Best of the Valley businesses share insights into success

Best of the Valley 2021

We asked readers in the Snoqualmie Valley who the best businesses were. The results are in, and that list can be found on our website. We’re in the process of sending out questions to businesses, and printing them as they come in. If your business was selected as a winner or finalist, but haven’t received an email, hang tight, we’re working on it!

Handy in the Valley – Handyman Winner

What has running a business over the last year been like?

It’s been extremely difficult. We made a decision as a business to help protect our family, staff, customers and community by not doing any indoor work until we are in phase 3 unless the home was vacant. Jon the owner worked all fall and winter outdoors. Our revenue has reflected the uncertainty everyone has had and the choice we made to do our part to protect others.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

We live where we work so our #1 goal is to be a well established and respected business in the Valley. Our key to success is that Jon is a hard working family who’s able to relate to his customers and their needs. We truly care about our customers and community.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

Spending time with our friends and family.

– Jon Frazier, Owner

North Bend Ace Hardware – Best Hardware/Home store

What has running a business over the last year been like?

It has obviously been a challenging year for all businesses and people. Just about every industry is struggling with supply chain issues and a lack of merchandise in general.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

The secret to our success over the past year is our people. As we are an essential business, our entire team has performed way beyond the call of duty to continue to serve our customers in spite of all the challenges thrown at us.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

When the restrictions are lifted we are looking forward to holding a mask burning ceremony and throwing a huge party!

– Tony Persson, General Manager

I think once the pandemic has lifted, the thing we would look most forward to would be being able to see our customers’ smiling faces and be able to work more closely with them to make sure they are getting the items they need to complete their projects. Having masks on makes communication and assisting them more difficult. We would also love to be able to start back up with our store events and barbecue demonstrations as well as be able to help support community activities once gathering restrictions can be lifted.

– Colleen Nissell, District Manager

Forever Allure, Best Home-based Business

What has running a business over the last year been like?

This last year has brought new challenges with having to be shut down to new restrictions. But, in these new challenges I found ways to grow and enhance my salon.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

Success I found within this year was being able to grow my product lines and finding new exciting ways to deliver products to my clients with making product bags. This year has also gave me a chance to enhance my advertising with live videos and spreading knowledge about my products and how to use them to achieve a style.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

When the restrictions are lifted I am ready to get back to having my open house salon parties and getting my clients back together again.

-Paige Gronley, Owner

Jeff Warren Agency, Insurance Finalist

What has running a business over the last year been like?

It has been a challenge in insurance and financial services. I have clients that are doing as well as ever during the pandemic as they work from home but they haven’t been affected financially by the change. Then I have just as many policyholders and neighbors who are at risk of losing their homes.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

Everyone is going through something right now. We have reached out to each person in our book and just asked to see if they were doing alright. I gave each household a ten dollar gift card. I also purchased $4000 in local restaurant gift cards and distributed them to essential workers in the Valley. State Farm lowered rates and gave back 2.8 billion in dividends to our mutual company policyholders. Never a better time to be a good neighbor.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

Playing music again with Blues Illusion our local blues band, and taking my family and my office staff and their families out for a celebration dinner for all the moments we missed this last year.

Mt. Si Senior Center, Senior Health Care Center, Winner

What has running a business over the last year been like?

This last year has been challenging, especially for seniors and the elderly who have been most isolated during the pandemic. In order to support them, we’ve had to find different ways of providing services. Mt. Si Senior Center has responded to the needs of seniors during this COVID-19 crisis by delivering meals to them, with the help of Snoqualmie Valley Transportation. We’ve also been making social check-in calls to reduce isolation and monitor the wellbeing of seniors, hosting online programming, and providing information and assistance. In the last year we were also able to deliver grocery cards into the hands of 362 seniors around the holidays, complete the purchase of a senior apartment building, renovate parts of our senior center, and hold a vaccine clinic. In all, I think we have some extraordinary accomplishments in an extraordinary year.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

The key to our success is that our team of staff and volunteers keep showing up to do whatever is necessary for the seniors. This work we’ve been doing is a natural extension of what we do year-round under normal circumstances. It is also reflects the great care and concern we have for a generation of people we love and respect.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

We can’t wait to welcome seniors back to Mt. Si Senior Center and see them enjoying one another’s company again. That will be our greatest achievement in 2021. It reflects our desire to empower seniors to achieve wellness, maintain their independence, enjoy social connections, and experience an enriched life.

