Archive | May, 2010

Underpinnings is open; Kaiser takes key Chamber job; holiday sales … off?

31 May

Seems like only yesterday that I had poked my nose inside the space at SE Third and Oak, where Brooke Pauley was knee-deep in build-out for her new lingerie store, Underpinnings. Time flies, and while driving by today, I noticed that she’s open. Haven’t been inside yet, but nice signage. Look for a more detailed tour later …

After a long hiring process, the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce has extended an offer to Tracy Kaiser to take on the role of business services coordinator. In this half-time contract position, Kaiser will support a variety of Chamber functions. Her primary role, however, will be to work with the Downtown Hood River business community, helping it with promotions and events such as First Friday and Hops Fest. Kaiser was formerly vice president of merchandising at The Fruit Company, until the recession put an end to that. In addition, she is launching a business assembling gift packs for wholesale to major retailers. She starts work with the Chamber on Tuesday, taking over from Stu Watson (yours truly), who resigned in February after two years in that position, to focus on helping business with a variety of communications needs. Kaiser is a bright light, and will be a great addition to the Chamber and downtown. Welcome, Tracy. …

Drive-by observation by one downtown merchant on Sunday. Lots of people wandering around downtown, but he had noticed that very few of them were carrying bags (i.e. a sign of having purchased nothing more than lattes to go). After the Memorial Day dust settles, the Buzz will poll the business community to gauge the business pulse — if there is one, that is.

Reminder: If you own or operate a business downtown, or are just interested in what’s going on, you may want to attend the monthly board meeting of the Downtown Business Council. 8 a.m. Wednesday, at the Hood River Library meeting room (its customary meeting spot, but the last time the group will meet there, until further notice). Any and all are welcome.

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Oh, yeah, baby, Cerulean brings more wine tasting downtown

29 May

This is fun. We’ve got four wine tasting rooms downtown, serving five wines. And by First Friday (June 4), we should have a fifth wine tasting room, right across the courtyard from Doppio.

Pat Graham and Jeff Miller, partners behind the new Cerulean Wines label, have leased about 600 square feet from Brad Perron, owner of the Wells Fargo Bank building at 3rd and Oak — also home to Columbia Gorge Title and Zella Shoes.

They were hoping to get open by this (Memorial Day) weekend, but you know how that goes. They’re hauling home refrigeration and working to build a bar and dial in the decor details.

Sip on in for a taste on your First Friday travels.

Encore Video will head north to spot near Rosauers

29 May

Fresh word from Stephen Ford of Current Commercial that he has inked a deal to site Encore Video — Hood River’s only remaining four-wall video store — in the space formerly home to the Apparel Express.

Owners Sheryl and Alan Herman are shooting for a July 1 opening in the new space. It all hinges on the usual — paint, carpets, moving.

Sheryl tells me she’s got a cool plan to help it happen. They’ll be moving in bits and pieces up to the actual transfer date. But a couple of days before the final move, she’ll roll out a 50% off sale. Can you see where this is going?

“50% OFF! OMG, I’m so there!”

That’s what she’s hoping people think. They come in, walk out with troves of videos, and when they bring them back, it’s to a new store. Voila, the customers have helped move half their pile.

Sharp idea, actually. She’s got a good entrepreneurial streak, compared to the former bozos at Movie Gallery. Coffee and tea and cotton candy for browsers. A deep collection of archival video — old TV shows, classic movies, sports and cartoons. And two of my favorites, a really rich collection of foreign films, and documentaries.

I’ll admit to using Netflix. But I also have the occasional itch to just go in and browse, and not have to wait for the mail. When that mood moves me to Encore, I always come out with something. How many times did I go into Movie Gallery, browse the walls, and leave, disgusted that all I could fine were straight-to-DVD slasher films?

Sheryl says they want to compete on customer service, variety and product quality.

“If you can do that, you can get loyalty,” she says. “A lot of people are forgetting that your customers aren’t an interruption of your day, but the reason you’re there.”

Keep an eye out for 50% off, and help Encore move.

Views from afar, Farmer’s Market returns, recipe-to-product workshop

28 May

After her visit to town May 22, rural tourism marketing consultant Joanne Steele shares her thoughts about Hood River. …

Gorge Grown Food Network’s 2010 Farmers’ Market series debuts on Thursday, June 3, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Hood River Middle School. In addition to early spring veggies, plan to munch fruit pies, spring rolls, tamales … well, just come and explore. Admission is free — food is extra (that’s the point). GGFN is doing a cool thing this year — offering $10 fresh food certificates. It’s a great way for businesses to comp their employees for top performance, and aim the dollars at local producers of healthful foods. Think of it as low-cost health insurance. Get’m at the Farmers’ Market …

On a related note, we’re surrounded by food. If you’ve ever dreamed of building a business around food (but don’t want to start a restaurant), you may want to attend a workshop June 5, titled “Getting Your Recipe to Market: An Introduction to Value-Added Food Biz. It’s $95 and promises rich rewards. Details here. …

The Next Door will consolidate services in space formerly home to Encore Video

27 May

Did you hear the one about The Next Door Inc., our favorite umbrella social service agency, with offices and services scattered across three locations in Hood River, and desperately in need of some centralization and all the efficiencies that a walk down the hall or a head in the door can bring to really important work?

