Excellence on Main Award

Barb Smith

Award: Leadership on Main

Year: 2019

City: Kent

A leader is someone who inspires others, who lifts others up and provides them with the direction, resources, and freedom to accomplish their goals and be part of the team. For these reasons, and many more, we are pleased to recognize Barb Smith with our 2019 Leadership on Main Award.

Barb was hired as the Executive Director of the Kent Downtown Partnership in May of 2009 and will be celebrating a successful ten years and a well-deserved retirement later this summer. Under her leadership, KDP has improved the appearance of downtown, created and honed its promotions, developed a solid fundraising strategy, and successfully recruited small businesses to the district.

While none of this is insignificant, if you ask me, Barb’s greatest legacy in Kent is the team that she has developed, led, and inspired over the years. She has become a student of the Main Street Approach and worked to educate the KDP board and volunteers about its merits. While she is integrally involved in all of KDP’s committees, she has mastered the art of leading volunteers by empowering them to be creative, productive, and focused on what inspires each of them to serve.

Barb has emphasized partnerships in everything she has done for KDP – the great relationships the program has with the city, downtown business and property owners, volunteers, and donors can all be credited to Barb’s relationship-oriented approach to community revitalization.

Barb loves to celebrate her people and their successes. She is quick to acknowledge the hard work of others and slow to take any credit for herself. It is this type of leadership that leaves a true legacy. KDP is an organization with many leaders, not just one – and each of them has risen to the occasion because they have been inspired by Barb.

As long-time volunteer Greg Haffner puts it, “Barb has organized us, inspired us, motivated us and kept us focused on improving Downtown Kent and preserving the history there. The pride within the organization reflects Barb’s leadership and is visible downtown.”

Excellence on Main Award

Sayers Building

Award: Bricks & Mortar Rehabilitation

Year: 2019

City: Walla Walla

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

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

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

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

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

Excellence on Main Award

Downtown Planter Partnership

Awardee: Ellensburg Downtown Association & Elmview

Award: Community Partnership

Year: 2019

City: Ellensburg

The plants in downtown Ellensburg were dying. The 65 planter boxes, planted annually and maintained by the Ellensburg Downtown Association and the City of Ellensburg, weren’t looking so hot… or rather, were looking overly hot, amidst 100-degree summer days in Central Washington. The City was no longer able to water the planters at the frequency needed due to staffing and budget limitations. And the community was taking notice.

Realizing an additional partner would be the only solution to the issue, the EDA’s Design Committee approached Elmview, a local non-profit that connects adults with disabilities to job opportunities. With interest, mission alignment, and both parties at the table to work out the details, the EDA and Elmview determined the type of equipment and the watering schedule necessary to adequately maintain the planters.

With support from the City, a watering truck was purchased, and the EDA was able to enter into a contract with Elmview that created paid positions for the daily watering shifts. Elmview’s involvement made an immediate impact downtown, with the planters well cared for and vibrant throughout the season. The partnership between the City, the EDA, and Elmview is slated to continue in 2019 and beyond due to the success of the program for all parties.

While the healthy planters are the obvious outcome, the impact of this partnership runs much deeper. Not only did the partnership allow the City and the EDA to solve a recurring problem, but it also allowed Elmview to create more meaningful, community-centered jobs for their clients. This is the power of Main Street partnerships – coming together over complimentary goals and finding that quality of life is something that grows exponentially when nurtured.

Excellence on Main Award

Goodfellow Brothers

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2019

City: Wenatchee

In Spring 2016 the Wenatchee Downtown Association hosted its biannual Possibilities Tour, an initiative that showcases vacant downtown properties and provides vision and resources for rehabilitating historic spaces. On this particularly tour, the Dore Building’s new owner group led by Rory Turner guided the participants up a set of spooky stairs to the neglected upper floor. Amidst pigeons flying out from the rafters, Chris Martin was able to see the possibilities of this key downtown building.

Chris manages Pacific Rim Land Inc., a real estate development company and was on the Possibilities tour representing Goodfellow Bros., a fourth generation, family-owned general contractor company that was started in Wenatchee nearly 100 years ago and now boasts an impressive portfolio that spans the Western United States. Despite the company’s reach, they are committed to their Wenatchee roots and were looking for a new office for their Washington-based employees.

Goodfellow Bros. chose to start their search in downtown Wenatchee because of the district’s restaurant scene. As Chris puts it, “There is an aura of change and growth in the air downtown. Millennials opt for urban environments and the offerings they provide.”

The project kept the company’s employee wishes in mind throughout the design and construction phases. Goodfellow Bros. purchased the upper floor of the Dore Building and set to work tackling the challenges and unusable spaces left behind by previous owners. Two years and $2.9 million in private investment later and the upper floor of the building is a beautiful and dynamic work environment enjoyed by nearly 50 employees.