-Susan Kingsbury-Comeau, Executive Director

Little University of Dreams, Preschool, Finalist

What has running a business over the last year been like?

Running over the last year has been stressful to say the least. Our number one goal is to provide a safe place for kids to learn, grow and explore, while also ensuring our staff is healthy and safe. I don’t want to discriminate but we have some of the greatest families in our preschool and they have really made all the difference. Their commitment to following CDC and state recommendations for Covid has allowed us to provide a safe environment for these kids to learn. It makes me a little emotional talking about this journey together because these families are the reason we are still able to do what we love.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

The secret to my success is a serious commitment to all of the wonderful families the utilize us for preschool. We strive to provide love and understanding to all of our families as we all navigated this difficult time. Our relationship with parents and children, fostered a new level of trust and empathy for all of the unique struggles that we all faced. I couldn’t have made it though without the strong bonds with parents this year, they helped all of our staff to not feel so isolated.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

When restrictions are lifted, I am most excited to see the kids faces. Seeing their silly faces and expressions is #1 on my most missed things. Although, we have navigated silliness and laughter through our masks, seeing the full joy on their little faces will make my cup overflow. Tears of joy. I cannot wait.

-April Littlejohn, Owner

Mt Si Sports & Fitness, Fitness Venue, Winner

What has running a business over the last year been like?

Mt Si Sports & Fitness was founded in 2003. This past year was the most difficult by far. Extremely stressful! The uncertainty of everything made it difficult to plan.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

We have survived because most of our members kept their memberships active and supported us even when we were closed due to the governor’s mandates. They did so because we have provided them value through the years and they wanted us to be around when this is all over.. Secondly PPP and SBA grants really helped.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

I simply cannot wait to play music with my band Eastside Vinyl!

-Ben Cockman, Owner

Si View Metro Parks, Best Park, Winner

What has running a business over the last year been like?

Parks and recreation services are essential to thriving communities which has been further highlighted during this pandemic. As the local parks and recreation agency, we are committed to enhancing the quality of life for residents, supporting the health of families and youth, and contributing to the economic and environmental health of our Snoqualmie Valley community.

When the pandemic closures began, our services quickly pivoted to focus on providing childcare for essential workers and ensuring that our community had safe access to our parks, trails and open spaces to recreate responsibly. Little by little, our programs and facilities have begun to re-open, with safety as the top priority. Many recreation programs are once again available at the community center, Si View Pool is open for limited programs, a number of sports programs have resumed, and plans for summer activities, including the Farmers Market at Si View Park are in full swing. The community has been incredibly supportive throughout the many transitions, helping us prioritize needs through surveys and questionnaires. We continue to expand services in each re-opening phase and look forward to the day when we can once again see many smiling faces at our community events. Learn more about Si View Metro Parks at www.siviewpark.org.

-Minna Rudd, Recreation Manager

Sigillo Cellars, Live Music, Finalist

What has running a business over the last year been like?

This last year of running a business in Snoqualmie has been challenging, but we have tried to adapt quickly and make changes due to current restrictions, to do what is best for our business and our customers. We wanted people to feel safe in our tasting room and took extra measures above and beyond to make sure everything was sanitized and clean for our guests.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

The secret to our success during the difficult times has been our amazing Wine Club members. We have so many loyal members in the Snoqualmie Valley and they helped support us when we were closed and came in to celebrate us opening during Phase 2. We have met some incredible people in the Valley over the last 9 years we have been in business and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them!

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

When the pandemic restrictions are lifted, we are looking forward to hosting large events, like our quarterly Wine Club parties, in our tasting room again! We miss seeing people on a regular basis and look forward to catching up with everyone, once we are able to open with full seating!

-Christie Hussey, Partner Relations Manager

Encompass, Best Place to Work Winner, Preschool and Local Non-Profit Finalists

What has running a business over the last year been like?

