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Parent group starts bond vote recount

Snoqualmie Valley VOTE ONLINE NOW

After one-vote failure at polls, citizens pay for hand tally BY CAROL LADWIG


Staff Reporter

‘Cat gymnasts claim sixth place spot, honors at state Page 9 Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Praying for the prosperity of all Valley businesses, an informal women’s circle meets with North Bend café owner Kyle Twede. From left are Terri Mattison, Samantha Van Nyhuis, Twede, Jo Anderson, and Karen Nelson.


Hopes, fears on main street

Students creating new Fall City mural with help from chalk master Page 6


Vol. 97, No. 40

Businesses, property owners say local support is needed to fill empty storefronts BY CAROL LADWIG AND SETH TRUSCOTT Valley Record Staff

Hands linked and heads bent, the group of women stood in a circle, unabashed despite the hubbub of morning diners at

Twede’s Cafe in North Bend. The four women came to pray for the success of Twede’s, and of every business in North Bend and the entire Snoqualmie Valley. “We love the Valley, and we want it to stay prosperous,” said Samantha Van Nyhuis. “We thought, what can people like us do for the community?” added Terri Mattison. The multi-denominational circle has

• This week, part one of a series on the recession’s local impact • Next week, see ways Valley businesses are finding success in a tough economy spent the past year visiting and praying for every business in North Bend.

Within hours of King County Elections certifying that the Snoqualmie Valley School District bond had failed, a recount was in the works. As of Thursday afternoon, Feb. 24, a group of local citizens had petitioned King County Elections for the recount, led by Snoqualmie parent Sean Sundwall. “Ten thousand people voted in this election and 59.99 percent of them were in favor of the bond,” Sundwall said. “Why not recount it? This is about making sure the count was correct.” Actual voter turnout was 9,980, with 5,972 voting in favor of the bond, and 3,983 voting against. In talking with King County Elections, Sundwall learned that the remaining 25 ballots had marks only for the North Bend fire station bond issue, and were not counted toward the school bond. If just one “no” vote was actually a “yes” vote that had been counted incorrectly, the bond would have the 60 percent approval needed to pass. “As a ‘yes’ voter, I hope we’re able to find a couple of mistakes in that favor,” said Sundwall.



More arrests for fewer dollars in new North Bend police contract Calls didn’t keep pace with city’s population growth BY CAROL LADWIG Staff Reporter

North Bend’s new contract for police services is financially reduced for 2011, but changes haven’t been reflected in

the department’s performance so far. Police Chief Mark Toner updated the North Bend City Council in February on the status of the police contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office. He said calls for service in the first six weeks of 2011 (161) are close to the level of 2008, before the city annexed the Tanner area.

“Our calls for service are only five above the 2008 numbers, and we’ve actually made more arrests this year,” Toner said. Comparing the call numbers to the population, Mayor Ken Hearing said that the department saw roughly a 20 percent increase in population with the 2009 annexation, but only a 3

percent increase in calls. “The contract is working for us, there’s not a reduction in service,” Toner said, at least not one visible to most people. The $1.3 million contract was reduced by about $80,000. SEE CONTRACT, 5


610 E. North Bend Way

North Bend



Café owner Kyle Twede welcomed the prayers, and with good cause. This winter, Twede closed his doors at the Chew Chew Cafe in Snoqualmie after a two-year run. He and his wife Kathy had high hopes when they leased the restaurant portion of the Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory from owners Wes and Sharon Sorstokke. “We got really excited about being on both sides of the train,” he said, “but nobody came in.” With reduced summer tourist traffic, Twede said both restaurants struggled. Challenges included the economy, a home-body customer base and taxes. “Another problem is empty buildings,” said Twede, gazing out his front window on North Bend Way.

