Changing tastes: Chocolate boutique to replace wine outlet

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Walla Walla Wine Works will be closing its downtown tasting room for a transformation into The Chocolate Shop.

The company's chocolate-infused wine has inspired a brick-and-mortar location that will showcase the sweet drink as well as all things chocolate, operators from Walla Walla Wine Works-owned Precept Wine have announced.

The tasting room, which features an array of Precept brands, has been closing out its various wines at the location as it prepares to "build on the 'sweet row' of retailers the neighborhood inherently provides" with the nearby Bright's Candies, Frosted -- the Cupcake Shop and Peach & Pear.

Precept also owns Waterbrook Winery on U.S. Highway 12, which will continue to be a destination for the numerous wines offered by the company, including Washington Hills, Waterbrook, House Wine, Sagelands and more.

According to some of the preliminary details: The target opening for The Chocolate Shop is May 4 during Spring Release weekend. The location will feature "artisanal confections," chocolate T-shirts and novelty apparel and Chocolate Shop wine. Pre-opening events are expected to take place before the official grand opening.

The shop at First Avenue and Main Street will be closed for two months for the remodel under the design of Jodi Hummer. The new look will include "gilded touches, chandelier features, tones of lustrous gold and rich browns," Precept announced. The changeover is not expected to affect the current staff.

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Smith's Family Restaurant will officially be welcomed to Pine Street with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.

The restaurant formerly known as Sterling's has experienced an ownership change. This week's event will celebrate the change.

Danny and Laura Smith had reportedly been partners in the business, when it expanded from the Tri-Cities into Walla Walla just a couple of years ago. They have recently become the sole owners of the Walla Walla steakhouse.

According to an announcement from the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, which is putting on the ribbon-cutting Thursday, the Smiths both grew up in small towns and have years of history in the restaurant industry -- from fast food to management. They want to localize the operation to meet the needs and standards of the community. Their son, Tim, also operates the business with them.

Thursday's event takes place at 10 a.m. at the restaurant, 1425 W. Pine St. It runs until noon.

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Teachers are at the proverbial head of the class at Liberty Tax Service this week.

Education system employees are the latest group of people to be recognized through the local franchise's "Appreciation Days." That means school employees new to the local service can get free tax preparation if they drop in at one of the two local offices by Sunday. Offices are at 705 W. Rose St., suite A, and 1637 Isaacs Ave., suite D. The offer is open to teachers, school employees and bus drivers.

Eligible educators who spend their own money on classroom supplies could also qualify for a tax break. Eligibility applies to kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers, instructors, counselors, principals or aides who work at least 900 hours in either a public or private school. An adjustment for such expenses of no more than $250 can be claimed whether or not the supplies can be itemized, said local franchisee Sharon Dodgin.

For more information call 526-5081 or drop by one of the offices.

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

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