Healthful, local prepared meals drive early response to Wy’Eats

Sarah Scaruto is tapping the appetite for healthy, prepared meals.

Sarah Scaruto is tapping the appetite for healthy, prepared meals.

Walking down the aisles of the local groceries, Sarah Scaruto could see that industry was working the appetite for quick edibles.

Given the debatable quality of frozen dinners in Aisle 6, she figured she might tap some of that appetite by preparing flavorful, local, plant-based, veggie-forward meals.

Wow, that’s a mouthful. Which is the idea, right?

Scaruto, a veteran of years in corporate human relations, is charting a new path with her nascent business, Wy’Eats. It’s modeled on the consumer support agriculture concept — a box of veggies grown locally, prepared by the farmer and delivered to a central pickup location.

In the case of Wy’Eats, Scaruto prepares and delivers full meals to an insulated box outside the front entrance to the Hood River News. Food comes in reusable Tupperware containers, with ice packs to keep it from spoiling. Subscribers get a one-hour window to grab their grub and go.

If they can’t do the pickup, they can pay an extra $5 to have Scaruto deliver.

“This is for people who want to support the local food system but don’t have the time or desire to prepare their own meals,” Scaruto says. “It’s designed to support health and convenience.”

Her meals go light on animal proteins, not because she is pushing a vegan agenda, but just to keep costs under control. That said, meals include eggs from pasture-raised chickens, nuts and seeds as protein sources.

She prepares her menu on Monday night, currently using the commercial kitchen at River of Life Assembly on the Heights. Buyers can subscribe for one or two meals per week, at $35 for two servings per meal, or $60 for four.

Scaruto and her husband moved to the Gorge in April from Vermont. As she builds her business, she enhances her longtime love of food and cooking with studies in holistic nutrition at The Wellspring School for Healing Arts in Portland.

“I’ve been wanting to try something different,” she says. “This idea has been in my head for a long time.”

It’s working. In the first four weeks of business, she lined up 50 subscribers.



Once planned for Wal-Mart expansion, 16.3-acre site sells to Ryan Holdings

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has sold the 16.3 acres on the west side of Hood River where it once hoped to build a Walmart Super Center store covering 186,000 square feet.

So, who bought it? Ryan Holdings LLC, owned by the same David Ryan who runs Hood River Juice.

In an Aug. 19 filing of a special warranty deed at the Hood River County Assessor’s Office, the Bentonville, Ark., mega-retailer said it had transferred the land to Ryan Holdings LLC.

The land sits south of Country Club Road and east of Frankton Road. It was the center of a protracted land-use dispute from 2001 to 2004, led by the Citizens for Responsible Growth.

The Hood River County Board of Commissioners in January 2004 voted 3-2 to reject the expansion plans as incompatible with surrounding properties.

Wal-Mart appealed that ruling, and was rejected twice — by the state Land Use Board of Appeals, and the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Incorporated in January 2014, Ryan Holdings LLC is owned by David Ryan, who also owns Hood River Juice Co. (dba Ryan’s Juice). Both entities share the 550 Riverside Drive address, at the Port of Hood River.

A call to Ryan Holdings for comment about intended plans had not been returned as of this report.

As a condition of the sale — for $10 “and other consideration” — Wal-Mart stores stipulated that the land could not be used for “a discount store including, but not limited to, a variety, general or “dollar” type store, wholesale membership/warehouse club, grocery store/supermarket, pharmacy/drug store.”

It also cannot be used for an adult book store or similar adult entertainment business, a topless dance club, pawn shop, bar or gaming center, any business that gets most of its sales from alcoholic beverages, check-cashing or payday loan shops, and any business having anything to do with the production or sale of medical or recreational marijuana.

A representative with a local title company, on condition of anonymity, said that the law requires only that deed filings indicate an exchange of value. Nothing requires reporting of the exact sale price.

(Thanks to local commercial real estate agent Greg Colt for tipping us off to the sale.)


Ogawa buys Crazy Pepper, plans new concept: Wicked … Sushi, Burgers and Bowls

crazy_pepperTommy Ogawa, the nephew of the late Hood River businessman Butch Ogawa, has reached a deal to buy the Crazy Pepper restaurant.

Ogawa will quickly transition the menu to support a space that he says will be called Wicked … Sushi, Burgers and Bowls. Ironically, it will occupy the same space that his uncle’s restaurant, Kanpai, once occupied.

Local commercial real estate broker Greg Colt helped Ogawa find and secure the deal.

Ogawa grew up in the Ontario area, but worked with his uncle during the summers, including one summer at Kanpai. The word “kanpai” is the Japanese equivalent of various familiar words — skoll, prost, cheers, down the hatch — expressed before sipping a favorite beverage.

