local bookstore, Moonraker, hosted the author for a book signing. The entire fleet of SRV Construction bulldozers, dump trucks, and backhoes lined the streets for kids to climb on, honk horns, and flash lights.

The Langley Main Street Association Promotions Committee organized the event in collaboration with The Commons, a non-profit teaching coffee shop, SRV Construction Company, and Moonraker Bookstore. The event only cost the LMSA $150 and was staffed by volunteers.

“This was a fantastic way for the community to rally behind a challenging but necessary construction project,” said Sarah Hansen, Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “The end result is a beautiful new streetscape, successful businesses and a whole lot of excited kids!”

Excellence on Main Award

Prosser Facade Improvement Program

Awardee: Historic Downtown Prosser Association

Award: Visual Impact

Year: 2015

City: Prosser

In 2011, the Historic Downtown Prosser Association (HDPA), the community’s Main Street organization, implemented a 60-month trial for a façade improvement program. Using Main Street Tax Credit Incentive dollars, the program offered an interest-free loan of $5,000. Its purpose was to provide HDPA members with incentives for business and/or property owners to restore building facades. After garnering very little interest, the HDPA decided to change its loan program to a grant.

The program requires that renovations must integrate with the historic quality of the downtown core, and design guidelines were implemented to stipulate what projects are appropriate. Typical projects that meet criteria include exterior building remodeling and improvements such as masonry repairs; window and door replacement; awnings, paint, and trim; ornamental rails, signage, hardscape, landscaping, and historic designation. The HDPA Design Committee reviews the application, executes site visits, and recommends changes to improve the historic quality of the work. A total of eight grants have been awarded since the program started, and this $48,000 has triggered over $1.8 million in total revitalization efforts.

“This façade grant program has allowed the Historic Downtown Prosser Association to make a tangible investment within the downtown, resulting in an incredible amount of both public and private investment,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Coordinator. “Prosser has proved that façade improvement programs can have a dramatic impact on the economic health of downtown.”