Articles by Robin Wojtanik

Robin Wojtanik spent most of her career in broadcast journalism, working at television stations around the country. She spent nearly a decade managing newsrooms in the Tri-Cities and Yakima. She enjoys volunteering for Junior Achievement and Christ the King School and serves on the board for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Northwest chapter. She lives in Richland with her husband and children.
Courtesy Terri Szendre

Couple transform Flat Top Mountain property into lavender farm

An unassuming West Richland lavender farm brims with purple and possibility as the owners dream well beyond U-pick bunches to becoming the largest lavender-cutting supplier in the state. Terri and Steve Szendre operate SunKissed Lavender on Flat Top Mountain, off Collins Road, where they nurture 2,000 lavender plants, land once covered with weeds and sagebrush.…

Spring blossom background. Beautiful nature scene with blooming

Consumers crave their fresh fruit

The 2021 cherry crop is shaping up to be larger than last year’s but with the usual caveat for the sweet, fragile fruit: A single weekend of wind or rain could cause widespread devastation. The cherry industry didn’t miss a beat when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived a year ago. Washington growers harvested nearly 20 million…

Courtesy Washington State Apple Commission

Fewer apples heading to market

Fewer apples are going to market in 2021, but this isn’t really a complaint. “This has proven to be very advantageous as far as Covid and trade issues go,” said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission. The industry expects to harvest 122 million bushels in 2021, compared to 134 million in 2020. Apple…

Courtesy Double R Ranch

Hop output lower with changes
in beer demand, distribution

After a chaotic year, Washington’s hop industry is looking for a win. “Things are starting to get rocking and rolling again,” said Jaki Brophy, communications director for the Washington Hop Commission, following a year of Covid-19 restrictions, lower beer sales and punishment by Mother Nature. Wildfires and windstorms took a toll on hop crops in…

Aaron Brink got into beekeeping when a hive made its home on his property. Today, Brink’s Bees manages 45 million bees in 200 Tri-Cities hives and provides pollination services as well as honey. (Courtesy Brink’s Bees)

Beekeeper pollinates Northwest crops, sells varietal honey

In just a few short years, Aaron Brink went from an annoyed homeowner, frequently stung by bees while mowing, to a commercial beekeeper who laughs off daily stings while tending to hundreds of beehives. “I’m immune to bee stings,” said Brink, owner of Brink’s Bees. “I got into the bees as a hobby, not a…

Jamie and Loren Wikstrand stand behind a newly remodeled checkout counter inside David’s Shoes, 201 W. Kennewick Ave., the store they recently bought and updated with a modern look with new shoe lines and clothes from White Bluffs Boutique, an online-only clothing store. (Photo  by Robin Wojtanik)

New owners reboot longtime downtown Kennewick shoe store

A fashion enthusiast followed her dream of owning not just one – but two – businesses, now located under one roof in downtown Kennewick. Jamie and Loren Wikstrand bought the 68-year-old David’s Shoes store earlier this year. The longtime business is located in a historic brick corner building outfitted with green awnings at 201 W.…

Brandon Andersen, owner of Bonsai Audio, perhaps had the most unique business pivot in 2020, from DJ and audiovisual services to bonsai tree sales. (Courtesy Brandon Andersen)

Pandemic doesn’t stunt Kennewick entrepreneur’s growth

“We do weddings. We do bonsai trees.” Not the typical services you might see offered together, but Brandon Andersen, owner of Bonsai Audio, has found a way to marry the two successfully. “Bonsai stands for an aesthetic. It’s a small work of art that’s also alive,” he said. The Kennewick man’s lucrative business providing DJ…

Christ the King Montessori Preschool teachers Debbie Cleveland, from left, Kelly Buchanan and Aliana Kincaid operate three independent classrooms inside the new building on the Christ the King campus in Richland. (Courtesy Kelly Buchanan)

New building welcomes youngest learners

A new building aims to meet the demand for high-quality preschool education in the Tri-Cities by adding three classrooms dedicated to Montessori learners at the new Ferguson Education Center in Richland. The 5,765-square-foot building opened just after Thanksgiving and can house 60 students at one time at 1107 Stevens Drive. It is named for the…

Duportail Bridge, Richland. (Photo by Scott Butner Photography)

City of Richland: Major construction projects span city limits

A global pandemic hasn’t slowed progress across the city of Richland as major construction projects wrap up and new ones prepare to break ground. The $43 million Duportail Bridge opened to limited traffic in early September 2020. It is expected to fully open by Nov. 1, 2020, providing a new span across the Yakima River…

Belmont Business District, Belmont Boulevard. (Photo by Scott Butner Photography)

City of West Richland: City may hold key to Tri-City home shortage

As a city that doesn’t rely on sales tax revenue to fuel much of its budget, West Richland had an unexpected boost from the Covid-19 pandemic: more people began ordering online, sending “destination-oriented” sales tax revenue to the city’s coffers. “When you’re not dependent on sales tax, it’s actually benefited the city,” said Eric Mendenhall,…

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