Excellence on Main Award

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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

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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

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Partnership for Historic Chelan

Awardee: Linda Van Lunsen, Erin Peterson, and Erin McCardle from the Historic Downtown Chelan Association

Award: Community Partnership

Year: 2018

City: Chelan

Recognizing their shared goals around Chelan’s heritage and historic treasures, the Historic Downtown Chelan Association and the Lake Chelan Historical Society forged a partnership in 2016.

First, the two organizations worked together to institute Chelan’s first historic plaque program. In its initial stages, the Downtown Association’s Design Committee selected four historically significant downtown structures, all of which are over 100 years old and have maintained their historic integrity: Campbell’s Resort, Saint Andrews Episcopal Church, Woodin Avenue Bridge, and Ruby Theatre. The Historical Society Manager, Ron McGaughey, served as an advisor on the program and coordinated Society volunteers to find historic photographs of the properties. The two organizations jointly designed and presented the plaques at a media-covered event in 2017.

The historic wrap program draws attention to historic aspects of the town by covering a modern necessity with historic images. The project, another collaboration between the two organizations, is located at a key intersection downtown. Images were selected for their historic significance, cultural relevance, and reflection of life in downtown Chelan during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Each side of the wrap takes a different look at Chelan’s history, with themes including wood-framed buildings, legacy businesses, homesteaders, and life in a frontier town.

The Downtown Association and the Historical Society plan to continue both the historic plaque and wrap programs in the future, and have also begun developing a walking tour to provide additional opportunities for the public to learn about Chelan’s history and built environment.

This partnership has elevated the preservation ethic in Chelan through community pride and education, and has resulted in increased interest among downtown building owners. These projects illustrate the importance of partners coalescing around shared goals.

Excellence on Main Award

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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

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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

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Awardee: Gerald and Yolanda Taylor and Tony and Raechill Dotson

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2018

City: Camas

Salud! is owned by two married couples, Gerald and Yolanda Taylor and Tony and Raechill Dotson, who had a vision for a business that would provide their fellow community members with opportunities to spend time together, learn, and create friendships. Wine enthusiasts all, they developed a plan for a wine bar that is equal parts tasting room, meeting space, event venue, and wine storage facility where people can store their own wine in temperature controlled spaces.

Before opening their business, the Taylors and the Dotsons tackled an adaptive building reuse of grand proportions. The building in downtown Camas was long home to Sears, and when the store closed its doors in 2016, it was unclear what new use the large, open space would hold. The building was certainly large enough for the various uses Salud!’s owners had in mind, but creating the intimate environment suitable for the wine bar and meeting spaces took a great deal of remodeling, much of which was done by the Taylors and Dotsons themselves. They exposed old beams, put up walls, and built a wine storage area complete with street signs, such as “Chardonnay Way,” along a Main Street corridor.

Salud! opened its doors in August 2017 and has since brought thousands of people to downtown Camas. In addition to opening their meeting space to nonprofit organizations and other groups, Salud! hosts many of their own events, including chef dinners, murder mystery parties, movie nights, a 1980s-themed prom, and more. They often partner with fellow entrepreneurs to bring people to downtown Camas for more than just their own destination business. Collaboration and cross-promotional advertising with Salud! has benefited the historic Liberty Theatre, the Camas Hotel, as well as nearby food and beverage establishments. The Taylors and the Dotsons are handily accomplishing their goals of bringing the community together through their business.

Communities everywhere are struggling with reuse of historic buildings originally suited for department stores. Salud! represents the innovative spirit of Main Street: adaptive, creative, and rooted in bringing people together.

Excellence on Main Award

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Inside Out: Love Where you Live

Awardee: I Heart Yakima

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2018

City: Yakima

Inside Out is a global art project, founded by French artist JR, transforming messages of personal identity into works of art. I Heart Yakima, a nonprofit focused on community pride and engagement, decided to use the model as a means of making locals’ civic pride visible and enhancing the resident and tourist experience in downtown Yakima.

Working with photographer Sally Tonkin and the Downtown Association of Yakima, I Heart Yakima coordinated a large-scale temporary art installation in 2017. Eight photo shoots were hosted throughout June and July, attracting 167 proud Yakima residents to have their photos taken for the project. The images were then installed on an exterior wall of Ron’s Book & Binding, a downtown Yakima building owned by downtown board member Joe Mann.

The installation, which used 56 gallons of paste, totaled 2,600 square feet upon completion. The work was done by 23 volunteers, who contributed approximate 400 total hours of time. A ribbon cutting on September 12 drew a large crowd, and the project continued to build momentum through stories in local media and regular social media posts. The installation was removed on November 29, but the images live in perpetuity at www.iheartyakima.com/insideout.

The project achieved its goal of celebrating the people of Yakima and cultivate civic pride, while also activating an urban alleyway in the heart of downtown Yakima.

At the summer photo shoots, each participant was also asked to write a testimonial to their love of living in Yakima. Along with their images, their testimonies can be viewed online. One such testimony comes from 17-year-old Renee Diaz: “I’ve lived here my whole live. It’s my home, it’s who I am. And I love everything about it.” When asked why she participated in the Inside Out project, she added, “It shows our unique, beautiful, diverse community.”

Inside Out gets at the heart of Main Street: bringing people together to make greater, more diverse, and thriving places.

Excellence on Main Award

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Justin Dennis

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2018

City: Gig Harbor

Justin Dennis approached the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance in Spring 2017 to present his proposed product – succulent planters utilizing recycled Cougar Gold cheese tins – for sale at the Gig Harbor Waterfront Farmers Market. Justin received coaching from his father, Chet Dennis, prior to the presentation, including advice to “be sure to look them in the eye when you are talking to them”. His product was approved by the jury and Justin set to work preparing to be a vendor at the market that summer.

Justin had found his inspiration after visiting the WSU Creamery in Pullman and seeing a large stack of empty tins. With guidance from his parents, Justin has taken responsibility for every aspect of the business, including putting together his plan, buying supplies, meeting permit requirements, managing multiple methods of payment, and social media promotions. Each week spent at his “WSU Table Plants by Justin” booth included different learning opportunities on topics such as salesmanship and taxes.

The Waterfront Alliance staff were impressed by Justin’s creativity and commitment. He arrived on time for set-up, and always had his booth taken down quickly at the end of each market day.

Justin’s goal is to create a “Kids’ Farmers Market Booth” at the market so that other young people can join him. He is actively working toward this goal, as well as on introducing new products into his own line. In addition to his budding entrepreneurship, Justin has also shown himself to have a philanthropic nature; he sold his planters at Gig Harbor’s Girls Night Out, and donated $1 from every sale to a local charity.

Main Streets are, at their best, places for people of all ages to learn, explore, challenge themselves, and engage in their local economy. We are delighted to recognize Justin for his entrepreneurial and community-minded spirit.