We have had to learn to embrace change on an entirely new level! Staff have had to learn how to work remotely and figure out new ways to meet our mission. As things change around the state’s covid -19 restrictions, we have become vigilant to these changes and communicate our policy updates frequently to keep children and staff as safe as possible. We have also learned how to best use technology not only to work in our individual jobs but how to connect and continue programming and therapies with families.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

The flexibility, commitment and resilience of the Encompass families and staff!

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

Meeting each other in person. I can’t wait to see children and families at our sites every day and talk to staff at the copier or in the breakroom again.

-Nela Cummings, Executive Director

Ole Cedar Mill, Storage, Winner

What has running a business over the last year been like?

It has been interesting for sure. We’ve been lucky in that it’s mostly been business as usual. We have a small staff of 3 and we’ve limited our in person customer interactions.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

Adaptation. We’ve created a new website where people can pay their storage payment online and rent available units online.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

Business wise? We still haven’t opened our doors to have people in our office. I miss that. We have a customer service walk-up window. Looking forward to having customers in side again. Personally- I’m dying for some live music.

Il Paesano, International Cuisine Winner, Restaurant Winner

What has running a business over the last year been like?

It has been a difficult journey this year. We are limited in every way, but we are trying to make the best of it while keeping everyone’s safety our top priority.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

The fact that we are a family business has really saved us this year. When everything started last March we bunkered down and set up a very systematic takeout service with curbside pick-up. Unfortunately, the start of the pandemic meant uncertain times so we had to send most of our staff home for the time being, but we knew that if we didn’t make that sacrifice in that moment that we would probably not have an open restaurant today and work to offer to anyone now. We rolled with the punches and did our best to still provide quality food and quality service via takeout for our customers.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

We are looking forward to seeing all of our customers back in to eat. We have seen some of our regulars in, but the fact that things are still at 50% capacity and that most people still do not feel safe being out and about (which is understandable) has prohibited us to see everyone right away. We understand, however, that safety comes first and we feel blessed from all the support we have received from our customers through kind messages, takeout and that little dine-in we are able to do right now. All in all, we are all in this together. This year has really shown us that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you do for a living, etc. we are TRULY all in the same boat. We should feel thankful everyday for what we do have, and we should try to support our neighbors who may have less than us during these difficult times.

-Giordana Bafaro, Owner

100 Women Who Care, Organization to Join, Finalist

What has running a business over the last year been like?

We feel very lucky because our model for fundraising had a smooth transition to the Zoom format.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

We have a committed membership. Our efforts to fundraise take less than an hour, three times a year.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

I think we will all look forward to being able to meet in person to continue our fundraising efforts.

-Lauren Clark

The Swirl, Dessert, Winner

What has running a business over the last year been like?

First of all I need to say that we are so super happy to have been voted Best Dessert in the Valley!! Residents have lots of great options, so I feel like it’s quite an honor.

A little side note too. This January we opened a second location on Snoqualmie Ridge. It is a weird and difficult time to be expanding, but I’m an optimist and this is when the opportunity presented itself.

What has running a business over the last year been like?

Wow, this year has certainly been challenging. It felt like we were just getting our stride when everything hit and we needed to rethink much of how we worked. It’s been alot of planning and alot of stress. But really we have just kept going. That’s really all we can do.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

It’s not really our secret, but we wouldn’t still be around without our wonderful customers. Most everyone has been understanding, appreciative and overall supportive.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

I originally thought my answer to this question was going to be hosting parties at The Swirl again. Oh how I miss the crazy, fun energy of lots of kids and parents celebrating and enjoying yummy treats. But as we start to open up a bit I realize how much I enjoy getting to witness and in some way getting to be a part of parent/child ‘dates’. Those precious quiet moments of a parent and child spending time together, enjoying conversation and a treat are a little bonus I didn’t realize that I missed.

Rio Bravo, International Cuisine, Finalist

What has running a business over the last year been like?

