Auburn Reporter editor Mark Klaas discusses all things Auburn, including comings and goings, local issues and community efforts.
The City of Auburn looked internally and hired Bob Lee to succeed Jim Kelly as police chief.
It was Kelly’s hope that the City would hire from within. Lee, the assistant police chief, has been on the Auburn force since 1981. He has paid his dues, earned his promotions and now, gets a shot to lead.
I spent some time time with Kelly, the outgoing chief. We wish him well as he makes a career change by becoming deputy director of the SCORE regional jail. My story on Kelly also can be found online.
A new restaurant and a renovated familiar one will grace the Auburn Way eating establishment in the near future.
Pick-Quick, a popular burgers-fries-and-shakes joint in Fife for 60 years, soon will appear in Auburn. Owners expect to break ground Sept. 27 at the future site on the corner 12th Street Northeast and Auburn Way North. Owners expect their new restaurant to be operational by mid-winter.
From what longtime customers tell me, the food is excellent. It will add more flavor and much-needed business to Auburn.
For details, check out Robert Whale’s story on our home page at http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/south_king/aub/news/102668819.html.
In addition, McDonald’s is planning a major renovation at its Auburn Way North location. The restaurant hopefully will reopen before the end of the year, according to its owner and operator, Stan Pennock.
The new McDonald’s, once completed, will provide zoned seating with a variety of options for customers, such as booths, chairs and small, lounge-type seating areas. In addition, the new restaurant will feature plasma screen TVs and free Wi-Fi access.
The renovation also will make way for a double-lane drive-thru for better service.
The Auburn Reporter has reporters, photographers and contributors in Wiliamsport, Pa., bringing back the action of our Little League All-Stars.
We will provide daily updates and stories.
We welcome your contributions, photos and stories, either
from home or Williamsport.
Go Big Green.
Mark Asper picked up the heel to inspect the sole of his thick boot, concerned he had stepped on some chewing gum left on the sidewalk.
“You just never know,” said the 65-year-old man from Portland. “I don’t want to drag it around town. And this seems like a nice town.”
Asper was in Auburn, visiting family and checking out a changing downtown. Businesses were open and music was playing. Foot traffic, however, was meager during what many describe as a disappointing sales event last week.
From the sales push, a nucleus of determined merchants still are making the effort to attract activity to their stores. It is a difficult task, made tougher by a soft economy.
Still, the sales event was an attempt.
Downtown businesses are hopeful that next weekend’s Good Ol’ Days Festival will help. The traditional three-day event is a party, full of fun and games, even a parade. It is another opportunity to draw people to the downtown area that has been hit hard by the recession.
The downtown area needs our support.
The downtown area continues to slowly evolve, with demolition planned for three dilapidated buildings opposite City Hall as early as September. More changes are on the way as the City welcomes new ideas and businesses to its core while embracing its own resilient merchants who operate restaurants, apparel shops and other small stores.
It is time to knock down the old, dilapidated walls of downtown yesteryear.
Auburn officials are working aggressively to usher in a new era. Removing the old buildings opposite City Hall is another turn in the right direction. It is time to bring in new business, new ideas and a welcome dollar to the local economy.
As many as three buildings are set to be demolished in September, laying the foundation for a new arrival of fresh business. It falls in line with the removal of the blighted Tavern Block. Today, a professional plaza graces that spot, another needed boost to the downtown area
The Auburn Reporter will continue to follow the metamorphosis.
We welcome the change. And we welcome your views.
The Auburn Reporter welcomes Rebecca Nelson, a summer intern who is studying journalism at Northwestern University.
Nelson, an Auburn High School graduate, is a bright and gifted reporter who brings enthusiasm, depth and skill to our staff.
Her first assignment was to tackle the human side of those affected by dilapidated living conditions at an Auburn apartment complex. Such poor conditions have left families in limbo, struggling to care for themselves. Please read the story on our site: http://bit.ly/cSFhTJ.
Nelson will be covering a wide range of topics and issues. We are pleased to have her here with us.
It is amazing to see how kids confront misfortune.
Maple Valley’s Kendall Lindberg, the daughter of Dara Lindbeg, a teacher at Dick Scobee Elementary School, is dealing with paralysis from the waist down, a result of a freak set of circumstances while surfing off the shores of Maui only two months ago.
Supported by loving family and friends, she is doing the best she can. She hopes to get back some of her independence. She remains angry, but strong, in the face of her condition. It is a tough thing to handle when your only 16.
We wish Kendall and her family well. Auburn is holding a benefit for the family on Sunday.
For the full story, please read her story on our Web site.
Brady Haugen is a young and untested prodigy who will climb into the pro ring Saturday at Vision Sport and Fitnesss Center in the Auburn SuperMall. In his corner will be his father, former four-time world champion Greg “The Mutt” Haugen.
Brady is giving boxing a go, a decision he has made for himself. His father is a great teacher of the game.