Vacancy signs Two years into the recession, vacancy signs can be found on all Snoqualmie Valley cities’ main streets. In Snoqualmie, the downtown River-to-KingStreet block has four such signs, including the former Snoqualmie City Hall and the 3,500-square-foot former Mignone Interiors building. Out of 52 stores in Snoqualmie Ridge’s six-block commercial center, five storefronts are vacant. In Carnation, eight business spaces out of about 30 are empty; some have been vacant for years. One spot will soon be filled by a natural medicine clinic, and another, the big blue former NAPA building on Main Street, is in temporary use as a church. In Fall City, two spaces— the former Video Nites shop and the former tackle shop— are empty, out of an inventory of about a dozen storefronts in the downtown strip. The former owners of The River’s Edge gift store spent more than a year with an empty storefront before opening the Fall City Trading Post in its place a month ago. North Bend real estate broker and city councilman Dave Cook has tallied some 30 commercial vacancies in that city as of February, totaling more than 50,000 square feet. Cook counts vacancies annually in an effort to understand the local market. “I’ve never seen as much vacancy as we have right now,” he said. “That’s the worst I’ve seen in my 10 years doing real estate in North Bend.” While he does not believe North Bend is blighted as a result of the recession, he is concerned about what increased vacancies, unstopped, would

mean for the community. “People like the downtown block parties, the activities that the city is encouraging downtown,” Cook said. “If businesses aren’t doing well, they can’t provide the necessary donations for those activities. You’ll see that stuff dry up.” Tax dollars for road repairs and city services, as well as private donations to schools, foundations and charities will also stagnate. “It hurts the community as a whole,” Cook added. North Bend seems to enjoy an advantage over other cities in the size of its business base, which offsets property taxes. That makes the city more reliant on commerce. “We have a lot more businesses per se, a lot more retail than the cities around us,” said North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing. “Seventy percent of the city’s general fund comes from businesses.” He said the wealth of commerce has helped keep property taxes from rising. In Snoqualmie, vacancies are turning at a slow pace. “We haven’t gotten a lot of new tenants in town lately,” said Mike Kirkland, owner of Snoqualmie-based MK Properties. The city of Snoqualmie owns several buildings that need to be filled up, as well as vacant land in the historic district. “They’ve added four pieces of inventory,” Kirkland said. “It doesn’t hurt the inventory, but it would be nice if it leased up.” Besides the Chew Chew Cafe closure, this winter saw longtime Snoqualmie coffeehouse Isadora’s Cafe close its doors, and the departure of KoKo Beans’ prior owner. However, new owners quickly stepped in to fill the gaps at those three businesses. The Down to Earth flower shop also moved within the downtown corridor, filling a vacancy at the Sherman building. “I would say that we have done quite well through this time period,” Snoqualmie Economic Development Consultant Bob Cole said. “Trying to get that right blend between downtown and the Ridge, people getting used to what works best, where—we’re still going through a period of adjustments. Cole is optimistic about the Valley’s outlook a year from now. “We have some real success stories,” he said. “So much of it is optimism or pessimism. We understand that things are tough. It sure would be nice if people could try as much as possible to support local businesses.” Rental rates for commercial real estate follow the market, and there are different rates for different parts of a city.

“We understand that things are tough... people (should) try as much as possible to support local businesses.” Bob Cole, City of Snoqualmie Economic Consultant Prolonged vacancies mean that landlords aren’t meeting the market rate, Cook said. “Everything will rent at a price. It’s just a matter of, are landlords willing to drop it?” he said. “There is some reluctancy because of the economy, but I also sense a pent-up energy, from people who want to do something. I’ve met a couple of prospective tenants. They’re hemming and hawing.”

Rent reduction Over the last two years, Cook’s agency has negotiated a number of rent reductions between property owners and tenants. “It’s very common right now,” Cook said. “We’ll say, Mr. Landlord, you have a tenant that’s hurting. You have a choice. You can lower the rents down and help them survive, or you can sit on a vacancy.” Landlords may respond by lowering rents or negotiating compromises such as lease terms or improvements to the property. It’s usually in a property owner’s best interests to compromise—Cook said a paying tenant is always better than a vacancy. “They want to get through the recession as well, they have bills to pay, but the value of their property is dependent on a reliable cash flow from a tenant. They want their tenants to succeed,” he said. To Cook, success will follow success if more people shop locally. “It’s become an ignored slogan,” Cook said. “If I’m going to buy gas, I’m going to buy it in North Bend. If you’re hungry, we’ve got plenty of restaurants. “If people supported the local businesses in earnest... more business would want to move in to the vacant spaces here,” he said. “If businesses continue to falter, then no one is going to be attracted downtown. If people want their downtown to be vibrant, then they need to support it.”