At a time when downtown Wenatchee is facing the proposed exodus of the downtown PUD campus and the 400 employees who occupy that location, Goodfellow Bros.’ investment in the district has been particularly impactful on the restaurants and other businesses that rely on the regular foot traffic that downtown employees provide. Goodfellow Bros. has proven their dedication to their hometown community, which in turn has embraced the company with open arms. Chris notes that not a week has gone by when he hasn’t met someone with a story about how Goodfellow Bros. has played a role in their or their family’s lives. With their investment downtown, it’s safe to say that Goodfellow Bros. will continue making an impact on Wenatchee for generations to come.

Excellence on Main Award

Mario Alfaro Lopez

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2019

City: Ellensburg

Mario Alfaro Lopez is the definition of dreams coming true through hard work, dedication, and kindness. He will say he is “not a chef,” however, his success in running a food truck turned full service restaurant would say otherwise!

Mario launched the Red Pickle food truck in 2016. His cuisine, focused largely on food inspired by his Guatemalan roots, was an immediate hit and he found various events and venues from which to expose his business. After striking up a friendship with another local business – Whipsaw Brewing – the Red Pickle became a staple at the brewery and was able to build up a regular clientele.

As he grew his business, Mario kept an eye out for the perfect brick and mortar location, a place that would allow him to expand his food offerings and showcase his passion for mixology. When a former coffee shop on Pine Street in downtown Ellensburg became available, Mario jumped on it. His dream of owning his own cocktail bar and restaurant became a reality in November 2018 when he opened the doors to The Red Pickle.

The community is thrilled to see Mario succeed in opening his restaurant. Having the Red Pickle downtown in its new capacity has not only increased foot traffic and created a new dining experience, but it has reminded the community that when you support your favorite local spots, they grow into something even more amazing.

As a business owner Mario has embraced innovation and community-mindedness. He hosted pop-up dinners in funky locations and volunteered his time to speak to leadership and entrepreneurship classes. He sources his products from local farmers and is always looking for ways to contribute to the success of the downtown district. He connects with customers and treats them like family, brings joy to the community, and supports others. It is no surprise to hear Mario’s philosophy on food is that “sharing a meal is an expression of love.”

Excellence on Main Award

Downtown Sounds

Awardee: Downtown Bellingham Partnership

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2019

City: Bellingham

In 2019, downtown Bellingham will be celebrating its 15th annual Downtown Sounds summer concert series. Firmly cemented as downtown Bellingham’s hottest summer attraction, this free, urban music festival activates two full city blocks for five consecutive Wednesdays in July and August, showcasing high-quality bands, local food, award-winning beer and cider, and activities for the entire family.

Like any successful program, Downtown Sounds has become a positive, impactful event through careful curation and strong partnerships over the last 15 years. The concert series started in an underutilized alley in 2005 with goals that it has held firm ever since: to foster a sense of community, to create equitable access to culture and arts, and to encourage creative use of existing space.
The Downtown Bellingham Partnership has coordinated the series since its inception. Local businesses, like The Wild Buffalo music venue and a stage/sound/lighting company called Groove Merchant Northwest, have been crucial and reliable partners over the last 15 years.

As the series became more and more popular, it inevitably grew into larger spaces downtown, making its way to Bay Street in the heart of downtown Bellingham’s Arts District. More partners also came on board, including SPARK Museum and Boundary Bay Brewery, which donates product to the beer garden. By 2015, up to 3,000 people were attending each concert and the event expanded its footprint yet again, making more room for the “Family Alley” and other features to engage the community.

Over the years, Downtown Sounds as grown tremendously, but also very intentionally. With nearly 1,000 volunteer hours going into the event, over 15,000 people visiting downtown Bellingham for the concerts each summer, and over $100,000 in gross income, Downtown Sounds has stayed remarkably true to its originally goals of fostering community, creating equitable access to the arts, and encouraging creative use of space. We commend the Downtown Bellingham Partnership and their partners on 15 years of creating space for people to experience the joy of being in community together.

Excellence on Main Award

Dia de los Muertos

Awardee: Historic Downtown Chelan Association

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2019

City: Chelan

Chelan’s population is 40% Hispanic, yet little effort had been made to engage this significant segment of the community downtown. The Historic Downtown Chelan Association board, inspired by a RevitalizeWA workshop led by Norma Ramirez de Miess, became keenly aware of this and began efforts to reach out to leaders from the Hispanic business community. Through this concerted relationship-building, the importance of Dia de los Muertos to Mexican culture was discussed and the idea for a new event blossomed.

Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of loved ones who have passed. The downtown Chelan event was designed to educate those unfamiliar with the holiday of its meaning as well as create an event that would make the Hispanic community feel welcome and celebrated in downtown.
With just three months until the holiday, a committee including Main Street board members, Spanish teachers from local schools, local business owners, and members of the Todos United high school club came together to plan.

The schools’ involvement was particularly impactful toward the success of the event – curriculum was developed in Spanish classes that paired 4-person student teams with local downtown businesses to help the business create an ofendra, or altar, the central theme of the Dia de los Muertos holiday. Chelan High School Art classes were involved by designing and building pinatas for the event, and the Todos United club came out in full force with over 30 student volunteers.

The event itself drew large crowds to downtown Chelan! The community was invited to place their own pictures of loved ones, as well as flowers and other items, on the altars. There was plenty to eat and experience throughout the downtown, from sugar skull cookie decorating and tissue paper flower making to live music and dancing horses.

For a first-year event, Chelan’s Dia de los Muertos was able to achieve broad and resounding impact. It sparked excitement and created long-lasting partnerships. Most importantly, Chelan showed itself to be a community eager to demonstrate inclusivity, and this event provided a step toward that goal.

Excellence on Main Award

Paving the Way to a Brighter Future

Awardee: Port Townsend Main Street Program

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2019

City: Port Townsend

Anyone who has been part of a major street rebuild knows the negative impact it can have on the district’s businesses. The general impression from locals and visitors that they “should just avoid downtown during construction” can take a dramatic toll. Port Townsend was facing their third major construction project in a ten-year span, and the Port Townsend Main Street Program knew they had to be extremely proactive in order to help their small business community survive the six-month stretch in 2018 during which Water Street, their Main Street, would be torn up.

The Main Street Program mobilized volunteers, community partners and business owners to create a multi-faceted communication and marketing strategy. Planning began a full year before the Water Street Enhancement Project broke ground by gathering input from business owners. Their requests included retail promotions, downtown greeters, a trivia game to generate foot traffic, a map and promotion of transit options. Between the City and a grant from First Federal Community Foundation, the team secured $60,000 to implement the plan that included the merchants’ ideas as well as print and online marketing, electric taxi rides free to the public, coupon books and reusable totes, historic walking tours, and more.

Yet another part of the Main Street Program’s strategic effort to support their businesses during construction was Port Townsend’s successful application to host our state conference, RevitalizeWA, which generated nearly $140,000 in local spending, a major boost during the peak of construction.

Whereas some businesses projected 40% profit loss during construction, the reality was that many businesses reported they were down only as much as 8% and some reported no losses at all during the six-month period. The district also saw four new business open and one business expansion during construction!

The campaign resulted in major relief to the small businesses and brought energy and optimism to the construction experience. Because of the new public spaces and streetscape some businesses are now reporting up to 20% increase in sales above preconstruction numbers. This was possible because people worked together to make the best of a challenging time – which has led to an even more beautiful downtown for all.

Excellence on Main Award

Kris Nelson

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2019

City: Port Townsend

Each year the Excellence on Main selection committee chooses one exceptional person or project that most embodies the Main Street spirit to receive our top award. If you tell Kris Nelson of Port Townsend that owning four successful restaurants, employing more than seventy people, giving generously to her community, and serving as a leader in her local Main Street program – all while being an avid traveler and Zumba instructor – makes her exceptional, she’d say, “I thought that’s just what people did.” Kris’s level of energy for and dedication to her downtown district is nothing short of extraordinary.

Let’s start with Kris as an entrepreneur and downtown property owner – she has owned Sirens Pub, a local institution, for 18 years and has seen growth each year. Her other restaurants – Alchemy Bistro and Wine BarThe Old Whiskey Mill, and her newest establishment, The In-Between – are all located in the heart of downtown Port Townsend.

As an employer, Kris cultivates her staff and pushes them to become entrepreneurs themselves, often serving as an informal adviser to them. Kris’s personal philosophy is “you are only as good as the people around you, and you should give them the opportunity to be their best.”

Kris has served for 11 years on the board of the Jefferson County Chamber and 6 years on the board of the Port Townsend Main Street Program, of which she is currently board president. Her past civic service has included leadership roles on city council, the planning commission, and the community foundation board. She is exceedingly generous with the profits from her businesses, supporting many festivals, organizations, and arts programs.

Kris has been instrumental in many of the Port Townsend Main Street Program’s initiatives over the last several years – from the Water Street construction project and bringing RevitalizeWA to town to chairing the team that oversees the downtown loan program and participating on the Creative Districts planning committee, and much more – Kris is continuously striving to make her community more prosperous and vibrant.

People sometimes say they are too busy to volunteer in service to their community; they may say “their plate is full.” Then there’s Kris. Port Townsend is fortunate to have her vision, energy, and community spirit light up their town.