“This is Brady’s thing,” Greg said.
For the full story, check out it out at http://bit.ly/dlVj77
Fight night at the mall will include seven other bouts. For more details and ticket options, visit www.hccpromotions.com.
Lakeland Hills has two of the finest operatic voices in the world.
Meet the husand-wife duo of Victor Benedetti and Juliana Rimbaldi, internationally-renowned baritone and soprano, respectively. Each has performed throughout the nation and abroad. Seldom do they perform on the same stage, but will this weekend at hometown Auburn.
For the couple, it has been a challenge raising two boys and making professional commitments while living in the Great Northwest. Somehow, they make it all work.
You can hear the frustration in their voices, see the concern on their faces.
For proprietors with shops along narrow Main Street, Auburn, USA, these are long, tough days.
Business remains slow for restaurateurs and retailers trying to regain their financial footing in a deep and devastating recession.
Aside from loyal customers, the sidewalk traffic is sporadic at best, and the grim realization is setting in that it will be a slow, agonizing recovery, especially for those who earn a living in the heart of the city.
“We have not seen the signs that downtown is picking up,” admitted Jim Rottle, while looking on from inside his family’s longstanding family apparel and footwear business on East Main. “Weekend business is good, but during the week it has been quiet.”
Dave Comstock has owned and operated his bindery and bookshop in downtown Auburn since 1984. He has seen his share of ups and downs, but nothing quite like this.
“We’re surviving, but that’s it,” Comstock said. “I would like us to do a little better than just survive. Everybody is affected. I’m just glad we haven’t lost more businesses.”
Auburn is not alone in the small business crisis.
With the country mired in 10 percent unemployment, commerce remains down, the backwash from the 8.4 million jobs lost since the recession began more than two years ago.
Stock values continue to fall. Economic growth continues to stagger, albeit upwardly by some indicators. Home prices might be “bottoming out,” but foreclosures are projected to set a record this year, according to private forecasts.
In Washington alone, the state Employment Security Department reports, 106,200 jobs were lost in 2009, the worst 12-month figure in recent history.
And Boeing took its hits, shedding more than 3,700 jobs in the last year, with more announced this season – about 500 in the Puget Sound area – as part of the 10,000 layoffs Boeing originally targeted for 2009.
Such economic plight hasn’t eased the tension on small business owners trying to survive the aftershock of the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Business owners are doing all they can to persevere. Some shops have cut overhead, trimmed hours and controlled costs. But shops have closed for good. Vacancies abound.
Those owners still in business are doing so without much support from state and federal hands.
Comstock, for one, doesn’t expect to receive any help for his struggling business.
“Not a damn thing. They’re not going to do anything for little bitty businesses. They never have,” he said. “And the state’s not going to do anything but increase our taxes, like the county’s doing.
“There’s no cooperation from government at all for small businesses. It doesn’t exist,” Comstock added. “So we’re having to tough it out and try to get through this.”
The cost of doing business in the state remains high. And the state’s proposal to increase the sales tax by three tenths of a cent until 2013 to narrow a $2.8 billion budget deficit doesn’t sit too well with business owners trying to drum up customers.
“The state is spending way more than they’re taking in,” said Ken Nelson, who owns and operates Nelson’s Jewelry on Main Street.
Unfavorable taxes and high insurance costs make it difficult for small businesses to exist, let alone get established.
Colleen Barry was one of the few who decided to start a business in the face of a recession. Her cozy downtown restaurant, The Kitsch-en, has withstood some lean days. Barry insists she will stay open at a time when other owners have pulled out of Auburn.
“It’s been frustrating and depressing some days, other days you’re thinking maybe things will turn around,” Barry said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it. You have to take it on a daily basis.”
Despite typical slow sales for the first quarter of this year, some owners remain guardedly optimistic.
“We can always do better,” said Carol Nedderman, who works at Ultimate Hobbies. “What would really help is if we had more stores open, more foot traffic. But it will be slow, I’m sure.”
Nelson added: “I’m more optimistic than I have been.”
Rottles Clothing and Shoes has been forced to be more creative in marketing its diversified store to draw in more customers. The second half of 2010 will say plenty about how well the economy is doing.
“We did less business in 2009 than we did in 2008, but we’re looking to rebound from that,” Jim Rottle said. “But were anxiously waiting for the city’s projects to culminate and get more people to downtown.”
The city held a grand opening this week for the One Main Professional Center, a three-story downtown office building.
Perhaps it is the beginning of a brighter day for a downtown that could use an injection of hope.
And perhaps Auburn’s dysfunctional and bickering Auburn Downtown Association can come to a consensus, come up with new ideas and find new ways to generate business. Perhaps the downtown can create new local ownership, new leadership.
Until then, small business – as Auburn knows it – will trudge on.
“Have we bottomed out? I don’t know,” Comstock said as he watched customers peruse his bookshelves. “We will know more later this year.”