News today, history tomorrow

The Dalles ranks 20th on Smithsonian list of top small towns to visit


(Editor’s note: This is an update to an earlier post, including graphic above and link to Portland Business Journal about fastest-growing cities in Oregon. Thanks to Hood River Port Commissioner Jon Davies for the tip.)

Bravo, to The Dalles, for scoring placement on Smithsonian magazine’s list of the twenty best small towns to visit.

E-mail back-patting immediately greeted the selection, along with celebration of its exclusivity among Northwest communities. One writer noted that the Dalles was “the only town to be so honored in Oregon or Washington!”

Yep, no Port Townsend or Cannon Beach or Hood River. Note, for clarity, that the cutoff was towns having fewer than 15,000 residents.

As we’ve observed before here, these lists have become stock magazine editorial fodder. The country is full of small towns under 15,000 population that might qualify, and eventually will, as the lists cycle through the country in search of new selections evenly distributed across the landscape. The goal is less to create an empirically perfect list, and more to generate broad geographic representation to interest readers  (and advertisers) all over the country. Not being cynical here, just real.

But it’s nice to see The Dalles pop up on such a list. IHOP, it rates. Hood River is great, don’t get us wrong, but some of its devoted denizens can get a little precious at times, as if other Gorge burgs didn’t have merits as well. Said folk can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to live in The Dalles. Fooey. The Buzz loves The Dalles, because it’s so normal. Real. Hard-working. Generous (check out the community Thanksgiving dinner).

From our personal experience, the list includes a lot of pretty nice places — Sedona, Silver City, Steamboat Springs, Ketchum. The Dalles finds itself in pretty decent company. That said, the copy offering rationale for its selection seems a little broad, including Multnomah Falls as one of the nearby attractions. Beyond Rock Fort, the writer might better have cited the St. Peter’s Church, Civic Auditorium, City Hall, Columbia Brewery, Commodore and other historic buildings in downtown The Dalles.

Take a bow, Sunshine City. Here’s the full list:

  1. Chautauqua, N.Y.
  2. Healdsburg, Calif.
  3. Williamsburg, VA.
  4. Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  5. Woods Hole, Mass.
  6. Marietta, Ohio
  7. Beaufort, S.C.
  8. Sedona, Ariz.
  9. Nebraska City, Neb.
  10. Lanesboro, Minn.
  11. Spring Green, Wisc.
  12. Havre de Grace, Md.
  13. Columbia, Pa.
  14. Mount Dora, Fla.
  15. Ketchum, Idaho
  16. Montpelier, Vt.
  17. Harrodsburg, Ky.
  18. Silver City, N.M.
  19. Decorah, Iowa
  20. The Dalles, Ore.
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Gorge River self-serve dog wash biz goes in search of new owner

Rhonda Marlnee is ready to move on from her two-year-old enterprise providing facilities for do-it-yourself dog washers, first profiled here in The Buzz.

“Gorge River,” the only self-service dog wash in the Columbia River Gorge, is situated in “The Heights” near the intersection of 13th and Belmont. It is equipped with two fiberglass tubs and an enclosed drying room.

Marlnee says it has ample parking and room to expand, perhaps into short-term dog-sitting or boarding. Interested? Call Rhonda at Gorge River Dog Wash, 1412 13th St., Suite 100, Hood River, 541-399-4312, or drop her an e-mail.

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April 18 summit will let educators, employers share workforce training needs, strategies

To help ensure that its programs and course offerings best meet the needs of Gorge residents and employers, Columbia Gorge Community College is convening a “summit” conversation involving educators and major Gorge employers.

The “Columbia Gorge Education & Industry Summit” on Friday, April 18, will take place on The Dalles Campus of CGCC.

Keynote speakers are  Dr. Ed Ray, president of Oregon State University, and Dr. Mel Netzhammer, chancellor of the Washington State University Vancouver campus.

Expert panels will address education and training, economic development and private industry.

Suzanne Burd, CGCC’s continuing education coordinator, notes the long-standing efforts of CGCC to work closely with business and industry partners to identify and develop programs to meet workforce training needs. Its health care and renewable energy technology programs are just two examples.

