With the start of a new year, Snoqualmie businesses are looking forward to the progress they can make individually and as a group. Efforts to organize local businesses and coordinate with the city on events throughout the year will be one of the big focuses for the first half of 2018.
To achieve greater collaboration on events and promotion, the city is working to create new roles out of the events coordinator and economic development consultant contract position that was previously held by Leslie Billington.
Part of the consultant’s responsibilities were helping to establish and coordinate the merchants groups in both historic downtown Snoqualmie and on the Ridge. While the downtown merchants group had consistent meetings and has now formed into a more formal group that aims to become a non-profit organization, the Ridge merchants meetings ceased to be run.
Anna Sotelo, owner of Ana’s Family Style Mexican Restaurant on the Ridge, said the merchants would like to reorganize and form a new group. She expressed disappointment in the communication between the city and the Ridge merchants in the past and wants to make sure the city’s development of a new position to be a liaison to the businesses is done right.
“They need to establish what is really needed moving forward, try to establish that and how that job would look,” she said. “We’d like to be reorganized… I would like there to be a stronger merchant force.”
A new economic development coordinator, to act as a liaison to the merchants in Snoqualmie, would be beneficial to both the downtown and Ridge, she said.
“I’d like to see a friendly, supportive city staff member who could help organize the different events and could organize merchants meetings with the agenda we are looking for and could be a liaison in the city for different things, to be that mouth and ear for us,” she said. “I’m eager to represent the merchants and help the city in what I can, without camaraderie we wont get anything accomplished.”
For now, Sotelo is developing an online ordering service for her business and is also working with other Ridge restaurants, including Aahaar Indian Eatery, Brunello Ristorante Italiano, and Infusion Bar and Grill, to start delivering food to the many offices around the business park.
The downtown Snoqualmie merchants group was able to have consistent meetings throughout 2017 and has formed a board to further their goal of becoming a non-profit organization and being able to coordinate events to help economic development in the downtown area.
Mike Seal, president of the downtown merchants board and owner of Sigillo Cellars, said the group is working to become a part of Main Street America, a national organization that helps with the economic development of historic downtowns.
Seal said the group is also working to get new signage in place that would help direct traffic from tourists going to the Snoqualmie Falls into the downtown core.
“We’ve tried to work with the city council on some signage issues that we think would benefit the downtown merchants because the signage on the freeway directs through the freeway to the falls, there is a tiny sign to head right for downtown,” he said.
The lack of a city liaison is also affecting the downtown merchants. Seal said that without a representative for city events, the group must take up some that work on their own.
“The goal is to continue with a lot of the events that we did, however with (the consultant) gone and not having a specific role, we need to prioritize what events are going to be good for us,” he said.
City councilmember James Mayhew said that in the development of a new position, or multiple positions that break up the responsibilities of the previous consultant, merchant interaction is a very important element.
While there is currently a sense of urgency to the process to make sure none of the city events are dropped, Mayhew also said there is urgency needed for merchant interaction as well.
The city, he said, needs to “help them coordinate with each other and do things that are mutually beneficial to them as merchant groups, and then also hear from them as a group on things that are important that the city might be able to focus on to help,” he said. “Keeping that dialogue moving and improving… we are really trying to get this right.”