The Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership's annual downtowner of the year banquet Tuesday at Clover Island Inn in Kennewick honored Cheri Manley, owner of two businesses she opened on Kennewick Avenue.
The evening event also recognized other business owners for their efforts to better the downtown last year.
--Dr. H. Matt Smith received the Ray and Jo Benton Volunteer of the Year Award.
--Anne Craff was honored with the Business of the Year Award for her business, Visiting Angels, living assistance services, at 15 N. Cascade St.
--Dennis Poland of Ray Poland and Sons received the Community Development Block Grant Revitalization Award for putting up a new office building at 503 W. Columbia Drive. Previously located across the street on Grand Ronde Avenue, the company moved into new quarters in October.
KENNEWICK — Cheri Manley's dedication and tireless work to improve the Kennewick downtown area earned her the title of 2009 Downtowner of the Year on Tuesday.
She received the award during the Historic Downtown Partnership's Downtowner Banquet at Clover Island in Kennewick.
Manley bought more than bricks and plasterboard when she purchased two buildings in downtown Kennewick in 1999. She also bought into the concept of a revitalized downtown, full of shops and shoppers, art galleries and artists.
The buildings were to be an investment in her future and Kennewick's too.
"I could have put my money into a bank. But I felt if I did that I'd just spend it. Instead, I bought these two buildings," she said.
She and her husband, Mike, had a business in Seattle doing nondestructive testing for nuclear safety inspections. They sold it in 1997 and moved to the Tri-Cities. He still does testing but she went to work at TRAC as an event coordinator for several years. Now she's a retailer, the owner of She She's, a gift shop, and a restaurateur, owner of Zinful Panini Grill and Wine Bar.
The buildings she bought in 1999 were the former Smitty's TV. One was built in 1943 and had been the Bateman Shoe Hospital until becoming part of Smitty's TV in 1949. The other, the former Spofard's Meat Market, was built in 1917. To join them, the owner simply knocked a hole in the walls and made a doorway.
Manley repaired the holes, refinished the original maple floor in the newer building and opened a retail shop.
At first it was going to be a garden store called Urban Gardener.
"But when I began buying merchandise to stock it I went right for the girly stuff," she said.
Instead of trowels and pots, She She's is stocked with unique and affordable gifts with lots of girl appeal.
When Manley opened She She's on Sept. 29, 2007, Kennewick was beginning its revitalization.
"There was so much energy here (in the downtown area), businesses were opening and people were starting to come. Two years later it just screeched to a halt. Too many good businesses have come and gone over the years," she said naming off a half-dozen.
Yet Manley still sees a lot of potential in Kennewick's downtown.
"I keep talking to the wineries trying to get one or more of them interested in opening a tasting room here. Now's the time to do it, before the cost of these old buildings goes sky high," she said.
While Manley was able to get her gift shop going relatively easily, the 1917 building that houses Zinful took a lot more work.
"It took six years to renovate. My husband and I did the gutting. We filled 18 big Dumpsters full of trash, old machinery parts and manuals for every television ever made," she said.
The Zinful building is the most historically significant of the two. Manley was careful not to make changes that would destroy the character of the building. But the roof leaked and needed to be replaced.
"We discovered the old brick would never support the weight of a new roof. We could have built new interior walls to hold up the roof but we just had to keep the exposed brick. It's what about the building that's cool," Manley said. "I simply wasn't going to cover it up. It took me six months to chip the cement off the bricks (on the west wall)."
The solution was to install large laminated beams on an interior framework independent of the brick walls to hold the weight of the roof.
"It's hard to tell they're not original to the building," she said.
Manley rented out the building three times but no one was able to keep their business going much more than a year. Rather than lease it out again, Manley decided to open Zinful Panini Grill & Wine Bar on Aug. 6, 2009.
"This building is my favorite of the two. We needed a good restaurant downtown, a different option from the bars," she said.
About 75 percent of her customers at Zinful are women.
"They like the downtown area. They do some shopping, have lunch. And they like Zinful because they can visit. I have no TVs, just music," she said. "And the building itself attracts people. They say it feels like they're somewhere else, like Seattle or Portland."
She She's is at 112 W. Kennewick Ave. It is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. The phone number is 586-1200.
Zinful Panini Grill & Wine Bar is at 114 W. Kennewick Ave. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday; from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The phone number is 586-6100.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; email@example.com