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Business & Ag Life

Sights set on new building

The Elgin Stampeders are raising matching funds in preparation for a grant application to build a community multi-purpose building at the Stampede grounds. This drawing depicts the west side of the proposed building. (WC Construction)

by TRISH YERGES / Observer correspondent 

Membership drive barbecue and dance slated Saturday with proceeds going to building fund  

ELGIN — The Elgin Stampeders are hosting a membership drive barbecue and dance Saturday starting at 5 p.m. All of the net proceeds will be contributed to the new Stampede Hall building fund.

The Stampeders will serve the barbecue dinner from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The menu includes barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs with condiments, chips and a variety of salads along with coffee and punch. People are welcome to bring their own beverages if they want. 

Multifaceted market


The Market Placeís downstairs is called the Underground International Tour, where the 18,000 square feet is divided into countries ó England, Germany, France and Italy ó and features small spaces for businesses. (LISA BRITTON photo)

When you enter The Market Place, you forget time and place as you stand beneath a moon-lit sky and stroll down a German street. 

by LISA BRITTON / for The Baker City Herald

This place, located in downtown La Grande, is a project started three years ago by Al Adelsberger.

He is so passionate about The Market Place that he doesn’t want to describe it — he’d rather you experience it for yourself.

Sheriff, family seek to fill a sweet niche

by BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / for The Observer

Here’s a fact a lot of people probably don’t know about Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen: He’s got a degree in business.

He puts it work every day managing the county sheriff’s office, a huge operation employing patrol deputies, corrections officers, administrative staff and more. And soon, he’ll be putting it to work in a business of his own. 

Farming out the work

For some landowners, hiring someone to prepare a field or harvest a crop makes financial sense

by JAYSON JACOBY / Baker City Herald

A person can do an awful lot of farming, it turns out, without owning a single acre of land.

You will need a tractor, though.

And other implements besides.

Grant funding for nonprofits focus of upcoming workshop focus of spring workshop

Staff Reports

A grant-ready workshop series is scheduled this spring to help Northeast Oregon nonprofits set up systems to budget, track and evaluate programs and projects for larger and multi-year grant funding. 

The lack of funding for nonprofit work is a critical challenge. Many of our rural nonprofits are delivering vital services that aren’t available from other sources.  

Thai restaurant opening

Julie Naknakhone is the proprietor of Bangkok East, a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant soon to open in downtown La Grande. (BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH photo)

Vietnamese food will also be on the menu at Bangkok East that is set to open in early April at site formerly occupied by Foley Station restaurant

by BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / for The Observer 

A downtown restaurant closed since 2011 will soon open its doors again, under a different name, with different management and a decidedly different menu.

Moving into the space formerly occupied by the upscale Foley Station restaurant is Bangkok East, an eatery serving up Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s the brainchild and labor of love of Chourirath Naknakhone, a woman who was raised in Laos and Thailand and moved to the United States in 1981. 

Baker Botanicals specializes in hydroponic gardening

by Mark Bogart/For The Observer

Read more... Indoor and organic gardening are the focus of Baker Botanicals, a new business located on 10th Street in Baker City.

Owner Tammy Dowell explained that she offers a variety of equipment and supplies for hydroponic, soilless gardening, as well as more traditional methods. Her inventory includes everything from seeds and nutrients to grow lights and established plants.

She added that information and expertise are also available to help curious customers.

Assessor: Senate bill will hurt local agriculture

by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

If Senate Bill 443 passes the state legislature, anyone with land deemed an exclusive farm unit would qualify for a special tax rate, whether the ground is farmed or not.

Under Oregon law, to qualify for a special tax assessment, land zoned exclusively for farming must be farmed or grazed, either by the landowner or a lessee.

Wallowa County Assessor Gay Fregulia told the Wallowa County commissioners she thinks this is a bad bill and will hurt the agriculture community. She said if more land goes out of production, then equipment, fuel, and even labor may decrease. 

City steps up job creation efforts

by Bill Rautenstrauch/For The Observer

A new program offering start-up help for businesses in La Grande’s urban renewal district, and another designed to attract companies to the city could be coming down the pike, following a recent action by the city’s Urban Renewal Agency.

Meeting in regular session Feb. 20, the agency board of directors, which is also the La Grande City Council, approved amendments to the Urban Renewal Plan that include creation of a Business Development Assistance Program.

Details are yet to be worked out, but as proposed the program would have a one-time budget of $250,000, in fiscal year 2013-2014. From there, the program would perpetuate itself, according to City Manager Robert Strope.

“As the loan money comes back, it would be put into a fund that could be used for future start-ups,” Strope said.

Skills put to test at FFA leadership competition

by JOSEY KOEHN / Cove FFA Reporter

Feb. 13 did not start out promising for members of the Cove FFA Chapter who were competing in Eastern Oregon FFA District career development events (CDEs) that day. 

We had a crazy morning meeting, getting everybody organized and prepared for the day, then left 20 minutes late due to bus troubles. On the ride over, tension was in the air and many members spent the ride reading over speeches, flipping through notecards or going over contest rules.  

