Work underway on new Pybus Public Market plaza

WENATCHEE — This summer, the space just south of Pybus Public Market will be filled with European-style pavers, new sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and retractable bollards.

Construction started in late May on the new plaza, which will also include a fountain and, in the future, a sculpture. Work is expected to finish this month.

Total project cost will be about $510,000, including construction, architectural and engineering fees, said Pybus Executive Director Steve Robinson.

The city is putting $240,000 in state Local Revitalization Financing toward the project and will maintain the underground utilities. The Pybus Market Charitable Foundation is footing the rest of the bill and is responsible for constructing and maintaining the plaza.

“We’re very hopeful that it adds to the overall ambiance of this amazing building,” Robinson said. “The low-cost approach would have been just to asphalt it, but we wanted to put in more of a European paver feel to it. We think that’s consistent with everything we do at Pybus, which is to create a unique visitor experience.”

Robinson said the plaza has been planned since the market opened in May 2013, but it took time to get ready. The project will eliminate the dirt, rocks and potholes that have caused problems over the years, he said.

He appreciates everyone’s patience during construction.

“Between now and Friday, July 12, when the project’s estimated to be complete, we’re going to lose upwards of 25 parking stalls,” he said. “That’s frustrating, but there’s no other way around it when you’re trying to build and you have an operating business going on.”

Twelve parking stalls will be retained, but the space will sometimes be closed off for events like fundraising walks or farmers markets. The large gravel lot south of where the plaza will be is privately owned.

Whitebird Construction is the contractor, and Brad Brisbine of MJ Neal Associates is the architect.

“When it’s all said and done, it’ll be worth it,” said Daryn Klinginsmith, Pybus Market Charitable Foundation board member and building committee chairman. 

Town Toyota’s Tom Barros dies at 78

EAST WENATCHEE — Tom Barros, the founder of the Town Auto Group and one of the early champions of the Town Toyota Center, died May 28 at the age of 78.

Barros started with a single Toyota car dealership in Wenatchee in the 1980s and built up a small empire under the “Town” name. There are now four Town dealerships in the valley.

Through it all, his focus was taking care of the people around him, said Tony Lisson, the Town Auto Group general manager and Barros’ nephew.

“There was something that he always preached to all of us, whether it was family or whoever it was: that the only reason that he became who he was, was because of the people around him,” Lisson said. “He said, ‘If I take care of the people around me, then they’ll take care of the business itself.’ It was always about taking care of everybody else, it was never about him.”

In the early 2000s Barros decided to move his Toyota dealership to East Wenatchee, setting the stage for the company’s growth in the area.

By 2008 he had purchased four other dealerships in Wenatchee, including the well-known Reichert Nissan.

Eventually the renamed Town Nissan and Town Ford Lincoln both moved next to Town Toyota on the south end of East Wenatchee.

Around the same time, the city of Wenatchee was looking for someone to purchase naming rights for what was then called the Greater Wenatchee Regional Events Center.

Barros stepped up.

“They were looking for the naming rights and I think that’s when it was starting to get a little on the negative side,” Lisson said. “People were talking about the event center as a burden on the local economy and the taxpayers. He decided this will be the next thing, let’s see what we can do to help out.”

Town Auto Group spent $1 million for five years of naming rights and has renewed the agreement twice since the original contract in 2008, Lisson said.

Three of the Town dealerships will stay in the Barros family and one, Town Ford Lincoln, was recently purchased by business partner Pat Armstrong, Lisson said.

A diamond-cutting edge business

WENATCHEE — What do dams, cherries and diamonds have in common?

It took representatives from all three to sign an agreement June 6 to provide the Diamond Foundry with 19 megawatts of power. The Chelan County PUD and Stemilt Growers signed the agreement with the California-based company.

The foundry is leasing space in one of Stemilt’s warehouses on Hawley Street to produce the diamonds. Stemilt agreed to build a substation to provide the 19 megawatts as part of the deal.

It was the accumulation of a lot of effort by both Stemilt and the PUD to use a warehouse that was damaged after the Sleepy Hollow Fire, said West Mathison, Stemilt Growers president.