“The summit will allow us to cast a wider net to the education and business communities,” she says.

Ann Harris, OSU Open Campus coordinator for the Gorge, says she and other organizers are hoping the event will allow employers to speak to educators about their hiring needs, and educators to speak to employers about ways they might collaborate to help students of all ages achieve their employment goals.

Helping CGCC organize the event are Clark College (Vancouver, Wash.), Oregon State University, Washington State University, K-12 school districts and regional economic development professionals.

Organizers encourage private employers, early childhood and K-12 administrators, instructors and counselors to participate. To register, visit the event website.

The summit is one of several activities arising from a 2012 series of forums called “Stronger Economies Together,” organized by Mid-Columbia Economic Development District and USDA Rural Development. The forums identified barriers to economic growth. For details, visit www.mcedd.org.

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A full platter of newsy hors d’oeuvres to whet your weekend appetite …

The noisy giant of the snack food world — Frito-Lay — is quietly taking the fight to the quiet Hood-River-based giant of Northwest Mexican food products, Juanita’s Fine Foods. Interesting story in the Vancouver, Columbian, about the stealth effort to create a new tortilla chip line packaged and branded in a fashion designed to borrow heavily from the look and feel of longtime local favorite Juanita’s. Remember, chips from La Cocina de Josefina represent the point on a very big spear aimed at the heart of a family business generating annual sales of well over the $9 million that company president Luis Dominguez told me Juanita’s generated over 10 years ago …

Speaking of food, and Vancouver-based enterprises, The Buzz heard hints over a Burgerville burger in The Dalles recently that the corporate parent of the popular regional fast-food chain had recently loosened the purse strings, and might be giving strong consideration to Gorge expansion — in the Hood River area. A call by The Buzz to corporate headquarters for comment got a response from Sara Perrin, Burgerville’s PR and Media Relations Counsel, who said:  “We currently have a new restaurant in the construction process at Portland International Airport (PDX) which will be opening soon (specific date is still being finalized). We have no plans at this time for a restaurant in Hood River. As you can imagine, Burgerville consistently receives numerous requests for new restaurants from many guests in various communities in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We welcome feedback from local communities and all our guests about their desires and preferences. Suggestions for future locations can be posted to our Facebook page.” FYI from past experience with corporate comment personages, this sort of non-confirmation is typical — and somewhat meaningless. Corporations never announce firm plans — or even hint at them — until they announce them, with big flourish, at media events, with press packets and lights, camera, action. Denial doesn’t mean the slipped tip isn’t closer to the truth …

Notes from correspondent Jenny Cohen, or Waucoma Bookstore, from the recent and regular casual discussion session organized by several downtown merchants:

  • Lisa Wiltsie of Gorge Dog and Melissa Tokstad of Melika are working to refine designs and slogans for spring and summer light pole banners.
  • First Friday this year starts in May, but the Chamber is still figuring out if it will end in September or October. No closed streets this year. If someone wants to set up a “street vendor” position — selling jewelry or playing guitar or whatever — it will cost $75 for a permit from the city.
  • Concerns are mounting over siting of the Saturday Market at the city parking lot across from the Post Office. Merchants fear loss of parking spaces, and some suggested moving the event to a stretch of closed street. The Gorge Grown Food Network is taking over Saturday Market this year.

Phil Downer, the Seattle principal with the proposed Neal Creek Distillery, has politely declined an invitation to share details about his project. “We are at a very early stage in our project,” he writes. The Buzz has a tickler file note to check in with him, when he gets closer to moving some hootch. …

An earlier version of this post contained outdated information about a forthcoming Job Fair at the Clearwater Executive Plaza. Organizers had not informed The Buzz of changes to their original plans. When they do, we’ll update info for you. …


Shaw spins off Oregon Brineworks from Hood River Organic

Hood River Organic is going through some ch-ch-changes.

Partners Brian Shaw and Dan Thall, who founded a mushroom farm in 2004 up near the old Dee Mill site and have since expanded it to include a variety of other crops and a healthy subscriber-supported veggie basket (aka CSA) program, are amicably separating — so Shaw can concentrate on making pickled products through his new dream enterprise, Oregon Brineworks.