Losing a tenant Wes and Sharon Sorstokke at the Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory love their shop—they bought it as soon as they saw it in 1996—but were also looking to try something new. Two years ago, they decided to focus on building their

wholesale business, and put the restaurant into the hands of experienced restauranteurs at Twede’s Cafe. Kathy Twede updated the menu, redecorated with a train theme, and re-branded the restaurant as the ChewChew Cafe. Meanwhile, the Sorstokkes “spent the last year and a half just on caramel corn, caramel corn, caramel corn,” said Sharon. They succeeded in expanding their distribution, but after a slow summer and a Main Street construction project that almost eliminated foot traffic to the café, they lost a tenant and found themselves in the restaurant business again. “That wasn’t the way we all wanted it to turn out, but the good news is I’ve always loved running the café,” Wes said. Since January, the couple’s main goal for the restaurant has simply been to net enough income to make up for the loss in rent. So far, it’s been doing that well, enough that Wes hasn’t really felt the loss of that particular tenant. However, he has three other tenants some struggling, one renting space on a month-to-month basis. As their landlord, Wes is doing what he can to help the struggling tenants, without undercutting himself. After all, he’s still doing business in this town. “I’m never going to close the doors,” he said. “That’s not an alternative for me because I own the building.” • Next week, our series on the recession’s impact on local main streets continues, with looks at ways Valley businesses are creatively keeping their doors open and building for success.

Faith in business Prayer circle of women on a mission to help every Valley business owner succeed By Carol Ladwig Staff Reporter

They don’t really have a name, but this ambitious group of seven ladies has a powerful mission: prayer, for anyone who needs it, but especially for local businesses. “We’re concerned for the Valley,” says group member Terri Mattison. “We live here, and we want to stay here, but we need it to be successful.” But how? “What can people like us do for the community?” Mattison asked. The answer was in the church, actually all of the community churches, which are represented by members of the prayer group. Mattison had already started one prayer group, the Fire Starters, but she was ready to join when Jo Anderson, Barb Duquette, Shelly Ebert, Merrily Gere, Karen Nelson and Samantha Van Nyhuis, started this group to pray for the prosperity of all Valley businesses. “All we said was ‘we want to pray for your prosperity,’” Mattison said. “We introduced ourselves first, of course,” puts in Nelson. The ladies try to meet with each business owner, to explain their mission. They usually get a positive response, and often, the owners join in the prayer. If a business is too busy or if the owner has some objection -- it’s only happened twice so far -- they pray outside. Although they don’t usually mention the word ‘God’ when they speak with the businesses, “We were out doing God’s work in the town,” said Van Nyhuis, who wears a “Need Prayer? Ask Me!” button wherever she goes. It took six ladies and more than a year of work, but the group recently met with and prayed for all the businesses in North Bend, then old town Snoqualmie and Fall City, 205 businesses total. They plan to do the same for Snoqualmie Ridge and Carnation. Mattison estimates the group will complete their visits by early summer, but said the group’s support through prayer will continue. Always busy, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” she said. Mattison said that the group is happy to pray for any business that wants it, and encourages them to call her at (425) 831-7031 to request a prayer.



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Bond fails in nailbiter recount

Snoqualmie Valley VOTE ONLINE NOW

Snoqualmie’s teen skier heats up the slope at nationals Page 11

Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Deli manager Joe Cvar, right, shows Snoqualmie Ridge IGA store manager Charlie McKissick a new product, a crumb pie ready-made for the market. The business has strived to enhance selection and learn from customers over the last two years.


