They’re not just blowing smoke
It’s not the aroma or taste that draws Andrew Newell to a good cigar. It’s the ritual.
“It’s enforced relaxation,” said the 25-year-old stogie smoker, lifting an unwrapped cigar from a fancy box of Alec Bradley blends in the Sticks House of Cigars humidor room.
“You trim the end, light it up, and puff away,” he said. “You set aside a certain amount of time to just sit, smoke, relax and watch the world go by.”
Newell, along with a growing number of local cigar enthusiasts, can now watch the world go by from the smoking patio at Sticks, a seven-month-old cigar emporium that offers clubhouse-style amenities to the puffing public.
Owner David Whitman’s upscale store features more than 200 types of cigars along with “a little bit of educating and a lot of socializing” to become a local hub for the popular trend’s curious and connoisseurs.
Sticks presents an open floorplan furnished with easy chairs, flat-screen TVs, a pool table and even a snack counter (free pretzels and popcorn) all surrounding what Whitman says is the Wenatchee Valley’s largest commercial humidor — a 12-by-12-foot wood-and-stone controlled-atmosphere room filled with fine cigars and their rich aromas.
Whitman emphasizes that his store isn’t a cigar lounge — by state law, no smoking is allowed inside the building — but more of a casual hangout for Sticks’ customers to talk sports or politics, or swap cigar recommendations.
“A love of cigars can connect people,” said Whitman, who claimed stogie lovers seem to share a thoughtful, relaxed and open approach to life. “As one local judge told me the other day, ‘I’ve never met a cigar smoker I didn’t like.’”
Cigar fans at Sticks include not only judges, Whitman added, but area law officers, paramedics, firemen and scores of business owners and managers. “And golfers,” he chuckled. “Playing golf offers the perfect environment for enjoying a cigar — you’re outdoors, enjoying your friends, with enough downtime to light up and smoke.”
To puff communally at Sticks, customers gather outside under a heated, 20-by-20-foot tent located on the adjacent smoking patio. Tables and chairs have been set up, and ashtrays, lighters and trimmers are available.
“Aside from the humidor,” said Whitman, “the patio is the most important part of our business. It’s where lots of customers — both men and women — can light up and relax. On busy evenings after work, this is definitely the place to be for cigar smokers.”
Whitman, 53, a Wenatchee native, developed a serious interest in cigars only seven years ago. “It’s not a lifelong obsession or anything like that,” he said. “Some buddies took me to a cigar lounge in Scottsdale (Ariz.), and I realized, yes, this is a good thing, something I could learn to like a lot.”
Accounting firm to hold free tax seminar
Augustedge, a Wenatchee accounting and financial services firm, will offer a free seminar this month on tax changes for businesses in 2013.
The workshop will start at 5 p.m. Jan. 15 at Augustedge’s office, 521 S. Chelan Ave., Suite B.
Topics will include the planned tax changes, effects on varied business sectors, planning opportunities and a malpractice insurance update.
The workshop is part of Augustedge’s winter series of business seminars, including ones on succession planning (Feb. 12) and practical performance tools (March 12).
To register, call 494-8500 or visit august-edge.com.
Scam alert: Local businesses receive fake forms
An East Wenatchee business owner recently fell prey to a month-old mail scam that cost her $125, the Better Business Bureau reported.
The business owner, who declined to be named or interviewed, sent information about her business and a $125 “filing fee” to a company that had mailed her fake corporate records forms that look like state-required documents, said BBB spokeswoman Chelsea Dannen.
The BBB has received multiple calls regarding the scam, she said.
Olympia-based Corporate Records Service has sent mailings to companies across the state requesting they fill out a “2012 Annual Minutes Records Form” and pay the fee, said Dannen. The envelope states the enclosed form is not a government document, although the document mimics one.
In November, the Washington Secretary of State issued a consumer alert that “annual minutes” are not required to be filed with the state, and that the company issuing the fake forms are not connected to Secretary of State’s office.
The Better Business Bureau has recommended that any business receiving the Corporate Records Service notice report the scam to the BBB at (509) 455-4200 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local grocery joins IGA stores
Owners of the city’s largest grocery store announced last month that it’ll soon have IGA as part of its name and product lines.
Store owner Phil Blackburn said Martin’s Market Place has joined the Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA) and has begun rebranding the store as Martin’s Market Fresh IGA.
The change means the store is sporting IGA’s red oval logo and begun carrying IGA private label products. Shoppers will also be able to use IGA’s website to grab coupons, view online weekly ads and find recipes.
Martin’s Market, located at 130 Titchenal Way, is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. IGA is the world’s largest group of independent grocers. It has more than 5,000 members with a total of $29 billion in annual sales.
