Excellence on Main Award

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Main Street Through a Child’s Eyes

Awardee: Discovery Elementary School & Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2022

City: Gig Harbor

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

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

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

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

Excellence on Main Award

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Linda Haglund

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2022

City: Wenatchee

Linda Haglund has been the Executive Director of the Wenatchee Downtown Association since 2011. Her parents met, married, raised their family, and lived lives as community servants in Wenatchee. Linda is a culture-builder and, over more than a decade in Main Street, has contributed almost as much to the positive culture of the Washington State Main Street Program network as she has to the culture of her own beloved Main Street community in Wenatchee.

Linda boldly uses words like “family” and “heart” and “cheerleader” to refer to her work. She is the first one to say “welcome”, the first one to take someone under her wing, the first one to send a message out of the blue that lets you know that she sees you and appreciates you. Linda will tell you that she’s usually not the most qualified person at the table, and yet she’s moved absolute mountains through her expert abilities to highlight opportunities and convene the right players. She is the ultimate champion for her hometown, for her beloved small businesses, for her property owners, for her partners, for “Main Street family” near and far.

Linda’s mix of tenacity, encouragement, and unrelenting optimism have made her a critical leader and partner in her hometown as well as across the state. Her work reflects her beliefs – that everybody has gifts they can share, and that we make a difference one person at a time.

Excellence on Main Award

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Chesed Farms

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2022

City: Walla Walla

Chesed Farms is a farmers market vendor out of the Walla Walla who, in the three years they’ve been in business, has grown significantly while supporting the development and growth of other vendors.  Their slogan is “Persistent Local Food”, which describes their attitude and mission perfectly.

When Sundown Hazen and Jonathan Garrett started Chesed Farms, they only grew mushrooms.  They’ve since expanded their operation significantly, from a 110 square foot operation in a garage to a 4,000 square foot greenhouse.  Beginning with the two founders, they now employ 13 people.

In addition to being successful entrepreneurs themselves, Sundown and Jonathan uplift other entrepreneurs.  They partner with passionate and talented entrepreneurs ready to bring their products or services to market by providing support, mentorship, and infrastructure for these entrepreneurs to bring their dreams to life.

Chesed Farms’ impact is felt by everyone they touch. They take good care of their people, paying a living wage to their employees.  They take good care of our planet, minimizing the travel distance for local, healthy food and focusing on sustainability in all they do.  They support other entrepreneurs, both in big ways through their mentorship program and in small ways, when they help other vendors unload every week.

Within their “triple bottom line” approach to their work, Chesed Farms highlights something that will strike a chord for everyone who strives to build community: “We learn the names and life stories of our customers and build meaningful relationships…”

Chesed means loving kindness, and this value infuses every aspect of the work that Sundown, Jonathan, and their whole team do. They’re smart and talented entrepreneurs who believe in expanding responsibly, taking care of their staff and customers lovingly, and bringing love and kindness to everyone they interact with.

Excellence on Main Award

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Mary DesMarais

Award: Leadership on Main

Year: 2022

City: Gig Harbor

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

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

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

Excellence on Main Award

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Moonraker Books

Award: Legacy on Main

Year: 2022

City: Langley

Everyone can probably point to that most special place in their community—the place that you go back to when you visit your hometown, the place that some of your core memories are attached to, the place that feels like it is the downtown. A small business can be our sharpest connection to a place, especially when it has stood the test of time and embraced generations of community members. When its impact reaches outside its four walls.

Josh and Glenn Hauser opened Moonraker Books—which is named after the top square sail on a boat—on a shoestring budget in 1972. They fixed up a former thrift store on First Street in downtown Langley, and Glenn converted the upstairs loft into a second floor to accommodate twice as many books. Moonraker is a booklover’s dream shop. And, as any local would tell you, from the moment they opened their doors in that turquoise building, Langley was never the same.

It is clear just how much affection the community of Langley has for this magical business and—probably especially—for Josh herself. Just one example: Langley mayor and the city council declared June 2022 to be Josh Hauser Appreciation Month.

Josh is known as the welcome wagon, a small business mentor, a person of joy who doesn’t take things too seriously. She has built spontaneous social groups to work alongside other merchants, for the purpose of welcoming new people to town, and probably also just for fun. In so many ways, Josh lives up to her reputation of being “The Heart of Langley.”

A business can contribute to the economy, activate a storefront, and provide jobs for people. But a beautiful business—one that leaves a legacy—does those things while also serving as a launching off point, and a warm environment, for building community.