Signposts to success

Hard work by young dancers ignites national competition Page 14


Vol. 97, No. 41

Thriving Valley businesses, community leaders broaden vision for prosperity BY CAROL LADWIG AND SETH TRUSCOTT Valley Record Staff

Charlie McKissick’s arm is getting tired. He’s been cradling a hand-made Apple Marionberry Crumb pie, and it’s getting heavier as he learns more about it. “This is really a phenomenal pie,” raves Joe Cvar, the deli manager for the Snoqualmie Ridge IGA. The pastry is from the Seattle Pie Company, and while a few stores in the Seattle area retail the pies frozen and ready to bake, “we’re the only ones who get them like this,” Cvar said. McKissick, the store manager, looks at the ingredients: flour, sugar, salt, fruit, and something called leaf lard. “It’s really premium lard,” Cvar

explains, “if you’re into lard,” which he is. The store “demo’ed” the pies two weeks ago and started carrying them last week. The addition represents the kind of changes that the store has made with great success since it opened in November, 2008. The new management worked to outgrow the reputation of the prior store that struggled in the same location by improving the selection and, most importantly, by finding out what customers wanted. “We had Hamburger Helper on the shelf that was getting out-dated,” said McKissick. “The long and the short of it is we needed to know our demographic base better.” He came on as manager in July 2009, and a year later, expanded and reorganized the display space and layout of the entire store to suit the clientele that he was getting to know. “I think our demographic... they’re better educated than our other loca-

• See how Valley businesses and cities are finding ways to grow and prosper in the final part of a series on the recession’s local impact

With the same results in a Tuesday, March 8, recount as in the February 8 election, the Snoqualmie Valley School District’s $56.2 million bond failed again by a single vote. The critical decision by the King County Elections Canvassing Board to reject changing two questioned ballots caused the bond to fail just one vote short of the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass. Because of the razor-thin margin, the Snoqualmie Valley School District board plans to bring the bond to voters again as soon as possible. “The board had a work session Saturday,” (March 5) said District SEE RECOUNT, 3

No vinyl in this town

tions, and they’re definitely more health conscious,” McKissick said. Traditional processed foods got less shelf space, organics got more. So did fresh produce, which outsold the meat department in volume—highly unusual— and wine. “Wine is a big chunk of this store’s business,” he said. The store has enjoyed continued growth even through the recession, which McKissick attributes partly to the adage that people always have to eat, partly to the store’s responsiveness to customers. “It’s a learning process,” he said, switching the pie to his other arm. “It always is.”

Vinyl siding on new homes is a thing of the past in North Bend, where city council members voted March 1 to prohibit the material. One council member voted against the ban, which was put in place for environmental and aesthetic reasons. “I disagree highly with this vinyl siding prohibition,” said Councilman Dee Williamson.



North Bend bans siding on new homes for green, scenic reasons BY CAROL LADWIG Staff Reporter


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Growth groundwork Every morning, North Bend empties out. A full 85 percent of residents commute to jobs outside the city. Changing that would be a big help to the business community, said Mayor Ken Hearing. “If we can keep those folks working closer to home,” he thinks, “our citizens would be able to live, work and play in the community.” And shop there, naturally. Carnation officials are thinking along the same lines, but while Hearing wants to attract businesses that pay living wages to North Bend residents who already have lots of businesses to support, Carnation City Manager Ken Carter hopes to attract local residents with a developer-friendly atmosphere first, then more businesses. Asked what the city’s business community needs, Carter’s immediate answer is “More population”—more people to share the cost of the city’s infrastructure means lower costs, and more disposable income, for all. “We are trying to support utilities and the sewer system on the backs of 200 or 300 customers,” Carter said. Carnation’s growth was stifled for decades because the city had no sewer system. Any

“If we’re going to have real growth, we’ve got to have someplace for people to stay.” Fritz Ribary, Executive Director Valley Chamber of Commerce recruitment and detailed information on doing business in the city. Estep said the city will compile a list of businesses “that have a character that will fit North Bend,” and target them with e-mailings directing them to the website. Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Directory Fritz Ribary applauds efforts by local cities to use the Web to entice businesses to locate here. “We’re all trying to make sure we’re on the same page,” he said. “North Bend and Snoqualmie are comparing notes to make sure they’re presenting a united front.” For outdoor attractions and activities, the Snoqualmie Valley has an embarrassment of riches. But when it comes to lodging options, “we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Ribary said. “If we’re ever going to have real economic growth, we’ve got to have someplace for people to stay,” said Ribary, who takes constant calls from prospective visitors looking for what he describes as quality hotels with capacity. He’s encouraged by potential lodging projects in North Bend, Snoqualmie and at the tribal casino. Community promotion has already proved a success