Stemilt earns power conservation award
A 30-percent drop in local energy use over the last two years by Stemilt Growers has earned the fruit company a governor’s power conservation award.
Gov. Chris Gregoire presented Stemilt with the Leadership in Energy Performance Award during ceremonies last month at the state capitol in Olympia.
Stemilt, one of the nation’s largest fruit companies, earned the recognition by reducing energy consumption by 30 percent at its packing facility here in Olds Station, where power use goes mostly for industrial refrigeration and controlled atmosphere equipment.
The fruit company improved efficiency at the plant by reducing the speed of their refrigeration fans and installing carbon dioxide scrubbers to gain better control of atmosphere in fruit storage rooms.
Together, these improvements helped Stemilt save nearly 8.8 million kilowatt hours per year, equal to $167,000 in annual energy costs. That’s enough to power 400 homes in Chelan County, according to a fruit company press release.
The conservation projects, costing about $1 million, were made possible partially through power rebate programs from the Chelan County PUD and $50,000 in funding from Washington State University.
The energy award was part of the Washington Industrial Energy Leaders program to honor exceptional energy efficiency by state industries.
Stemilt was also recently named to Washington’s Green 50 list by Seattle Business Magazine. This was the fifth straight year Stemilt has been named to the list for the company’s sustainable ag practices and social responsibility efforts.
Smith is Tree Top’s new big apple
Randy Smith, Chelan County PUD commissioner and Cashmere orchardist, was named in November as chairman of the board of Tree Top Inc., one of the state’s largest privately owned companies and the world’s leading producer of dried apple ingredients
Since 1975, Smith has grown apples, pears and cherries on 125 acres near Cashmere. He’s a former Cashmere school board member and past chairman of the Washington State Horticultural Association, the Washington Growers Clearing House and the Washington Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation. He’s been a PUD commissioner since 2007.
Tree Top was founded in 1960 and is owned by more than 1,100 apple and pear growers in Washington, Oregon and California. The cooperative operates eight facilities and employs more than 1,000 people.
Other changes to the Tree Top board included the election of Alan Groff, Wenatchee, as a new board member; the election of Jim Divis, Brewster, as secretary-treasurer; and the re-election of board member Tom Auvil, Wenatchee, to serve till 2015.
Stores distill liquor sales down to service, selection
Remember liquor stores? They’re still in business and selling truckloads of booze even as big-box retailers battle for liquor-loving customers here and across the state.
“We never went away,” said Ted Eaton, general manager of Good Spirits, a former state-owned outlet in Wenatchee. “But now we try harder — more inventory, more service, more surprises.”
He hefted a quart-sized canning jar of cherry-flavored firewater. “When’s the last time you tasted moonshine?”
Six months after privatization of state liquor sales, stand-alone stores have uncorked a stream of customer incentives to attract shoppers who now buy — for convenience and price — from liquor aisles at Costco, Fred Meyer, Walmart, Albertson’s and other regional and national chain stores.
Small-store efforts follow a shakeup in the state’s liquor landscape after last year’s passage of Initiative 1183, which privatized state liquor sales and dismantled controls that have been in place since Prohibition. Soon after, an auction of 167 state-owned stores, including four in North Central Washington, put ownership of the state outlets into private hands. Many of the region’s 22 contract stores also braced for the changes to come.
The new liquor law took effect June 1, and major retailers expanded inventories to devote large amounts of floor space to liquor.
Since then, owners of perhaps as many as 20 stand-alone stores in NCW have begun transforming their smaller outlets into “one-stop beverage shops,” said Eaton, “that offer four times the selection and 10 times the personal service.”
Eaton said Good Spirits stocks about 1,300 choices — types, brands, flavors, sizes and prices — of liquors, liqueurs, wines, beers, specialty drinks and mixers. Nationwide, big-box retailers typically carry from 200 to 500 liquor choices, according to the online industry newsletter BeverageMedia.com.
The expansion means Good Spirits has four six-shelf bays of just rum, five similar bays of tequila and upwards of 10 six-shelf bays of vodka. Bottle size and prices range from about $2.75 for a mini-bottle (1.5 ounces) to $380 or more per bottle of premium whiskeys and scotches.
Also, many of the area stand-alones have dramatically increased stock of local wines, beers and liquors, said Eaton. He pointed to two twin-level display tables of only local wines — dozens of Chelan, Wenatchee and Columbia Valley labels — and said that number would likely double in coming months.
At East Wenatchee’s Liquor Barn, owner Paramjit Malhi, known to his customers as PJ, said add-on items such as cigars, cigarettes, soft drinks and mixers are crucial to making a profit Typically, he said, Liquor Barn prices are a few dollars higher than Costco or Fred Meyer. “But in return we offer convenience, selection and expert advice.”
