Archive | April, 2010

Still empty, but not for long? We’ll see

30 Apr

Empty storefronts are like an ice hockey smile: You don’t see the teeth; you see the gaps.

People keep asking me, “Is there anybody going into … (insert name of empty space).”

So I asked. The answer? Yes, perhaps and not yet.

North Cheatham has no takers yet for the Paris Fair Building.

Stephen Ford of Current Commercial is guardedly optimistic he’ll have tenants in two prominent spaces under his leasing management — one next to Rosauers in the Hood River Shopping Center on the Heights, and the other in the Franz Hardware Building at 2nd and Oak downtown — what many now refer to as the Discover Bicycles store. He’s hoping to have deals firmed up next week.

And I think I mentioned that Tom Wood says he’s close on a tenant for the former Plush store.

Which leaves Doug’s. Store manager Lori Duffy has been trying to negotiate a deal to buy the store from Doug Campbell, Mark Mason and Stephanie Warren. She tells me today that she’s been working with CenterPointe Bank on loan details, and is optimistic. And a realist.

Originally, the owners had planned to shut Doug’s down in October if a buyer couldn’t be found. Duffy says that plan has changed. Whether she buys it or not, Campbell plans to keep Doug’s open. He would buy out his partners and move ahead as sole owner.

Duffy says the partners are two years into a 10-year lease, so closing down wouldn’t negate that obligation. Best choice? Keep’r going. In which case, Duffy says, she would stay on as manager.

“No matter what, Doug’s is here to stay,” she says.

That’s the best news of all. We didn’t need that corner with an ice hockey smile.

Ballot measure would limit size of county wind project

28 Apr

Did you see that big story in the local paper the other day?

Which one?

The one about the ballot measure that a local group hopes to file? The one to limit Hood River County from using its resources — county land, or funds — to support siting or construction of wind turbines over 150 feet tall, as measured from the base to the tip of a blade at full vertical extension?

Oh, you didn’t see it? Because … it hasn’t been in the paper yet?

The request for approval to gather signatures in support of the ballot measure was filed with the county elections office. They said it was constitutional, and sent it to the District Attorney’s office, which crafted the appropriate language and send it back to county elections supervisor Kim Kean.

It now awaits any challenges. Deadline for those is April 29. If none are received, organizers of the initiative effort can begin gathering signatures. They would need to get enough by June 23 to put the measure on the Sept. 21 ballot.

Here’s where to learn about what the county is considering. Here’s the site of a group that doesn’t like the idea.

Full disclosure: I do some public information work for the county, so I share this only because it’s interesting. And because you may not find out about it otherwise.

Office complex across from Walgreen’s would host medical clinic

28 Apr

They’re doing the due — diligence, that is — which means the fat lady ain’t singin’. But if you hear an aria erupt, you’ll know that Stephen Ford and Andy von Flotow have secured a deal that could bring a medical clinic and other office space to the Heights.

Ford is a partner in Current Commercial. Von Flotow owns Hood Technology. Ford says a Portland developer hopes to put a 30,000-square-foot medical office building and related parking on the property just north of the former Ford dealership and just east of the Columbia Gorge Community College Indian Creek Campus on Tucker Road.

The property most recently got a close look from the city of Hood River and the college as a site for a possible fire station and classroom flex space. Limits on the use of funds prevented pursuit of that plan.

“The project would be anchored by an established Portland medical tenant taking approximately 10,000 sf with several other smaller medical and professional office tenant prospects in play,” Ford says.

The developers are still looking under the hood and kicking tires (apt metaphor, no?), but Ford says it’s looking positive.

The financing model is interesting. If it happens, tenants could buy shares of the limited liability company that will own the building. A professional property manager would handle leasing and maintenance.

“This will be the only class A office space with parking available in Hood River,” Ford notes.

The developers meet with the potential major tenant next week, in hopes of firming things up and moving ahead.

Partners in Etoile pull out, but Greenwald is a survivor. Want a job?

26 Apr

Man, talk about snake-bit. The space formerly occupied by Panzanella and formerly coveted by Michael Eggebrecht and most recently reported (here) to be moving steadily toward opening as Etoile Artisan Bakery under the partnership of Feliza Greenwald and Paula and Olivier Bock … has hit a hitch.

The Bocks, bringing the most extensive culinary history to the table, pulled out last week. Less than a month away from opening, Greenwald was stunned.

But she was smiling through the shock on Sunday (4/25), when she told me she has hired an experienced bread baker (Jesse) from Grand Central Baking in Portland, and is close to hiring a pastry person to deliver the sweets. Friends have rallied to her support, and she still  hopes to open by May 15.

She is hiring: She needs a full-time counter person, to set up and help customers for breakfast and lunch. Food service experience would be helpful. A smile and a work ethic would go a long way, too. Interested? Call Feliza at 541-490-9216.