for both North Bend and Carnation, and both cities expect that to continue. Becker described several events the Carnation Chamber of Commerce is considering for this summer, as well as building on existing events like the Carnation 4th celebration and the August Evergreen Classic horse show. North Bend has created a specific marketing team just for branding the city, and they’ve built a full calendar of events including summer sporting events that are expected to draw more than 14,000 people. That, plus new favorites like the community Block Party, should lend some help to city businesses. “We got a lot of feedback from businesses that the Block Party was one of their best days,” said Estep, noting that the city is working to get to know its business community, and to find out what they think they need. Grumman’s country-store style shop has become something of a destination in the city, but she is still concerned for the other businesses, especially when she sees a longstanding shop like PK Variety Store close its doors, which happened in January. She’s seen firsthand the benefit of customers overflowing from one business to the next, and says she would like “just to get the empty storefronts filled.”

Keeping consistent

Factory. They’ve been operating in the city since 1996, have no plans to go anywhere else, and have no plans to change anything at the Candy Factory. “I thought it was the cutest place I’d ever seen,” said Wes. So the shop will continue selling ice cream, caramel corn, candies, and lunch fare in its old-fashioned soda shop style indefinitely, no matter what anyone says. “It is the same around here as it was 15 years ago, and I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with that,” said Sharon. She attributes their longevity to a combination of things, from a solid customer base of “our dear regulars and friends,” to their successful expansion of their wholesale

distribution in recent years, to external support. “The train depot and the Falls gift shop have been very kind to us, they send a lot of people here in the summers,” she said. Mainly, though, Sharon thinks it’s stubbornness on their part, and a commitment to doing business in Snoqualmie, because they own the building. “That’s kind of a doubleedged sword,” she said. They worry about the other storefronts that they’ve heard might be closing, and try to support other businesses when they can, including referring customers to the competing ice cream shop on Snoqualmie Ridge when they can’t find what they want downtown. “Everybody needs my help, and I need theirs,” Wes said.

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The grocery’s experience is far from unique. While economic challenges are real, many Valley businesses are thriving, learning and growing. Take IGA neighbor Finaghty’s Irish Pub: After opening its doors at the beginning of the recession, Finaghty’s expanded in 2009 and successfully celebrated its third year in business last month. In downtown Snoqualmie, the Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory continues its 20-year run, and nearby Gianfranco Ristorante Italiano celebrates a decade in business this spring. At the former Weyerhaueser mill site, DirtFish Rally School turned empty lots and land into a tourist-driving destination and is entering its second year of operations. Local citizens’ groups, chambers and city officials are watching such successes, and laying plans to make the entire Valley a more prosperous place to do business. Kim Arellano, president of the Snoqualmie Valley Women in Business professional group, said smart businesses are networking and getting involved in community organizations. “They’re being seen,” said Arellano, who pointed to North Bend Theatre owner Cindy Walker’s efforts to build customer loyalty, and Snoqualmie Valley Hospital’s expansion of long-term care services as examples of strong moves.

building had to have enough space for a septic tank and drainfield to support it, making both commercial and residential development prohibitively expensive. In July 2006, though, the city broke ground on its new sewer system. The council scrambled to amend downtown design guidelines before the system came online in 2008, bracing for the rush that didn’t come. “We had one business open, and then the economy tanked,” said Mayor Lee Grumman. Also a business-owner and long-time Carnation resident, Grumman sees one advantage in the continued delay of the city’s anticipated explosion. “We are in the process of saying what is appropriate for development in Carnation,” she said. To Collienne Becker, Carnation Chamber of Commerce President, appropriate developments will match the character of the city. “If a chain did come in, it should look like Carnation. On the outside, I would want it to be very rural, like it’s been there forever,” she explained. In North Bend, a similar process is underway, headed up by Community and Economic Development Director Gina Estep. She said the city’s approach to business has taken two paths, one focused on business recruitment, the other focused on community promotion. “The business recruitment aspect is a little bit of a challenge,” she said, even with North Bend’s advantageous location on I-90. However, by May, the city’s new business website should be live, including a section just for business


Success FROM 1


4 • March 9, 2011 • Snoqualmie Valley Record

Main street hopes and fears/signposts to success  

Series explores several comunities' challenging downtown environment and looks for signs of success