It also helped replace economic opportunity in Chelan County that was lost when Alcoa Wenatchee Works closed, said Steve Wright, PUD general manager.

“After the Sleepy Hollow Fire and we had cleaned up the site after the fire,” Mathison said. “We essentially had the shell of a partially burned out building that was located next to some great distribution that really facilitated the conversation to move quicker.”

The Diamond Foundry is already up and running in a limited capacity, said Kyle Gazay, Diamond Foundry president of production. The company makes diamonds using a high-heat plasma laser.

When the substation is built and delivering the 19 megawatts of power, the company should be producing close to a million carats of diamonds a year, he said. It will also provide 35 to 50 new jobs to the local community.

The company will be the PUD’s largest retail load by a factor of four, Wright said. The second largest load on its system is Stemilt, which uses 5 megawatts of power.

Alcoa used 260 megawatts of power, he said.

The Diamond Foundry chose Chelan County for its ability to provide clean energy, Gazay said. The company highlights its carbon-neutral certified diamonds.

“We’re seeing huge expansion in the gem stone market,” Gazay said. “But we’re also excited about power electronics, its use in satellites, 5G communication so it is just the start for diamonds.”

Robinson to leave top Pybus post

WENATCHEE — Steve Robinson will leave his role as Pybus Public Market executive director on Aug. 15, he announced May 30.

He announced his decision via an email to “board, staff, merchants and the many ‘friends of Pybus.’”

“It is a good time for me — personally and professionally — to depart Pybus. I have some other ways I hope to engage in the community and some other goals to accomplish,” he said in the email. “And it’s a good time for Pybus to have new leadership. New leadership brings new ideas, new energy and new perspective. Those are always good things.”

Robinson has been executive director for seven years, where he has led nearly all aspects of the market’s operation.

“I think I leave Pybus Market in a good position,” he said in the email. “While not wildly profitable (it was never attended to be), it is solidly in the black and sustainable for the long run. The community has warmly embraced it. Pybus is a must-see stop for the traveling public.”

Board member Leslie LePore-Freytag was announced on June 13 to become the market’s transitional executive director in August.

LePore-Freytag has spent 40 years in the retail industry, mostly as a high-level manager or executive at companies like Harry and David, Neiman Marcus and Tommy Bahama, according to a press release.

WVC’s Wells Hall project moves forward

WENATCHEE — The city’s hearing examiner on June 4 approved the conditional use permit for the new $37 million Wells Hall project on the Wenatchee Valley College campus. 

The approval set into motion a game of musical chairs for 68 faculty and staff members who began moving to temporary space on or near campus late in late June, leading up to the demolition of four wings of the 1951-era five-wing building.

The fifth wing, which includes the campus theater and ceramics studio, will remain intact and become a stand-alone building.

Moves not completed before the summer quarter began will happen between the end of summer quarter and Sept. 9, the start of fall quarter.

Demolition is expected to start Nov. 4.

The 28,154 square feet of space to be demolished includes 12 classrooms and offices and program spaces in the one-story structure.

In its place will be a three-story, 70,000-square-foot building with 25 classrooms on the first floor and nine on each of the upper floors, with offices, program spaces and a conference center.

The project is expected to be completed in the fall 2021.

During construction, WVC is making use of two portables that will be brought on campus, plus some off-campus leased space.

The portable classrooms will be placed at the northeast corner of the campus next to Ninth Street. One will have two traditional classrooms and the other will have one classroom and a training room for the certified nursing program. The two buildings will serve a maximum of 435 students a day.

WVC is leasing 4,220 square feet of classroom space (about five classrooms, serving a maximum of 717 students a day) from Sage Hills Church, 1601 Fifth St., across from the Jack and Edna Maguire Student Recreation Center. Parking on site will be available for those attending classes at the church, but parking by WVC students, faculty or employees will not be allowed in the temporary gravel parking lot east of the church.

Those moves were approved in the conditional use permit, along with a requirement that WVC must upgrade the crosswalk at the intersection of Fifth and Pershing streets to provide better access to the temporary off-campus classrooms.

A traffic study also will be required before a building permit is issued. The results of the study will determine whether WVC would have to help the city pay for improvements at the intersection of Fifth Street and Western Avenue.

