Brenda DeVore

Newly appointed Ellensburg Downtown Association executive director Brenda DeVore outlined short-term events and long-term goals for the historical downtown district, which was named a Great American Main Street Award semifinalist in 2019, making Ellensburg one of the top 10 historic downtowns in the country.

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The sound of running water from the creek behind the patio deck filled with customers enjoying a little sun before the clouds and weather moved in Thursday afternoon was tranquil.

The setting at Hayday Bakery seemed fitting as newly appointed Ellensburg Downtown Association executive director Brenda DeVore outlined short-term events and long-term goals for the historical downtown district, which was named a Great American Main Street Award semifinalist in 2019, making Ellensburg one of the top 10 historic downtowns in the country.

There are traditions to uphold as well as innovative new ideas on tap to take the downtown district and its merchants to a bigger and brighter future.

“What’s important with what I’m doing is to maintain the integrity, history and the culture and spirit of this town,” DeVore said. “To make it inviting for all people and create new business opportunities.

“The first thing we plan to do is to find a full-time marketing and events coordinator. We have six strong candidates and we hope to have that filled soon.”

DeVore’s involvement in the Ellensburg community goes back over 15 years when she was the Aveda sales representative for Salon Fenix. Her career has centered around community engagement, event planning, retail development consulting, waste reduction, sales, marketing, fundraising, volunteer coordination and customer service.

The EDA will host the Downtown Trick or Treat on Oct. 29, which is expected to involve hundreds of local children and their families, getting back to some sense of pre-pandemic normality. There’s also the Haunted House Driving Tour coming up.

Where most events were cancelled last year because of health regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, things are back on track, she said. Hometown holiday events like Moments to Remember, the Tree Lighting and Plaid Friday encouraging people to shop local.

In fact, the EDA is working on a program to increase incentives to keep local business in town.

“The Shop Local is new. We’re doing a city-wide shop local program that benefits the all merchants,” DeVore said. “Where people might get out and do a little shopping on Black Friday. We’re encouraging people to shop local with different incentives (for Plaid Friday).”

She is currently exploring grant opportunities and plans to create the Main Street Tax Credit Program to educate business owners how they can keep their dollars local to support the community’s economic base.

“The Main Street tax credit incentive program provides a business and occupation or public utility tax credit for private contributions to eligible downtown organizations,” she said. “Once your business donation request is approved by the Department of Revenue, businesses are eligible for a tax credit worth 75% of the contribution.”

Another goal is to revisit options on Pine Street. There was a time when Pine Street was known for its grocery stores, meat markets and retail. Several business moved there from other parts of town. While JCPenney held a longtime retail presence on the corner of Fifth and Pine, it was replaced by the Dollar Tree, which also generates a tremendous amount of foot traffic.

The end game is creating a more diverse retail environment. Where Pearl Street has its identity with museums, art galleries and restaurants, creative minds are looking to generate an identity of commerce for Pine Street.

“We want to bring economic revitalization to Pine Street to help it reach the potential that it has,” DeVore said. “I have some ideas like pop-up shops like with the incubator where businesses would have a store front for a month or so to try see what happens.

“We’re trying to attract businesses that will be open on the weekend. Something that offers something for kids. We’re trying to find some activities that are indoors. I would love to see a laser tag or miniature golf. There’s a lot of different ideas.”

There is also discussion to hosting downtown property tours with local realtors, financial institutions and current property owners to allow potential tenants to see and understand all the options available.

“The tour would also involve the current property owners to give history and perspective of the property. This is something that’s been successful in Wenatchee,” DeVore said.

She has been involved at every level of the Main Street program, as a volunteer, board member, employee and executive director. DeVore most recently served as the Community Engagement and Events Manager at the Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce and event director for the Salmon Days Festival.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com

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