Before embarking on this Hood River adventure, Ogawa owned and operated Ogawa’s Wicked Sushi, Burgers and Bowls.

He says the menu will keep a few of the Crazy Pepper’s signature dishes, but tilt toward … well, sushi … burgers … and teriyaki rice bowls.

The burgers, he says, will be built from hand-pressed wagyu beef from Snake River Farms in Idaho.

“We’ll do prime rib Friday nights, and will bring on a variety of different styles of burgers,” he says. “We’ll do an edamame burger. We’ll have quite a mix.”

The change of ownership takes place Thursday, Aug. 27. Ogawa plans to close briefly after the end of peak summer season, in October, for two or three days of converting the interior to a more modern decor.

The Buzz was unable to reach the owners of the Crazy Pepper for comment but will update this report after we connect.



Check out SBDC class lineup to fine-tune your quest for success

You’re in business, but are you operating at your best? It would be hard for most small business people to answer “yes.”

We’re guessing that during the last week, you tossed out a perfectly good opportunity to get better.

Everyone in Hood River and Wasco counties got the Columbia Gorge Community College fall schedule in the mail. Tucked inside (page 24) was probably the best lineup of bargain business consulting you’ll ever get. It is the class schedule for the Small Business Development Center.

For as little as $25, you can sign up for classes in Brand Recognition, Building Your Team, Creating a Marketing Campaign, Developing a Fan Base, Financial Dashboards, Increasing Your Bottom Line, Structure of Success and Lean Management.

The lineup includes a couple of free classes, in Personal Property Tax and Starting Your Oregon Business.

For $48, you can learn QuickBooks Reports and Budgets and How to Manage Your Business Finances.

An extended QuickBooks Desktop classes runs $290.

The Center’s signature program is the 10-month, 30-hour Small Business Management course. It’s for business owners who have been in business at least a year, and want to dial it up. Tuition is $525, and includes all textbooks and materials.

Get more info: Call 541-506-6121.

(The Center is funded in part with funds from the Small Business Administration and the Oregon Business Development Department, which in turn is funded with Lottery dollars.)

State economist shares data about travel impact on Gorge economy in 2014

trav_spend_2014By Dallas Fridley, Regional Economist, Oregon Employment Department

HOOD RIVER (July 28, 2015) — In 2014, Hood River County travel impacts rose by $4.3 million, or 5.2 percent, to produce $87.4 million in spending which supported 1,040 jobs and $23 million in earnings. These are direct travel impacts and do not include secondary (indirect or induced) impacts – according to a report by Dean Runyan Associates.

Overnight travel produced the greatest impact, with $60.9 million in visitor spending. Overnight visitor volume in Hood River County climbed to 88,400 person-nights, an increase of 3.5 percent. Day travel also produced significant impacts, with 36,800 person-trips in 2014, and $22.8 million in visitor spending. Hood River County Hotel/Motel visitors spent $282 per day/travel party or $115 per day/person in 2014.

Travel spending in Hood River County in 2014 generated 780 jobs for accommodation and food services, followed by 130 in arts, entertainment, and recreation, and then retail trade with 100.

Travel spending in 2014 also produced (transient room tax) tax receipts, with $1.5 million for local Hood River County coffers and $2.4 million in state taxes.

Travel impacts in Wasco County produced $102.4 million in 2014 spending, an increase of $12.1 million, or 13.4 percent, in one year. Travel spending in Wasco County supported 1,640 jobs and provided $34.4 million in earnings.

The Northern portion of Wasco County, primarily represented by The Dalles, brought in $64.9 million in travel spending, or about 63 percent of the 2014 total. South Wasco County – which includes whitewater rafting in Maupin and the Kah-Nee-Ta resort – brought in $37.5 million, or 37 percent.

Overnight travel produced Wasco County’s greatest impact, with $65.2 million in 2014 visitor spending. Overnight visitor volume climbed to 107,500 person-nights, an increase of 8.9 percent. Day travel also produced significant impacts, with 39,100 person-trips in 2014, and $33.2 million in visitor spending. Wasco County Hotel/Motel visitors spent $281 per day/travel party, or $115 per person/day in 2014.

Wasco County’s 2014 travel spending generated 1,090 jobs in accommodation and food services, followed by arts, entertainment and recreation with 410, and retail trade with 110.

Travel spending also produces tax receipts, with $0.9 million for local Wasco County coffers in 2014 and $2.6 million in state taxes.

