Thrift-store redo? Wineries, shops under consideration

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A longtime thrift store could be made over into a winery village as part of a plan for downtown Walla Walla's Main Street.

The Village on Main Street is a proposed cooperative of wineries and shops in the 23,000-square-foot space formerly home to the Blue Mountain Humane Society Thrift Store. According to a notice posted on the windows of the building, the concept includes a large group of wineries with individual tasting bars. The operation would also be anchored by a restaurant slated for the upper floor of the building.

Kurt Fisher of Gibraltar Investment Property Solutions, which owns the building, said in a voice message that no tenants have been finalized for the building. He said the firm is working with a possible restaurant tenant, though no agreement has been inked. He's also working on binding documents for the possible wine village.

Craig Keister, who owns Mandrakes antiques across the street, has been working on recruiting wineries for the project. More details are expected in the coming weeks, added Fisher.

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The Washington State Penitentiary has been nominated for the 2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the U.S. government's highest recognition for the support businesses show to employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

Nearly 60 Washington employers were nominated by their workers for the honor. The penitentiary is the only nominee from Walla Walla. This is the second consecutive year employees have nominated the penitentiary.

Nearly 2,500 Guard and Reserve service members or their families nominated businesses all over the country. The nominees demonstrated their support by providing continued benefits, differential pay and family assistance. A national selection board made of senior defense officials and business leaders will choose up to 15 recipients for the 2010 award, which will be announced by the Department of Defense this summer. Recipients will be honored in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23.

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Fat Cat's Tavern Grill will commemorate 20 years in business with an all-day Happy Hour on Saturday.

As a thank-you to the customers who've supported the business, owner Pete Yelenich and his daughter, Hollie Leitner, who manages Fat Cat's, will offer the drink special, plus food and free pool.

Hors d'oeuvres will be served from noon to 3 p.m. at the Walla Walla bar, 430 W. Main St. Pool will be free all day.

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Banner Bank has hired a new employee to manage the company's Walla Walla Eastgate branch.

Michelle Potts joins the bank as assistant vice president/branch manager at the Isaacs Avenue location. In a prepared statement, Banner Senior Vice President/Walla Walla Division Manager Matt Tucker said Potts' more than 20 years of banking experience will benefit Banner and its customers.

Potts has worked in banking 22 years, all of which were in the Walla Walla region, including at Bank of Whitman, AmericanWest Bank and Baker Boyer Bank.

Her previous experience has been in commercial, residential and consumer lending. She is a graduate of both the Pacific Coast Banking School and Walla Walla Community College.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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