WVC has created a Wells Hall construction page on its website to help track the process. (wwrld.us/ WellsHallproject)

Fueled by a $17 million investment, Legwork ready to grow

WENATCHEE — Legwork was founded in 2007, but it was years before the company took off.

“We really hit the gas, hit our stride in about 2015. That’s when we came out of beta and hit our first growth years,” co-CEO Jeff Weber said in a recent interview.

Now the Wenatchee company, which designs customer engagement software for dental companies, is seeing ballistic customer and revenue growth.

Legwork now has about 2,000 clients in the U.S. and Canada — and hopes to double that number within two years. The company announced on May 30 an equity investment of $17 million from Level Equity, most of which will be spent on executing that growth.

The company uses a holistic approach to connecting potential customers to dental practices, co-CEO Korey Korfiatis said, which has been the key to their success.

Their mission has been solving something they’ve called the “$300 marketing trap” that many dental companies fall into, he said.

“There are lots of individual software or service-like solutions that all independently cost roughly $300, but they’re each working in their independent silos; they’re not working together,” he said. “Ultimately our focus was to bring together a patient-engagement solution that combined those offerings.”

That often involves recruiting potential customers, managing their experience and tracking their feelings about their dental company, Korfiatis said.

“We cover that entire journey through our software solution and that’s what has really helped set us apart,” he said.

Their “disrupter” approach has led to a lot of growth in just a few years, Weber said.

“So because of Legwork’s performance over the past three years, we’ve stood out in the industry ... we’ve doubled (revenue) over the past three years straight,” he said. “I think we’re the fastest growing patient communications suite in the country.”

That, in turn, led to attention from venture capitalists from across the country, Weber said.

“So we’ve had this just incredible growth and so the private equity firms and the (venture capitalists) have taken notice,” he said. “So we were getting probably a call a week from them.”

After interviews with a few of those companies, they found a partner in Level Equity, which primarily invests in software, internet and e-commerce businesses.

“The idea is they look at a business who’s built a great engine, ready to go, solid platform and then they pour rocket fuel on it,” Weber said.

Their rocket fuel came in the form of a $17 million investment from Level Equity. The pair plan to use the funds to increase their staff from 52 to roughly 75 by next year and aggressively recruit new clients.

Legwork will also be increasing its presence in Seattle and bulking up its marketing strategy.

The company’s rapid growth has meant the two co-CEOs have to do business differently.

“Decisions before were getting made in five minutes over coffee and it’s like ‘Hey let’s do this, can we afford it? I think so; OK go,’” he said. “ … And now it’s a whole different level of business and the way you think about business isn’t just ‘Can we make our mortgage?’ It’s about investors and shareholders. It’s a very different paradigm shift in how you do business.”

Chelan Port awarded for work on Pybus

WENATCHEE — The Washington Public Port Association awarded its 2019 Creative Partnership Award to the Port of Chelan County for its work on Pybus Public Market.

The Port purchased Pybus’ warehouse in 2010 and worked with several local agencies and private investors to develop it into the current market.

Then the Port sold the space to the Pybus Charitable Foundation in 2017. The next year the two groups launched the Pybus Partnership to launch a tech incubator on the second floor of the annex building.

That space is currently occupied by Subsplash, a Seattle-based software company.

Dog park finds home

EAST WENATCHEE — The Dawg Pound, a popular off-leash dog park, now has a new home thanks to North Cascades Bank.

The dog park was previously on land near Walla Walla Point Park in Wenatchee, but the business had to move in May to make way for a planned 102,000-square-foot hotel.

That announcement in February sent the park’s owners, Jeremy Long and Barbara Weaver, on a scramble to find a new piece of land for the park.

“I spent all this time searching for a piece of land,” Long said. “I used the assessor’s map search to find empty parcels and then contacted the owners.”

Then at the end of April he went into the North Cascades Bank Building at the corner of 3rd Street S.E. and Rock Island Road in East Wenatchee to ask about an empty lot behind the building.

The bank was willing to let the park use the space, Long said.  

After a few weeks of planning and preparation, the pair opened the new park in early June.

The new space is actually a little bit bigger than their old one-acre park, according to Long. There’s also a designated space for smaller dogs.