Julie Ganas, owner of Leavenworth Spirits, agreed that variety is the key to compete against larger liquor sellers. In May, she moved her store to a much more visible location on Highway 2 and expanded inventory — “tripled wine selection, quadrupled beer” — to give customers less reason to head down the road to Safeway.
She also brought in hard-to-find items — for instance, DeKuyper Crave Chocolate Chili Liqueur — expanded the store’s cigar selection and added other tobacco products. And she snapped up several brands of schnapps. “After all, this is a German town.”
“For all of us small stores, it’s been a rocky changeover (to privatization),” said Malhi. “It was more stressful than I could have imagined.”
He looked around his well-stocked store. “But the worst is past. We’ve got loyal customers who know we offer service and selection they can’t get anywhere else. We’re forming almost personal relationships with our customers — their likes, their dislikes — and that’s the way it should be.”
Healthcare interpreter makes top 100 list
InDemand Interpreting, a video interpreting company for the healthcare industry, has been named to this year’s Puget Sound Business Journal’s list of 100 fastest growing companies in Washington. The Wenatchee-based company was ranked 13th on the list.
“Small businesses, like the ones on this list, are the primary engine for job creation,” said InDemand CEO Daniel Prestani.
Founded in 2007, InDemand helps healthcare organizations around the world improve patient care by staffing their call centers with medical interpreters, both spoken and in sign language.
Hort Day looking for vendors
Organizers of Lake Chelan Horticulture Day have issued a call for vendors to participate in the event’s trade show.
The annual hort day is set for Jan. 21 at the Chelan Performing Arts Center with the trade show running from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.
The show, hosted by the Chelan FFA Alumni, features businesses and organizations that provide products and services to producers in the tree fruit and wine industries, said Chelan FFA Secretary Rod Cool.
Spaces are available inside and outside the venue, and booths cost $125. For more info, call Cool, 470-0360, or Treasurer Rick Hanson, 682-5639.
Ryan Patrick Vineyards hires brand manager
A 30-year veteran of the wine industry has been hired here by Ryan Patrick Vineyards to increase the winery’s brand awareness and develop new markets.
As the vineyard’s national brand manager, Clay Kriss, formerly of Beringer Wine Estates and TGIC Importers in Seattle, will mostly focus on establishing goals with regional distributors and working with larger individual accounts and chain-store buyers across the country.
“We’re thrilled with the experience Clay brings to our vineyard and look forward to seeing what he can do for us,” said Terry Flanagan, founder of Ryan Patrick.
Originally from Ohio, Kriss now lives in Issaquah with his wife, Linda, and two dogs.
Smoke didn’t stop buyers in September
Wildfire smoke in September choked local skies, interrupted sports and robbed the area of a month of autumn. But it didn’t stop us from spending.
September sales tax receipts in Wenatchee posted a 5.64 percent increase over the same month last year, according to numbers released last month by the state Department of Revenue.
September’s haul was the second highest monthly sales tax total for the year. It came as a complete surprise to city officials and local business leaders, many of whom expected a smoke-fueled drop in tax revenues by up to 40 or 50 percent.
“Why’s September so high? Who knows?” said Allison Williams, the city’s executive services director. “We’re guessing that maybe the huge number of firefighters in the area could have contributed to sales of food and supplies. Or maybe, by comparison, sales last September (in 2011) were just really lousy for some reason.”
The state Department of Natural Resources estimated daily costs of fighting the 56,000-acre Wenatchee Complex fire at about $1.2 million a day. The price tag for battling Central Washington’s four largest fires, which burned from August through October, totalled $67.5 million.
Wenatchee’s sales tax collection for September hit $546,190, up more than $29,000 from $517,007 in 2011. In June, city sales tax receipts topped more than $568,700 for the highest total so far this year.
Linda Haglund, executive director of the Wenatchee Downtown Association, conducted an informal survey of downtown business owners after three weeks of September’s heavy smoke. Some owners estimated business was down 50 percent for the month.
“We’ll need a crystal ball to really see why city tax revenues are up,” said Haglund. “My guess is that downtown retail was hurt pretty bad by the smoke, but that other businesses — Maybe hotels? Maybe hardware stores? Maybe businesses that served firefighters? — did fairly well in that emergency situation.”
Scores of lightning-sparked wildfires started early in September and stretched into October as more than 2,000 firefighters from around the country arrived to control the blazes. More than 210,000 acres burned across a four-county area, creating hazardous air conditions for weeks and bringing many outdoor activities to a standstill.