In an e-mail note to customers, Shaw said, “It is with great happiness and a little sorrow that I am stepping down from Hood River Organic to continue with a new start-up venture, Oregon Brineworks.”

He said he has achieved what he wanted with Hood River Organic, and “feel that now is a great time to pass my portion on to Dan and for him to continue operating HRO as we have been for the last 10 years.”

The Buzz is hoping to hook up with Shaw to learn more about the new venture, but in his words, “Oregon Brineworks is a natural fermentation company that specializes in small batch, lacto-fermented foods that are probiotic and made from organic vegetables grown in Oregon and Washington. We have had great sales in the Hood River Rosauers grocery store as our trial store and have hopes of expanding into several natural food grocers throughout the Northwest. We make beet kvass, pickle(s), kraut(s), ketchup and hot sauce.”

Shaw said Hood River Organic will continue to operate as normal with its wholesale program providing restaurants and markets with mushrooms, fruits and veggies as well as its CSA program. Thall will be the sole owner moving forward. Shaw will consult back to Hood River Organic during the transition period.


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Slingshot Sports, Naked Winery to become first tenants in Wasco Industrial building

Steven Ford of Current Commercial is helping Slingshot move from the Big Seven building to new space at Wasco and Industrial.

Stephen Ford of Current Commercial is helping Slingshot Sports move from the Big Seven building to new space at Wasco and Industrial.

Maybe you know it as the building that rose at the corner of Wasco and Industrial Loop, then stalled for several years without tenants or apparent forward movement.

Well, it’s back in motion. New lease deals with Slingshot Sports and Naked Winery foretell a future burst of activity at the Wasco Industrial building.

Since taking over leasing efforts for builder Chris Korwin last November, Stephen Ford of Current Commercial has inked the two bookend tenants — Naked on the west end, Slingshot on the east — and is optimistic he’ll find tenants for the six spaces sandwiched between those early entries.

Slingshot, a maker of kiteboarding gear, will be moving some of its current operations from space in the Port of Hood River’s Big Seven building on Industrial Way. Ford says Slingshot will provide customer service and research and development out of the new space, but continue manufacturing in Stevenson, Wash.

Both the gear maker and winery will have space upstairs and down. Office space on the top level has windows on both sides, with sweeping views of the Columbia River and Washington hills. Downstairs space is accessed from a large parking lot on the north side.

For the six remaining upstairs spaces of 1,000 square feet each, Ford is asking $1.15 per square foot plus 25 cents a foot triple net (taxes, insurance and operating expenses). Downstairs space is less. Direct inquiries to Ford by e-mail or by calling the Current Commercial office at 541-386-4580 or his cell at 541-399-3786.

Before moving wine-making operations south from existing space north of Industrial Loop, Naked awaits build-out of its space and regulatory approvals. Slingshot is also awaiting approval of build-out plans from the city’s contract building services firm.


Naked Winery will have office space at the left end of the Wasco Industrial building at Wasco and Industrial Loop in Hood River, with production facilities below.


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This ‘n’ that, ‘n’ that ‘n’ this

Enjoy the sidewalks leading to the Hood River Library on Saturday night, March 8, for the Library Foundation’s annual Feast of Words fund-raiser. The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Eating, drinking, dancing and chit-chat will help raise money to support a relocation of the Cascade Locks library inside its school home, and to remodel the Parkdale branch. Tickets are $25. Check out the web site for details. And BTW, take note that the Hood River library will remain open even after the State Street urban renewal project removes sidewalks in front of the library on or around March 10. Call 541-386-2535 or visit the library web site for more info ….

Given that it’s taken over a year to complete, the new Viento Winery tasting room on Country Club Road just west of Frankton Road is a somewhat ironic site for a program titled “6 Steps to a Successful Building Project.” The program and panel discussion runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Viento’s the tasting room at 301 Country Club Road. Tom Reid and Erik Becker, AIA, from Green Home Design+Build, Jeff Sacre from Directors Mortgage, and Maui Meyer from Copper West Properties will discuss how to kickstart and finance your home projects.  Light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be available. Because space is limited, please contact Kristen by e-mail or calling 541-490-2451 to let her know you plan to attend ….