Rolling into new digs

Mountain Works owner Whit Hartz poses at the bike shopís new location in the Bohnenkamp Building at 1301 Adams Ave. in La Grande. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer

by BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / for The Observer 

Mountain Works bike shop moves from its cramped confines to the spacious and historic Bohnenkamp Building 

LA GRANDE — An often-vacant but historically significant building in the middle of downtown La Grande has resumed its commercial life, becoming home for The Mountain Works bike shop and outdoors store.

Mountain Works owner Whit Hartz had a lot of stuff to move, but on the upside, he didn’t have far to go. The Bohnenkamp Building at 1301 Adams, his business’s new location, is just a few steps west of his former location at 1307. 

Private sector jobs increase

Jason Yohannan, regional economist for Work Source Oregon, talks about Wallowa County job numbers at Wallowa County Chamber of Commerceís after-hours report on the economy. KATY NESBITT/The Observer

by KATY NESBITT / The Observer 

Local officials give presentations at chamber’s annual report on the economy 

Wallowa County’s unemployment dropped to 10 percent in 2012, the lowest it has been since it spiked to 12 percent in 2009.

Government jobs are continuing to shrink in the county, primarily within the U.S. Forest Service, but private sector jobs increased in 2012 to a four-year high, said Jason Yohannan, regional economist for Work Source Oregon.  

Board adopts excursion schedule

The Wallowa Union Railroad Authority board of directors is working with the Friends of the Joseph Branch and members of the public to develop a long-range plan for the excursion train line.


Green light given to 10 train runs through Wallowa Canyon in 2013

ELGIN — The Wallowa Union Railroad Authority board of directors zeroed in on short-term and long-term operations Monday, adopting an excursion schedule for the coming season and gathering public comment on proposals for future operations.

In a well-attended meeting at Elgin City Hall, the board decided on a shortened excursion season for 2013, 10 runs through the scenic Wallowa River canyon, from Elgin to Vincent and back, beginning with the annual Mothers Day trip May 12.


Chamber: visitors up


People driving west on Interstate 84 and passing through Ontario these days see a billboard inviting them to jump off at Exit 285 and take in some sights.

If they want to know exactly what they’re in for, they can whip out their mobile phones and go to a website called Exit285.com. 

Sweet boost



Think hearts and flowers. More precisely, think roses and chocolates. Not only are they good for your relationship with your spouse or significant other, they’re good for the local economy, too.

People the world over will pay homage Thursday to St. Valentine, and the spirit of romance that’s been associated with his name since at least the Middle Ages. You don’t need to be told, but Valentine’s Day, celebrated every Feb. 14, is a day for lovers, and a day for pledging love with a gift. 

Small businesses face challenges

Local business owner Colleen MacLeod is a career entrepreneur well-acquainted with government taxes, fees and regulations. MacLeod says itís wise to hire a bookkeeper to keep up with it all. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer


Taxes, fees, regulations and bill-paying test mettle of small business owners   

Never underestimate the amount of hard work that goes into starting and running a business — and never forget the need to keep the government happy.

Colleen MacLeod knows those principles well. She fits the profile of a serial entrepreneur, having owned and operated at least four small businesses in the La Grande area over the last 20 to 30 years.

Whimsical windows

Marlene Hays builds window displays that make people look twice. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer

Marlene Hays puts her talents as a window dresser to good use as co-owner of The Royal Clothiers in downtown La Grande 

By Bill Rautenstrauch / The Observer

For Marlene Hays, there’s not much difference between setting up a retail display on the third floor of a huge department store in London, England, or setting one up at a little consignment shop on Adams Avenue in La Grande. Either way, it’s a chance to let the imagination run free and create something that will make people look twice.

It’s work mixed with play, art as an extension of business, and it’s never far from her mind. She keeps a notebook by her bedside, waiting for the next big idea to come along.  

Sunflower Books closing its doors at end of month

Lani Schroeder, right, longtime owner of Sunflower Books Etc., and staff member Sunny Greer, preside over a party given at the bookstore Saturday for customers and friends. Sunflower, which opened at 1114 Washington Ave. in 1980, is closing for good Jan. 31. CHRIS BAXTER/THE OBSERVER

A person doesn’t say goodbye to a 32-year second career and labor of love without shedding a tear or two.

Lani Schroeder, proprietor of Sunflower Books Etc., couldn’t help but choke up when she talked Monday about her decision to shut her homey, intimate little bookstore on Washington Avenue downtown Jan. 31. As she sat with a reporter in the little kitchen in back, telling what three decades and more in the business meant to her, her eyes filled up a couple of times. 

Small-business Happenings for January 2, 2013

Buyers stayed near home

With the help of Mountain Works employee Matt Hibbert, right, Terry Blankenship of Summerville picks up a couple of bikes he left for the La Grande outdoor sports business to get back in quality riding shape. Mountain Works owner Whit Hartz said many holiday shoppers came in to buy smaller accessory items, while bike sales were mostly slow. On the plus side during the season, Hartz said the store did good business in gift certificates, and also saw a late surge of bike sales. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer

La Grande area residents were shopping local and were in a mood to spend money this holiday season, according to an informal — very informal — survey of a few businesses in downtown La Grande.

Three of four small, independently owned shops on Adams Avenue said the season lived up to or exceeded expectations. The fourth said sales lagged behind, but were respectable all the same. 

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