It’s been difficult, we’ve had to make a lot of adjustments to make sure we can keep serving our community and keep our staff working.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

There is no secret, we’re lucky to be part of an awesome and supportive community. We’re very thankful for that and we hope to be around for a long long time.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

We’re looking forward to serve our customers like they deserve to be served, and be able to have them dine-in and talk to them like used to.

The Trail Youth, Organization to Join and Local Non-Profit Winner, Coffee Finalist

What has running a business over the last year been like?

For the Coffee Home it’s been a bit of a roller coaster, as many others can relate to, as well. We dealt with limited seating, then on-again, off-again closures, then limited seating again. We adopted stringent safety and cleaning protocols while dealing with diverse customers who sometimes have differing opinions on the best way forward. But in the end, I see us coming through with an even stronger purpose in bringing hope and connection to the community we serve.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

Pivoting! At the beginning of the pandemic we had to close our doors, but not our services. So pivoting was key. We found success taking our teen programs virtual. In-store, we focused our attention on our in-house roastery – selling bags of custom blends curbside, delivering them locally, even shipping them anywhere in the US. One of our teen roasting interns, Nick Adamek (from Gibson Ek High School) helped set up a new online ordering feature. We opened two new locations, training teen baristas and selling drinks at the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital and at Echo Glen Children’s Center.

With community support we also purchased a mobile coffee trailer – a coffee shop on wheels. We used the coffee truck to reach people who can’t get to us. We delivered 1,400 meals in partnership with the Snoqualmie Tribe and distributed 950 pairs of Bombas socks. So another example of growing and doing outreach within the stream of what’s happening in the moment.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

Serving more teens in our coffee home and community, and continuing to spread our mission of hope and help. Our motto, “Hope begins with a personal touch” couldn’t be more true after the challenges we’ve all been through.

-Tonya Guinn, Executive Director and Co-Founder

IGNITE Dance and Yoga, Favorite Children’s Activity Winner, Health and Fitness Venue Runner Up

What has running a business over the last year been like?

This has been the most challenging year (out of all 11), in the sense of having to recreate and reinvent our business structure to adapt to Covid regulations. We had to come up with creative ways to keep students engaged and active, while being limited to how many students could attend “in-person”. There were times when we were not allowed students in our facility at all, and still had to find ways to offer classes. We supplemented our program with virtual and outdoor class options.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

Thinking outside the box (reimagining programming), and trusting that doing the right thing (enforcing the mask mandate and all covid regulations) would keep customers coming.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

Have normal class sizes. The hardest part has been keeping all 30 employees, but having less students in class.

Dr. Mike Treuting, Veterinarian Services Winner

What has running a business over the last year been like?

Running a veterinary practice through covid continues to be extremely challenging. Veterinarians have been working through strict safety protocols since day one and it has made it more difficult to schedule and see our patients as we have been so used to in the past. By doing this, though, we have been able to keep our staff and clients safe and able to keep our doors open. Overall, I feel that all of our valley vet clinics and hospitals have done an amazing job keeping all of our valley families safe and their pets happy and healthy.

What’s the secret to your success, even during difficult times?

I think it all boils down to truly enjoying what you do. If you can wake up and look forward to your day, success is inevitable.

When pandemic restrictions are lifted, what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing?

Live music! This is by far the thing I miss the most. Although, jumping up and giving the stranger next to me a high five after Russell hits Metcalf for a touchdown at Lumen Field is pretty important. Geaux Hawks!!

Black Dog, Food/Entertainment Live Music Winner

Thank you very much for reaching out, we’re so honored that our community voted for us.

We just took over ownership October 1st, so the past six months have definitely been an interesting learning and evolving experience. We are very close to the previous owners and feel supported.

The successes we’ve felt have come to us through staying true to who we are and putting our hearts and souls into everything we do. We haven’t compromised on the freshness and quality of our ingredients. We are dedicated to building a healthy plant based menu yet still offering some meat options for patrons that have been returning over the 30 years the Café has been here. We have been able to continue our open mic virtually on Facebook thanks to volunteers and all the artists. Most of all, the continued support of our community, family, and friends—their appreciation and love has kept us going. We are so grateful.

We are looking forward to having open mics, live entertainment, dancing, and gatherings!


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