Travel spending in Gilliam County totaled $4.2 million in 2014, generating 50 jobs. Sherman County’s travel spending also produced 50 jobs in 2014, with travel receipts reaching $4.8 million. In Wheeler County travel impacts generated $2.8 million in spending and 30 travel related jobs.

Travel spending in 2014 totaled $193.1 million in the Columbia Gorge region. Nearly 70 percent of the region’s 2014 travel spending came from overnight sources, which brought in $134.3 million. Hotel/Motel led overnight travel spending sources in 2014, with $100.4 million or 52 percent of all travel spending. Private homes ($15.7 million), campgrounds ($14.8 million) and vacation homes ($3.5 million, or just less than 2 percent of the total) together represented 17.6 percent the Columbia Gorge’s 2014 travel spending. Day travel brought in $58.8 million travel dollars nearly 31 percent of the Columbia Gorge’s 2014 total.

(This report appeared originally on the East Cascades regional report page of the Oregon Employment Department web site.)

Grant helps Mt. Adams Institute continue helping veterans learn resource skills

The Mt. Adams Institute, based in Trout Lake, Wash., was awarded over half a million dollars to fund its innovative VetsWork program for military veterans interested in work managing natural resources on public lands. Funding for the program comes from the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps).

The VetsWork program combines hands-on training and direct service opportunities. Program partners include the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and public resource partners. The program currently serves over 50 participants in Washington, Oregon, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia.

“The VetsWork program is intended to support military veterans as they transition back into civilian life,” says Brendan Norman, executive director of the Mt. Adams Institute. “Eighty percent of our recent graduates from wildland firefighting training were offered positions by the Forest Service.”

AmeriCorps grant funding will allow the program to continue into its third year, with possible expansion to new states.

City Council to hear public comment Aug. 10 on proposed tactics to address housing crunch

If you are concerned about the shortage of affordable housing, and increasing use of residential properties in Hood River for short-term vacation rentals, Monday evening offers a chance to share your thoughts.

The Hood River City Council at 6 p.m. Aug 10 will hold a public hearing on a Draft Hood River Housing Strategy. The document, modified slightly after a June hearing before the Planning Commission, will guide city planners and legislative bodies as they craft changes to city code in the coming months. The council meets at 211 Second St. in Hood River.

The short message: the city has enough land to handle projected growth over the next 20 years … IF.

Consultant Beth Goodman with ECONorthwest, City Planning Director Cindy Walbridge, and members of a Technical Advisory Committee that got the ball rolling want people to know that, according to the strategy document, “If the City grows faster than expected or if development of secondary housing or short-term rentals grows substantially, the City will exhaust its supply of buildable residential land. In addition, the City’s supply of Urban High Density Residential land (R-3 land) is extremely limited.”

In other words, a weighting toward single-family homes — a growing number being used for second homes, or short-term vacation rentals — and insufficient land for apartment-style structures is creating a housing crunch.

The strategy approaches the crunch from three angles: 1) more efficient use of residential land, 2) regulating secondary housing and short-term rental uses, and 3) boosting affordable housing.

To help with that housing analysis, the city is also adopting a revised population forecast for 2007-2035.

In 2014, the population was 9,134 inside the urban growth boundary, which includes land inside the city limits, and land outside the city limits but currently designated for urban-level growth. The city is projecting a 2 percent annual growth rate, under which the urban growth area population in 2035 would be 13,845. Check a map of the city, which shows zoning inside city limits and between the city limits and urban growth boundary.

The strategy identifies several tactics that the city may want to adopt in efforts to increase efficiency of land use: rezoning for greater density, allowing town homes in more zones, reduce R-1 minimum lot size from 7,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet, reduce the R-2 lot size from 5,000 sf to as little as 2,500 sf; tune-up the planned unit development ordinance; develop code language to allow for small, detached “cottage” homes; and modify the accessory dwelling code to prevent use for short-term rentals.

That’s all well and good, but the real hot-button issue seems to be short-term rentals. According to the consultants, the number of Hood River homes used for short-term or secondary rental sits at just under 10 percent.

The strategy document recommends a number of approaches, from licensing and fees, to guidelines on occupancy and management, It also discusses limits on short-term rentals of more densely developed residences.

Former mayor Arthur Babitz shares his thoughts on the issue in an op-ed piece in the Saturday edition of the Hood River News. He thinks the trend toward vacation rental use is exacerbating the affordability — and livability — issue for many people drawn to the area by jobs in a diversifying economy.

Noting his concern that workers won’t be able to find affordable rentals — or purchases — near their jobs, Babitz says it’s time for the city to begin a closer look at the issue to prevent it from spinning out of control and dampening the ability of employers to recruit and retain the talent they need.