Basket scrapings from the Buzz Bin of History …

22 Apr

Attorney Brent Foster, late of Columbia Riverkeeper and now most recently late of the Oregon Attorney General’s office, lost his job because he apparently got a little too close to evidence gathering against David Ryan’s Hood River Juice. Details here … Any word on who might occupy the space formerly home to Plush? Spoke with building co-owner Tom Wood Wednesday afternoon, and he says he’s close on a possible tenant. “Should know within a week,” he says. Without naming names, he said it would be an expansion for an existing Gorge business. G’luck, mate … Brian Shortt, the Energizer Bunny of Shortt Supply, has been AWL (absent WITH leave) lately. Why dat? He scored a gig right up his past life — managing a bunch of marinas, including River Place and some houseboat moorings, in PDX. Brian, in case you didn’t know, once was E.D. at Port of Klickitat in Bingen and held a similar post up in Anacortes, Wash. … In case you missed it, Sue Collins has set up a satellite travel information office inside Cascade Travel at 509 Cascade. With the blessing of the Chamber, she is renting out space for rack cards and other materials that foot-loose tourists might want to peruse. Call her at 541-386-6800 to get yours … It’s a bit early to share details, but I can say that a certain local winemaker who owns a certain close-in vineyard property is considering a certain plan to place a tasting room at that site. Let me see, four tasting rooms downtown to serve five wines, Franco Marchessi’s vineyard/winery/tasting room out on Belmont, and soon something new at a certain freeway-close location? We’re not Napa North yet, but give us a couple of months … Through the outreach efforts of the Hood River Hotel’s marketing department, travel writer David Molyneaux will be visiting Hood River on May 17-18. He’s a print freelancer and blogger, with an emphasis on cruises. Hey, Hood River is just like a cruise liner … only different … Want to own a bagel biz? Hood River Bagel Company owners Aaron and Shannon Bray are looking to sell. Business only. Price? $179,000. … Ain’t sexy, but it may be just what you want. Buildings, of a light industrial nature, with property, south of town. One. Two. Three. Operators are standing by.

So long Dixie’s, hello Thai House

22 Apr

Here’s the latest on what was Dixie’s Southern Grub, and as of May 8 will be known as Thai House.

I finally hooked up with Jess Miller to learn more about the decision to sell Dixie’s Southern Grub. She and husband Kyle opened it in early 2006. Four-plus years and two children later — an eternity in restaurant time — they started craving more family time, more normalcy, benefits like regular hours, health insurance, evenings together and not at a restaurant.

Earlier this year, Kyle started commuting to Portland for sales training with Food Services of America. And they went looking for a buyer, which they found in Annie and Lone Keopaseuth. They closed the deal, cleaned things up and handed over the keys to the new owners on Monday April 19.

Kyle hasn’t been assigned a territory yet, so isn’t sure if commuting from Hood River will work, or whether the family may need to move closer to his work.

It’s been a tough transition, Kyle working in Portland five days a week, coming home to the Dixie’s kitchen on weekends. Jess was still putting in 30 to 35 hours a week, plus the work of raising two young children. “It’s just so nice to have Kyle home at night,” Jess said. “I’m not sad about selling the restaurant, but I am sad about not seeing our staff and all our wonderful customers.”

Annie Keopaseuth spoke with me about her plans. She and Lone, a longtime employee at Dakine, married five years ago. She is a native of Laos, which has similar cuisine to Thailand’s — lots of fresh vegetables, rich flavors from such ingredients as coconut milk, chiles, basil, mint and peanuts.

Annie knew how to cook, but she’s been brushing up her restaurant chops — with an uncle, who owns three Thai restaurants in Arkansas, and an aunt in Portland, who cooked in Thai restaurants for 15 years. “All the recipes are from her,” Annie says.

Sons James and Jesse will help run things. Before opening, the Keopaseuths plan to bless the Thai House with a Tuk Bard Party. Monks from their Buddhist temple in Portland will visit and conduct the blessing ceremony.

And on May 8, Thai food joins a dining zone that has been pretty heavily weighted toward Mexican food. Yum.

Want to give back to the Earth? Offset impacts with carbon credits

17 Apr

Kudos to Mary Pellegrini at the Old Parkdale Inn, for jumping on the bandwagon to offset her carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. It’s a great and simple way to address the impact of business activities — any activities, for that matter — on the environment. Every time we move, buy, toot and fly, we’re contributing. You can buy the Blue Sky program through Pacific Power as one option. If you can’t do that, you can buy Green Tags from BEF.

Mt. Hood Meadows started doing it — and encouraging its guests to offset their own driving impacts — back in 2002. A few years later, I ran into a guy name of Brian Mullis, who operates Sustainable Travel International in White Salmon. The company helps other companies in the leisure space offset the impacts of their business by purchasing carbon offsets. He helped link Pellegrini and BEF, so she could purchase Mini-Green Tags. Check it out.