Cameron Curtis at construction site of his new office.

Cameron Curtis, owner of Curtis Homes, is building out a new office at 403 Highway 35 in Hood River, due east of Tum-a-Lum Lumber and Windance Sailboards. Curtis will use green building techniques on the new structure, opening in April. constructing the new building and opening the office in April 2014, when the company plan an open house and ribbon cutting. …

Gorge Owned (GO!) and Mountain Sage Medicine will host the next Green Drinks networking event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 13. Mountain Sage Medicine is 410 E. Jewett #2, White Salmon. Rachael Horn of AniChe Cellars in Underwood will discuss how wine additives affect wine, and will offer tastings. Everybody’s Brewing is providing beer and Feast Market & Delicatessen is providing food. Dr. Jennifer Silapie, owner of Mountain Sage Medicine, will share health care advice. A $5 suggested donation is asked of non-GO! members. Learn more at the GO! Facebook event

After a year in shared Stevenson space, Cascade Acupuncture Center (with other offices in Hood River and The Dalles) has moved into its own space in Stevenson, at 40 S.W. Cascade Ave. Suite 40, inside the port owned Tichenor building at the water front. Until now, the business has shared space with Anna Wieman, N.D. (she 3 days, we 2 days in the same space). They’ll do a grand opening from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 14, during the city’s “Girl’s night out” event. Ribbon cutting at 5:30. …

Gorge Grown Food Network continues its winter film series at 6 p.m. March 18 at Columbia Center for the Arts, with a showing of “Food, Inc.,” a detailed look at “the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA,” according to a release from GGFN. “The issues are explored from all angles with interviews from authors, advocates, farmers, consumers, and CEOs.” Cost is free but they ask a donation of $5. …

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Hood River hires Steve Wheeler to serve as new city manager

Steve Wheeler, currently interim director of planning and development at Metro in Portland, will become the new city manager of Hood River.

Mayor Arthur Babitz said he was pleased to announce Wheeler’s selection. He said Wheeler has accepted, “pending approval of his employment contract at our March 10 city council meeting.”

Babitz said Wheeler brings “an incredible wealth of experience.” He will begin transition work, officially beginning his duties on May 5.

Before his current position, Wheeler served as Clackamas County administrator for 3.5 years, and for 10 years before that, he served as city manager of the Portland suburb of Tualatin.

“Tualatin is bigger than Hood River, but not as much as you might think,” he says. “Hood River feels bigger, because its downtown is more pronounced than any downtown in Tualatin.”

Wheeler said he had visited Hood River only once before beginning the job application process, on a trip with his daughter to a soccer match. He said he was a bit surprised to realize how much closer to Portland it is than he had previously thought.

He said he is looking forward to working in a city that has more of a distinct identity.

“I’ve been in the metro area since 1996, and would welcome the chance to be outside the metro area for awhile,” he said. “The city of Portland is a great asset, and it has an international identity. But it’s a challenging place to work, with 25 incorporated cities and three counties in the area.”

He said Hood River offers an exciting opportunity “to reconnect with a city that is near but more on its own, where you’re more able to see the direct fruits of your labor. And, of course, it’s a spectacular natural setting.”

He said he loves to the see the level of citizen involvement in Hood River, which is not unique to his previous his experience.

“Engagement in Oregon is at a high level,” he said. “Before Oregon, I was in Southern California, but sometimes there, with the commute times, there isn’t time for engagement.”

He said his explorations during the hiring process gave him a strong sense for the local “dynamic between quality of life and loving it for what it is, and the other interest in jobs and prosperity.”

He said he is looking forward to meeting and getting to know other public administrators, including Port of Hood River Executive Director Michael McElwee and County Administrator Dave Meriwether.

Wheeler and his wife, Pat, are the parents of two young adult children. His son went to the University of Oregon. His daughter is finishing studies at Oregon State. Pat works with Providence Health Systems.

Wheeler fills a position vacated last summer upon the resignation of Bob Francis. Ross Schultz is serving in an interim capacity.

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