Kennewick businesses await completion of wine village

By Sean Bassinger

Business owners in downtown Kennewick sense the excitement building as the new wine village takes shape along the Columbia Drive riverfront.

“It’s just the perfect time to be there,” said Liz Thompson, who co-owns ET Estate Sales with her husband, Mark. The Thompsons are moving back to the retail area after outgrowing their space in Richland.

The Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Wine Village — a 5.4-acre river-facing development — already has two wineries that plan to open up their operations and tasting rooms there this summer.

Neighboring business owners have been watching the progress.

Ann Steiger, owner of Roxy Theatre Antiques & Gifts, said it’s an exciting time to be in downtown Kennewick as her own store on Kennewick Avenue approaches its 14th anniversary in February.

She said she hasn’t seen a project this large in the historic downtown Kennewick area since she’s been there. She commended the port and city on their continued efforts to take advantage of the riverfront.

“I think any momentum that we can get going within our business district here is wonderful,” she said. “We have a lot to offer — we think there’s a lot to be shared with the whole Tri-Cities.”

Victorino Mendoza, who’s owned El Chapala Mexican Restaurant on Columbia Drive since 2006, thinks the wine village will be a good addition. He recently met with the port-commissioned artist who will paint a 672-foot Latino heritage mural in the wine village.

Andrew Reid, a Florida-based muralist, had lunch at the restaurant last month to meet the Mendoza family. He will design the artwork that will span the two buildings currently under construction to celebrate and educate the Latino community’s contributions to the Tri-City region, including the wine and agricultural industries.

The mural is anticipated to be finished in September.

Several business owners, including Mendoza, take great pride in the area.

“It’s a good thing — what they’re planning to do in this area,” he said, adding that it likely will bring in more customers to businesses in the Columbia Drive area.

“I think it’s something good for us,” he said. “I think we can grow a little bit more.”

Liz Thompson said she’s excited to be back in downtown Kennewick after eight years in Richland. Their new store, which employs seven people and specializes in estate liquidation services, is at 422 E. Columbia Drive, directly across from the wine village.

They opened in 2005 in a 1,500-square-foot space in downtown Kennewick. Then they moved to Richland in 2007, upgrading to 5,000 square feet in the Uptown Shopping Center.

But they needed more space and found it on Columbia Drive. Their 18,000-square-foot complex includes a retail and processing center and warehouse.

The store is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“We have so much more space there than what we had in Richland,” Liz Thompson said.

Clients often have to sell entire households of items to the Thompsons, which required more storage space.

“It’s a huge service for the community, and we’ll be able to meet those needs so much better,” she said. “It’s really nice to be back. It’s a little different area than we were at before, but it’s still downtown.”

Port officials have continued to meet with business owners along Columbia Drive and downtown Kennewick to keep them informed about the project.

Tana Bader Inglima, the port’s deputy CEO, said she continues to hear many positive comments about the wine village.

“It’s quite a draw into the downtown area itself,” she said.

The general plan is to have the waterfront tie into the historic downtown retail area, Bader Inglima said.

A small loop road near the wineries will connect three or four parcels of land that could someday be home to other complementary businesses or more wineries. Also planned is a picnic area with space for four food trucks.

Charlotte and Kelly Williams hope to operate KC’s Biscuit Shop in one of those spaces. They’re working on securing financing to launch their business that will specialize in breakfast sandwiches served on their homemade buttermilk biscuits.

“That’s where we’d like to be,” Charlotte Williams said. “There’s nothing like it on this end of Kennewick near the cable bridge. If you’re up early in the morning on your way to Hanford, there’s no place to get breakfast.”

The city’s new wine-effluent pre-treatment center will give Kennewick a competitive edge in attracting future wine tenants to the village since state regulations are starting to tighten, Bader Inglima said.

“That’ll give an advantage for all the wineries coming into the area,” she said.

Two wineries — Palencia Wine Co. of Walla Walla and Bartholomew Winery of Seattle — will be the wine village’s first tenants. The port is continuing to negotiate with a third tenant but it has not yet been disclosed.

Planned for the second phase of development is a custom 16,000-square-foot grape-crushing facility that could accommodate five to six wineries.

Banlin Construction of Kennewick received the $3.4 million contract to build the first winery tasting room and production buildings.

Port officials said construction should be complete by July.

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