Jeremy Mansius spent his adolescence helping his dad run a HobbyTown franchise in Portland.
When he went on to pursue a degree in finance, he thought he’d left the radio-controlled cars and science kits behind him.
“I grew up thinking, ‘I’m never going to work at this store. I’m never going to work at HobbyTown.’ And now I own one,” Mansius said with a laugh.
Mansius and his father, who acts as a silent partner, bought Center Towers Shopping Center at 1360 N. Louisiana St. in Kennewick last year for $2.4 million. It’s located behind Olive Garden.
“Right when we bought it, the previous owner had just filled (up the spaces),” Mansius said. “Including me, there’s eight tenants.”
The businesses include companies such as a nail shop, hair salon, restaurant, insurance company, CPA and bakery.
Mansius’ father owns several HobbyTown stores throughout the Northwest, including in Vancouver, Everett, Silverdale and Redmond.
“My dad always wanted to open up a store in the Tri-Cities, so we looked in the area,” Mansius said.
Although his father grew up in Kennewick, Mansius knew little about the area.
But the Tri-Cities’ economic growth was evident, and in 2004 he opened HobbyTown at the Center Towers in Suite G.
After several years as a tenant, Mansius contacted the building owner about buying the complex.
“He wanted too much for the building,” said Mansius, who explained the previous owner had ties in Seattle. “Nobody bought it, and he held onto it, but he finally wanted out bad enough that he dropped the price $500,000, which was enough for us.”
Though HobbyTown is a national franchise with more than 150 locations, Mansius said he is surprised at the number of businesses in his shopping center that are family owned and unique to the Tri-Cities.
“I have always been impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit here,” he said. “All the owners here are hard workers and take pride in their individual stores.”
Edgar Arechiga and his wife, Janette, opened a Mexican restaurant called Tomatillo in the Center Towers Shopping Center in January 2016. He said being in the retail center has brought in a large pool of potential customers, which is the ideal environment for growing their business.
“Me and my family have been part of the Tri-Cities for over 15 years, and being able to create something that can entice customers from all over Washington and into the Tri-Cities is really something worth being part of,” he said.
Most of the spaces in the Center Towers Shopping Center are about 1,400 square feet, said Mansius, although HobbyTown takes up three of the units, or about 4,200 square feet.
But HobbyTown isn’t the only business Mansius owns in the complex. In May 2017, he bought Cartridge World from the previous owner who wanted to retire. The transaction included a Walla Walla location. He said being a tenant and not just a landlord has helped him better connect with his fellow business owners.
“I have a vested interest, and I have businesses here too,” he said. “It’s nice because I talk to the tenants at least once or twice a month. I’ve developed a relationship with them.”
Mansius said he enjoys eating at Tomatillo and raves about the macarons made at Artfetti Cakes in Suite F. The locally-owned bakery opened in May 2016 and specializes in macarons, cupcakes and cakes with a creative twist.
“This is our first business venture, which we decided to start after years of making cakes for friends and family,” said Jose Garcia. “Many people would say, ‘You should start a cake business.’ The business, we figured, was what we would spend all our savings on and make sacrifices to make it happen. Many tears and sleepless nights later, we are running a successful business.”
Garcia said some people drive from Yakima just to buy the macarons and head straight back home.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said, giving his wife, Silvia, credit for the talent and artistic touches she’s done on the walls, gift boxes and windows of the store. “Silvia has always been very artistically inclined. She has a vision and it’s amazing how she can make it come to life. This business is the perfect fit for us.”
Crystal and Matt Gray bought New Image salon in June 2015 when Crystal Gray was recovering from breast cancer. The past two years have been great for the owners who value the support they receive from their business-center family.
“We love the location we’re in and enjoy being surrounded with other local entrepreneurs,” Crystal Gray said, adding they hope to expand in the future.
Garcia said the businesses in the complex complement one another. For instance, Tomatillo runs a Tuesday special on tacos, and Artfetti also runs a deal, offering two macarons for $2.
“So you can get a three-taco, two-macaron (meal) for $5 on Tuesdays,” Garcia said.
And it’s not just food specials that make the stores work so well together.
“Some guys go to HobbyTown and the wives sometimes come over to hang out at our place while their husband splurges a bit,” Garcia said. “It’s really great to be here and know the owners and support each other. We are grateful to be here and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!