KENNEWICK -- On a day when temperatures hit a record 105 degrees at Hanford, 104 in Pasco and 102 in Kennewick, for many people the cool 70 degrees inside Columbia Center mall was a welcome refuge from the blistering sun.
Daphne Friend of Hermiston came to the Kennewick mall to buy clothes with her friend Jennifer Mangione.
"We are looking for deals," said Friend, who bought a pair of capri pants for summer.
Friend, a registered nurse, said she enjoyed shopping in the cool comfort of the mall and couldn't imagine being in a place without air conditioning.
The cooler interior of the mall also lured Scott Casas of Richland, who was at JCPenney to buy a pair of shorts and sports shoes.
Barbara Johnson, general manager of the mall, said the facility's air-conditioned comfort provides an opportunity to meet friends, catch a movie, browse through stores or get a quick bite to eat. And that means good business for the stores, she said.
July and August typically are busy months in the retail industry, said Johnson, who has worked at the mall for 22 years.
One person taking advantage of the summer business bustle is businessman Mike Scott, who opened a new Bruchi's eatery in the mall's food court Friday, barely a week after the previous vendor vacated the spot.
"This is our fourth location in the Tri-Cities," said the owner of the small restaurant chain, who also is a partner in Spokane-based Bruchi's Cheesesteaks & Subs franchise. There always are customers at the mall, said Scott, who plans to remodel the 350- square-foot mall store in September.
Brian Casaol and his wife Kristine Caberte of Long Beach, Calif., who are visiting the Tri-Cities for a family celebration, also spent a few hours at the mall Friday to beat the heat. "The Tri-Cities is hotter than what we are used to," Casaol said.
But Max and Nelly Castillo, who own several ice cream trucks that go around neighborhoods in Pasco and Kennewick, said they love to spend time outdoors selling cold treats on a hot summer day in the Tri-Cities.
"Everyone loves ice cream," Nelly said, adding that popsicle sales go up when the weather turns hot -- as long as it doesn't become so hot that people don't come out of their homes.
Hot summer days also boost sales of sunglasses, said Chris Thomas, manager of Solar Explorer at the mall. Store traffic has gone up considerably since the weather turned hot, he said. Many want polarized glasses to get ready for boat race weekend July 23-25, he said.
Temperatures are supposed to drop a few degrees today and Sunday, said meteorologist Doug Weber at the National Weather Service in Pendleton.
But don't get out the sweatshirt just yet. Temperatures will remain in the high 90s this weekend, cooling into the low 90s on Monday, he said.
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com