Downtown Vancouver businesses earn honors

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter

Published:

 

There was no shortage of syrup at Thursday morning’s Vancouver’s Downtown Association awards breakfast as the organization recognized all the sweet things going on down here.

The Toast and Jam event drew about 125 local business owners and supporters to the Hilton Vancouver Washington for a meal of applause and optimism.

“It’s the village that builds the village,” said Lee Rafferty, the downtown association’s executive director. “Remember when you could shoot a cannon off in downtown Vancouver because there was nothing happening, and now it’s the place to be.”

Rafferty handed out Game Changer awards, some of which were chosen by the association, while others were chosen by the community.

The owner of the facade improvement award, Bleu Door Bakery — which edged out Uptown Village neighbor Trap Door Brewery — said it was the community that makes any success possible.

The big “downtown visionary” award went to Cascadia Development Partners, LSW Architects, Davidson Insurance and First Pacific Financial for their redevelopment of the Esther Building at Sixth and Esther streets.

“We really believe in this downtown,” said David Copenhaver, president of Cascadia. “It’s an exciting story to tell, but it does take a lot of time to tell the world. Investors outside don’t understand or appreciate downtown Vancouver.”

Regarding the nearly two dozen new downtown businesses to open shop last year, Rafferty applauded the “courage” of so many to follow their dreams.

“People wonder what’s in the water in Vancouver because we’re opening so many businesses,” she said. “And that’s a sign of your bravery, your vision.”

Just one new business could win the award, though: Heathen Brewing’s Feral Public House on Washington Street.

“Long story short, we screwed a lot up, it’s getting better every day,” Heathen owner Sunny Parsons joked. “People have followed the beer.”

Game Changer award winners include:

• Cash register-ringer event: The Hough Foundation Sip And Stroll

• Golden broom for outstanding storefront: Divine Consign

• Peoples’ choice for favorite event: Six to Sunset Concert Series

• Carl Dobbs Award for outstanding volunteers: Daniel Mitchell and Hiedi Lee, downtown residents, business owners and organizers

• Outstanding corporate partner: Jeff, Jarl and Greg Arntson of Albina Fuel, which has given more than $324,000 to Vancouver’s Downtown Association.