Excellence on Main Award

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Centralia Block Parties

Awardee: Centralia Downtown Association

Award: Organizational Excellence

Year: 2022

City: Centralia

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

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

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

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

Excellence on Main Award

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Ridgeline Lighting

Awardee: Downtown Camas Association

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2022

City: Camas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellence on Main Award

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Rotary Marketplace

Awardee: Downtown Association of Yakima, Yakima Rotary Clubs, and Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital

Award: Community Partnership

Year: 2022

City: Yakima

The Downtown Yakima Farmers Market, which is managed by the Downtown Association of Yakima (or “DAY”), has been growing and becoming a major fixture in the downtown – due greatly from a strong team effort led by market manager, Yvette Lippert – but it is held on a street with very little shade, and each week is a struggle with closing down the street, the scarcity of electricity and water, and the weather conditions. Then-Rotary President and longtime downtown advocate, John Baule, wanted the annual Rotary Project to focus on downtown. After conferring with DAY Executive Director, Andrew Holt, the decision was made to pursue a permanent home for the market with a meaningful structure that provided necessary resources and a sense of place.

The three local Rotary clubs approved the project, Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital approved leasing the property to DAY for $10 per year and allowing construction of the pavilion, and DAY agreed to manage and maintain the space once it was built. Many individual givers and local businesses also stepped up to support the pavilion. The total cost of the project is in the neighborhood of $1.4 million. John Baule was the leading fundraiser and the project manager who made this vision a reality.

Construction is anticipated to wrap up before the start of 2023’s market. When completed, a main pavilion comprised of brick and wood will face the street and right behind it will be a secondary pavilion with a tinted translucent covering. The two structures will provide 300 feet of shade with 80 individual stalls for vendors, equipped with electricity and water.

Yakima is an agriculturally based community with an abundance of small, independent family farms. Having a strong, vibrant farmers market is important to the community in assisting its economy and also furthering its identity. The pavilion will allow micro businesses a better chance to grow. Previously, a vendor might not attend because they could not provide their own power or lack of access to water, or they might not even have a tent. The pavilion will eliminate all of those obstacles, while also giving even more credibility to the ever-growing market as a vibrant weekly event as well as an economic driver. An additional benefit is that the pavilion will act as a public space for other community events.

A service club, a major employer, and the Main Street organization came together, each playing their necessary role, to fulfill a vision which makes the Downtown Yakima Farmers Market a fantastic example of community partnership.

Excellence on Main Award

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Geddis Building

Awardee: Real Works, LLC

Award: Bricks & Mortar Rehabilitation

Year: 2022

City: Ellensburg

The largest historic building in the Ellensburg Historic District, the Geddis Building’s rehabilitation is a testament to tenacity and downtown partnership.

Built in 1889, the two-story Geddis Building is the former home of the Vendome Hotel and a once-thriving retail hub in the downtown core. Over several decades in the late 1900s and into the 2000s, the 30,000 square foot building fell into disrepair. Located in the heart of downtown, the building’s condition resulted in an inability to attract tenants and, by extension, a major obstacle for the rest of the district’s progress. After extensive measures to encourage the then-owner to make necessary updates or put the building on the market, the City of Ellensburg, encouraged by a cadre of nonprofit and economic development partners, purchased the building in 2012 with the intent of transferring ownership back into the private sector.

When MJSS LLC purchased it from the City in 2015, they immediately got to work on repairing and stabilizing the building – a $400,000 project. They replaced the roof, ample plumbing, and dangerous electrical systems to restore the inside of the building to working condition. Commercial tenants moved into the building at this point and worked on their own improvements as well.

During the summer of 2020, the project continued with Pioneer Masonry repairing the façade and Architectural Elements replacing the historic midband cornice. That same summer, the second phase of the project began as MJSS spoke with the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation about their plans to convert the abandoned hotel on the second floor into 17 high-end apartments, with preservation as a priority and restored finishes from the original construction in 1889. Construction began in May 2021 with a $2.6 million loan from Cashmere Valley Bank.

The results of the ongoing rehabilitation speak for themselves: vacant store fronts at the street level have become thriving shops with increased foot traffic, opportunities for historic downtown apartments has renewed local interest in living within the historic district rather than simply visiting, and pride of place has led to street-wide beatification.

Excellence on Main Award

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Pandemic Economic Recovery Effort

Awardee: Olympia Downtown Alliance

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2022

City: Olympia

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

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

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

– Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design lighting projects

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

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

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

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

Excellence on Main Award

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#StevensonStrong Campaign

Awardee: Stevenson Downtown Association

Award: Outstanding Promotional Campaign

Year: 2022

City: Stevenson

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

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

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

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

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