Jewelry merchant returns home with treasures
When an excited Bryony King talks about jewelry, her accent flutters from barely detectable to strong South African.
“My friends here in Wenatchee say I talk funny, like a Brit,” said Bryony, co-owner of the new U.S. distributing arm of Miglio Designer Jewelry, one of South Africa’s top brands of bling.
“But my friends in South Africa say I talk funny, too,” she laughed. “Like an American.”
Raised in Chelan but out-of-country for the past 15 years, Bryony, 38, is talking these days about the designer line of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more created by one of South Africa’s top artists and hand-crafted by a Miglio work force of resident black women.
Bryony and her South African husband David King, 40, arrived here just two months ago and already have established a home-based Miglio showroom and their first connections in a sales web they hope will stretch nationwide with Wenatchee as headquarters.
“It’s a network marketing concept,” said David, a former accountant who’s now the behind-the-scenes business brains of Miglio in the U.S.“But it’s structured differently than Amway or Tupperware.”
Sellers can hold house parties or sell at larger trade shows or events, he said. “But many times, sales are more direct — person to person, face to face, friend to friend.”
Sellers join the sales force by purchasing starter packages that begin at $260 for a selection of necklaces, earrings, rings and other pieces. Typically, sales produce about a 30 percent profit, said David, “and that’s with very little overhead and lots of Miglio training and support.”
Established in 1981, Miglio is particularly successful in South Africa and Europe, where annual launch parties gain national attention, said the Kings. Designer and owner Jenny Miller, a 30-year veteran jewelry maker, travels extensively to find interesting raw materials — metals and gems — for each year’s new product line.
Versatility is a key element in many of the designs, said Bryony, who coordinates sales and will train Miglio’s new “independent style consultants” in the U.S. For instance, one silvery strand can be worn several ways — long necklaces doubled or tripled into shorter necklaces or bracelets — with clip-on charms, tassels or pendants.
“It’s designed to suit a woman’s moods and wardrobe,” she said. “Formal, playful, business-like, sexy. One piece worn several ways can save money and be fun to play with.”
Bryony said customers are encouraged to stop by the showroom to experiment with the jewelry. “Bring your dress, your heels and see what jewelry matches best,” she said. “Have some fun, have a bit of a giggle, don’t feel pressured, buy or don’t buy, see if we can help you.”
In Europe, said Bryony, women have discovered that Miglio’s designs allow them to create a more personal sense of style. “The (jewelry’s) versatility allows a woman to take an everyday outfit and turn it into something that stands out in a crowd.”
Necklaces of leather or white metal and silver range in cost from $20 to $300. Earrings run $15 to $175. Clip-on pendants — called “enhancers,” many with top-of-the-line Swarovski crystals — range from $10 to $150.
Three of Miglio’s necklaces are crafted by women working for The Homestead, a nonprofit that aims to better the lives of South African street children, teens and their mothers. Proceeds from sales benefit the group, which is endorsed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“Miglio definitely contributes towards helping minority women,” said David. “It establishes a sort of sisterhood — and not just among the makers, but the sellers, too. We’ve seen groups of ladies who sell Miglio become tight-knit social groups. It seems to be a great way to make friends.”
So why Wenatchee? “My family’s here,” said Bryony, “and it’s nice to be close to them after being gone so long.”
Cold Train expands refrigerator car services
The Cold Train, the refrigerated rail service that hauls fruit and produce to points east from Quincy, has nearly doubled its capacity in the last couple of months.
The outfit tooted its own horn last month with a fact sheet chock-full of info:
• The Cold Train, loaded with local produce, rolls out of Quincy six days a week from the Port of Quincy’s Intermodal Terminal.
• The train provides refrigerated shipping service to 10 Midwest and East Coast states or regions: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New England, Georgia and Florida.
• In 2010, the operation started with 70 high-tech Hyundai refrigerated containers, each of them 53-feet long. In the following year, Cold Train added 120 cars. It added another 100 cars just this past October and November.
• Each container can hold 42,500 pounds of cargo. The interior measures 3,478 cubic feet. You can stack two containers to ride the rails, and three containers to store them in terminals.
• Frozen products ship at minus 10 degrees. Temperatures for fresh fruit and produce vary slightly: apples at 34 to 36 degrees, onions at 35 degrees, potatoes at 42 degrees.
• Cold Train uses less fuel to haul more cargo than long-haul trucks, says BNSF Railway. Hauling a container by Cold Train reduces the shipment’s carbon footprint by 52 percent when compared to hauling the same cargo by truck.
Depending on rail traffic and weather, the trip east takes about three to four days to Chicago and about a week to the furthest East Coast destinations.