If you were at the Hood River Lions meeting Tuesday, or the Rotary Club meeting last week, you heard that The Next Door Inc. has agreed to purchase the building where Encore Video has been for years.

Janet Hamada, executive director of the agency that provides foster care, operates the Klahre House alternative school, runs New Parent Services, Families First and the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs (among many others), writes a great blog that touches on all the different ways Next Door programs and staff people touch our lives.

She says the purchase of the building will allow The Next Door Inc. to bring all its programs under one 12,000-square-foot roof. Currently, it’s using about 10,000 square feet in three sites.

“We’ve been trying to do this for 10 years, and have had two dozen starts and stops along the way,” she says. “This is a wonderful opportunity.”

The Next Door Inc. plans an open house in mid-July. Toward the end of June, it will launch a capital campaign to help secure the purchase.

No Grand Central; owners plan something very similar for Heights location

27 May

This post offers a bit of a clarification, a bit closer to the source, about plans for a new bakery on the Heights at the corner of Pine and 12th, where Ernie’s Lock & Key used to be.

Billy Sullivan is tearing down the former service station there, and plans to build two 4,000-square-foot buildings there. He mentioned when we spoke last week that Grand Central Bakery would be opening a store there.

Not really. But close. The family behind the original Grand Central has very strong interest in opening a similar style bakery, under a different name, at that location. So says Megan Davis of Hood River, daughter of Gwen Bassetti, founder of The Bakery in Seattle, which was followed in 1989 by the Grand Central brand.

Megan Davis says she would be the operating manager of the Hood River bakery. It has no name yet, but they’ve considered calling it The Bakery, in homage to Mom’s original effort back in 1973. She and siblings Ben, Piper and Sam, plus their mother, have talked about collectively launching the Hood River shop.

“We don’t plan on having a hearth oven,” Davis says. “It’s expensive, requires a lot of volume, and takes up a lot of space. We don’t plan to do artisan breads. It will be handmade breads, the kind you bake in pans. It’ll be more of a cafe, with rustic pastries. As my sister calls it, ‘the rustic veil.’ In other words, no eclairs.”

How soon? Hard to say. Much depends on the family’s ability to work through concerns related to the city’s development code, and its requirements for employee parking spaces, or fees in lieu of actual spaces so the city could develop the parking. It’s been a barrier to redevelopment of Bob Carnahan’s Waucoma Hotel building at 2nd and Cascade, and Pasquale Barone’s Union Building on Industrial Street.

Based on recent meetings with city officials, Davis is optimistic that the project will happen. She’s excited, too, to be part of the neighborhood, and helping bring some new energy to the Heights.

Testing our waters, visitors like the temperature

26 May

People are talking about the cool things they’ve found in the Hood. Take the author Make Me Some Pie blog, who reviews and rates the pie at Packer Orchards. Or travel writer David Molyneaux, who recently visited Hood River at the invitation of the Hood River Hotel (after a conference of fellow editors in Portland). He liked what he found. And what he ate. … Speaking of which, people routinely say such nice things about the place we call home, it’s easy to miss the occasional accolade. It was just yesterday that I stumbled across a cool listing compiled by the National Geographic Traveler. They rated the top 133 travel destinations around the world. We’re No. 6! We’re No. 6! Seriously, they picked the Columbia River Gorge of Washington and Oregon as the sixth best. We tied, actually, with the Bavarian Alps, Germany; Yorkshire Dales, England, United Kingdom; Scottish Highlands, United Kingdom; and Torres del Paine, Chile. Only one U.S. destination ranked higher than Hood River. Vermont came in one point up the scale. … Finally got to dip my fork in at the Thai House, up on the Heights. Good stuff. I like that when you ask for some “heat,” they bring the heat. Spice, that is. Some elements of our meal could’ve used a bit more temperature. Prices are pretty darn low. Sustainable? Well, for their sake, I hope so. Don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that overhead costs are a bit lower on the Heights than at some other Hood addresses. Anyway, a good addition to the local dining scene. Love the serendipity — one of the staff is a great young man, Toby Morus, whose dad owns Phelps Creek Vineyard. They’ve just secured their liquor license, and Toby was saying Phelps Creek may be one of the first wines on the list. Which? We nominate the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay, 92 points in Wine Enthusiast.