CLATSOP COUNTY — Major airlines are signing up for services from a family-owned business based in Warrenton. Meanwhile, a man dressed in black has been quietly revitalizing the core of Astoria. A manager at an inn on Columbia Street in Seaside has quietly cultivated a new level of customer service and a Cannon Beach construction company is building a safer tomorrow by retrofitting an emergency center for natural disasters.
These and others were recognized for their contributions to Clatsop County during the 5th annual Clatsop Economic Development Resources awards at the Seaside Convention Center on March 22.
The first award of the evening went to a couple who have been on a wine-winning streak.
“They’ve won 14 wine awards including numerous double platinum and gold medals already in their first few years,” CEDR Executive Director Kevin Leahy said. “With their new distribution system, they’ve focused on highly localized wine selections, appealing to the destination-visitor market.”
During the past four years the business has expanded, Leahy said.
“Wow,” Wine Shack and Provisions 124 market owner Steven Sinkler said as he accepted the award. “I have a couple other words, but let’s start with Wow.”
“Last year the winner for this award was Kathy Kleczek, owner of La Luna Loca,” he continued.
“For me to be the winner this year is very humbling.”
Sinkler talked about the struggles as a small businesses owner, often competing against companies with more resources and money.
“A lot of small business owners know it’s a slog on a daily basis,” he said.
The increased availability of wine has forced his business to evolve.
“Every gas station in Oregon is selling wine, there’s wine everywhere,” Sinkler said.
“So I always sit down with my staff and ask, ‘Why should anyone buy from the Wine Shack?’”
Being unique and bringing a new experience to the customer has been their key to success, Sinkler said.
Improving the guest experience is part of the job for a Seaside inn manager.
“She represents the business with grace and style,” Leahy read from a customer review.
“We adored her welcoming spirit,” he said, quoting another reviewer.
“My VIP treatment had nothing to do with me that day — that is her standard,” Leahy read from a third customer comment.
The rave reviews were about Hillcrest Inn Manager Ruth Swenson. “Once it was said that, ‘You’ll never work a day if you do what you love,” she said.
“That can truly be said for Seaside — I live and work in a community I love.”
The Visionary Award went to man who says little but does a lot.
“He recently opened Carruthers, which has quickly become one of the most popular restaurants in our region and (was) voted best fine dining by Coast Weekend readers,” Leahy said.
Jim Defeo, owner of Astoria Coffee House and Bistro, Cargo curiosity shop and Carruthers restaurant, won the award. His friend Jeff Daly accepted it on his behalf.
“He somehow had the vision to book a trip out of town — out of the country — so that he wouldn’t have to be here tonight and give a speech,” Daly joked.
He described Defeo as a business owner who’s always dressed in black and isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves.
“You’ll see him over at the Bistro making coffee drinks, selling trinkets at Cargo,” Daly said.
Giving back is important to Kathleen Deland Peterson. She has been using her design skills to help local businesses improve their online presence.
“She makes your vision come to life in print or website form,” Leahy said.
He praised Peterson for her work with nonprofits.
“I didn’t know this was going to be so emotional,” Peterson said, wiping a tear as she accepted her award. She spoke about her experience returning to work after having her children and changing careers. She described the challenges of overcoming an illness while continuing her education. Taking website and graphic design classes at Clatsop Community College gave her the skills to launch her business.
“For me working is not about a paycheck,” Peterson said. “It’s about what I can do for others.”
Logging companies, a major part of the Clatsop County economy, have seen advancements in technology.
“Gustafson Logging combines recent innovation and logging methods with forest science and on-the-ground ingenuity,” Leahy said. “Over the past 43 years, this business has made technological advancements in a changing economic, social and environmental dynamics in our community.”
Leahy described Gustafson’s use of a cable-yarding system, a logging method for cutting trees on steep terrain. It combines strategic planning and an understanding of equipment and rigging requirements to meet environmental and economic goals. The company produces about 35 million board feet per year. That’s about 8,500 truckloads of logs.
