Ellensburg downtown association awards six local businesses with grant


Omar Benitez

Pear Street Books & Gifts.

Omar Benitez, Staff Reporter

The Ellensburg Downtown Association (EDA) announced the winners of this year’s second bi-annual business awards program.

The EDA awarded six downtown businesses a grant of $1,000 to help make improvements to their businesses. 

These businesses include Ellensburg Pet Center, Pearl Street Books, Claim Clothing, Yarn Folk, Law Offices of Tony Swartz and Blue Rock Saloon.

According to EDA Executive Director Brenda DeVore, the program was started last year as a way to help struggling businesses during the pandemic.

“There were businesses that knew they had to change the way we’re conducting business and it might cost them money to do the physical improvements and changes they need,” DeVore said. “Maybe they needed to move to an online store model or they needed to implement a POS system for online, we wanted to help them with things like that.”

DeVore said that any business could apply for the program as long as they meet the criteria.  

“The criteria is very specific on the contest application and is fairly basic, they need to be located within the downtown area, businesses have to be in business for a year in order to apply,” DeVore said. “There’s a few other criteria, for instance [the grant money] cannot be used for employee wages, or a project that’s already been completed.”

Once the business applications met the criteria, they were entered into the contest where the winners were selected by a jury.

“We put together a jury of local business representatives in our countywide community,” DeVore said. “That jury selected our winners based on the criteria that we required for the contest.”

The awarded businesses then provided a plan to the EDA on how the grant money would be spent. 

For Yarn Folk owner Ann Miner, this meant finally getting some lighting upgrades to her shop that she first opened in 2013.

“A project that I had been thinking about for a while was doing some lighting upgrades in my space,” Miner said. “I had a couple of dead spots in the store and had been thinking about how to add some lighting to them and that seemed to fit within the scope of the requirements for the grant, so I applied for the grant and I was very happy to be selected.”

For Liz Stone, owner of Pearl Street Books, this meant getting some new books and other needed upgrades. 

“We had a need for a new credit card processing system and we also wanted to bring in some new books,” Stone said. “We wanted to bring in more travel books, we have quite a few people in the community after those and our section was really small. So now we are able to offer more variety and give people what they’re asking for which is always huge with a small business.”

Ellensburg Pet Center owner Daria Wheeler said this grant will help the business get some tech upgrades.

“They helped get a new computer station built for us and a new box, and it got installed yesterday and it’s up and running,” Wheeler said. “We were thrilled.”

According to the EDA, the other business improvements include equipment replacement and improvement for Claim Clothing, facade and beautification improvements for Law Offices of Tony Swartz and marketing and website for Blue Rock Saloon.

Business owners expressed their gratification for the support from the EDA and the community. 

“It’s enormously helpful for small businesses like ours, we’re very small businesses, we don’t have huge staff and Ellensburg is also a very small town so our audience is limited,” Wheeler said. “Anytime the city steps in and recognizes that, and is of assistance, it’s always enormously helpful.”

Miner of Yarnfolk said the collective support is really helpful. 

“We’re all in this together in terms of creating a vibrant community, a destination that people want to come and visit,” Miner said.

Stone echoed the sentiment of feeling “in this together” with other small businesses downtown.

“It shows the community is behind its businesses and it shows that they’re willing to actually put money towards the health and the wellbeing of the masses,” Stone said. 

DeVore said the sponsorship for grants changes from year to year. This year’s grants were sponsored by Umpqua Bank.

Any businesses interested in applying for next year’s awards can stay connected by signing up for the EDA’s email updates on their website.

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