Owner Mark Gustafson said the business his parents started in 1974 has grown to include more than 25 employees. “My mom had a hard hat, cork shoes and her own chainsaw,” he said. “It was her and dad for a year out there, just the two of them keeping it going.”
Gustafson compared advancements in the logging industry with those of professional football.
“Think about what the game looked like in 1930 or 1940, with a bunch of guys running around with leather helmets, no facemasks and a guy standing on a bench flipping numbers over for the scoreboard,” he said. “With logging, as in football, it’s very physical and dangerous.”
Passion for the forest runs deep in his family.
“I call it a curse,” Gustafson joked. “My dad had it and gave it to me. I’m very fortunate that my son, Chad, is going to carry the company onto a third generation. I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world. I got to log with my dad and log with my son.”
Since 1973, a construction company in Cannon Beach has been building its name by improving the community, Leahy said. He praised Coaster Construction for supporting events, donating materials and working on projects with care.
Maurie Clark, Nick Nelson and Ray Watkins started the company that built Cannon Beach’s Sandpiper Square, Coaster Theatre and Mariner Market, said John Nelson, a Coaster Construction general contractor who accepted the award on behalf of the Clark family.
“Maurie (Clark) always said he wanted it to look like Disneyland,” Nelson said.
The business also helped Cannon Beach prepare for a tsunami by retrofitting an emergency evacuation center.
“After the big tsunami in Japan, we knew we had to do something,” Nelson said. “If we don’t do it, we’ll never forgive ourselves if we need it.”
When major airlines need a new tractor to move airplanes around the tarmac, some call a company in Warrenton.
LEKTRO has grown since 1988 from a 10-person company with annual sales of less than $1 million, Leahy said. Today, it employs 90 people and generates more than $25 million a year.
The company makes tractors or tugs that push airplanes out of their parking spot at the gate. It also won the CEDR award for technological and manufacturing advancement in 2014.
“My great nephew is working at LEKTRO now. He’s a fifth-generation Paulson,” owner Eric Paulson said. His father, Wilt Paulson, started the family business in 1945. He talked about keeping up with demands for innovation and improvement in a global market. The company has increased the towing capacity of its tractors. LEKTRO tugs can now move a 285,000-pound Boeing 757, Paulson said.
The company in 2012 started doing business with major airlines, such as United, Alaska and Southwest, after years of working with smaller carriers. American Airlines bought the 5,000th tug last winter.
“LEKTRO produces one of the only tractors in the world that can handle the 757s all the way down to corporate jets,” Paulson said. “And it’s all done and designed here in Clatsop County.”
Dozens have been hired since a Cannon Beach business poured its first pint in May. Pelican Pub and Brewery employs more than 70 people during its peak season, Leahy said.
“We’re excited about this new employer and (its) impact on Cannon Beach,” he said.
The Pelican Pub and Brewery took home the award for job creation.
“Providing jobs and living incomes is one of the great joys,” CEO Jim Prinzing said.
The business started 21 years ago in Pacific City. It is now among the top three fastest-growing breweries in Oregon, alongside Fort George and Buoy Beer, Prinzing said.
One of the largest employers in Clatsop County started 25 years ago with one man hoping to spend a summer in Cannon Beach. Martin Hospitality has since invested more than $20 million in building and renovating hotels and restaurants, Leahy said.
“With more than 200 local employees, (its) economic impact on Clatsop County is undeniable,” he said.
Martin Hospitality owns Surfsand Resort, Stephanie Inn and Dining Room, Wayfarer Restaurant and Public Coast Brewing.
CEO Ryan Snyder said he was thinking during the awards ceremony about coming to around the corner at Silver Point into Cannon Beach for the first time.
“I thought ‘Wow, what a thrill it would be to be here for a summer,’” he said. “And here I sit 25 years later.”
The CEDR awards ceremony has grown to become one of our region’s premier business events. Next year it will be held in Astoria.