Join us Tuesday for a Power Lunch, noon-1:30 pm, at 3.14 Bakery. The day’s topic of spring cleaning will be addressed by Alan Painter and Bong Santo Domingo of King County Community Services, and Marquise Roberson of WC Community Development Association. Learn how to propose a project for the upcoming Spring Cleans and how to fund a small community project through King County’s Community Service Area grant.
Tim Healy, second from left, is one of the White Center heroes honored on Tuesday at the WC Chamber of Commerce‘s annual holiday luncheon at the Salvation Army Center. (With him in our photo are, from left, Sili Savusa of the White Center Community Development Association, and the Chamber’s Mac McElroy and Mark Ufkes.) His longtime community service sparked the honor; the others celebrated at the event were feted for their contributions to public art in White Center: Michael Todd Harrison, Xavier Lopez Jr., and Amanda Schmidt, adviser to the Evergreen Art Club. You’ll see the artist honorees in our video recording of most of the ceremony:
The Annual White Center Chamber of Commerce Hero Awards and Luncheon is planned for next Tuesday, December 4, at the Salvation Army from 12-1:30 pm. We will recognize three White Center Heroes for 2012, for their contributions to White Center. We encourage folks to bring an unwrapped new toy for our Chamber Toys for Tots collection. The address is: White Center Salvation Army, 9050 16th SW
The White Center Chamber of Commerce will have its monthly Chamber luncheon meeting tomorrow (always the second Tuesday of the month except in December), Tuesday, October 9, 2012, from 12-1:15 at Chemo’s Fine Mexican Restaurant, located at 10230 16th Ave. SW.
W.C. Chamber of Commerce proudly invites you to attend our first-ever summer luncheon on Tuesday, July 17th, noon-1:30 pm, at Mac’s Triangle Pub, 9454 Delridge Way SW, for a lively discussion of current events, announcements, and resolutions. Please join us and share this information with those who care to learn about and become involved with our vibrant community. We look forward to your presence!
P.S. A drawing of prizes will occur at the end of the meeting’s agenda. Prizes welcome — bring your coveted items and gift certificates to add a little fun and excitement!
“The monthly Chamber luncheon’s been happening for over 60 years … but I don’t think we’ve had this many people in a long time,” White Center Chamber of Commerce president Mark Ufkes said as today’s lunch began at Salvadorean Bakery, with more than 40 people on hand.
The big draw – several longtime local businesses voicing concern over the Chamber’s new website potentially including use of the neighborhood’s longtime nickname “Rat City.” First, here’s our recording of the entire discussion (note that it works better as audio than video, due to a discrepancy between the backlighting of the speakers at the front of the room and those commenting from the other half of the room):
Now, the story:
Before opinions were sought, there was a long preface.
It’s been about a year now, Ufkes recalled, that the Chamber decided to figure out ways to “better market the businesses that are here and better promote the area.” The goals included “every business owner in White Center has the opportunity to tell their story and share their story.” Redeveloping the website emerged as a priority, “to try to figure out how to present the diversity and complexity of this community to the rest of the world.” And it brought in a grant. That led to the creation of an advisory committee to help create the website. Brittany Trujillo from the website committee (which also includes Kathi “George” Wheeler, Leticia Martinez, and Aileen Sison) then spoke to the group: She read from a statement, saying “This is still in the early stages of coming together” and noting that they have done extensive research. “At this time we are not necessarily directing our energy at Rat City … but Rat City has been revitalized in our community at this time,” and with that she listed off a variety of ways the name “is here right now – people are using the name, they love it.”
Trujillo said “visitratcity.com” was an “alternate domain name” they had set aside, but the main domain name “will be visitwhitecenter.com.” She talked about the vitality of the new businesses coming into the area, and people using “hey, c’mon up to Rat City … it’s not always come up to White Center.” She said the “kick it in Rat City” that’s currently on the main page is something that will frequently change up.
Designer Wheeler then spoke about their efforts to “look at all the aspects of White Center,” including history and “reclaiming the rat a little bit – it’s not about rats eating out of garbage cans, but about the regional military training” in the area. She too talked about the “hip” new businesses. “We’re not trying to push anybody or anything out.” The rat on the website front page, she said, was inspired by the “Asian Year of the Rat,” and they’re hoping that perhaps when the “Year of the Rat” really arrives (the next one is in 2020), there might be a big party. Seventy businesses have been photographed for the website already, she said, and only a few have opted out.
She also talked about collecting information on countries of origin – wherever in the world businesspeople are from. The result will be a business directory, she explained in response to a question, broken down into five categories – including “eat,” “play” (nightclubs, bars, parks, roller rink), “shop,” “medical” (including medical-marijuana dispensaries, she noted), and “organizations” (including local nonprofits). Trujillo reiterated that there is an option to opt out, or to be included but not photographed. Wheeler said they’re trying for an “editorial look” to their photography – “warm and inviting,” not “here’s a photo of our staff … we’re going case by case to each business, assessing what’s the story to be told” by that business.”
According to Wheeler, the goal is for the website to be at least partly launched by Jubilee Days – not the business directory but the rest of it – with the rest to go live by the end of summer.
Chamber vice president “Mac” McElroy then noted that the goal of this is to bring people together.
Mikel Davila, neighborhood revitalization program manager for White Center Community Development Association, said that marketing has been an emphasis for WCCDA going back several years – the “growing a global village” brand, for example. They partnered in the web-grant seeking, to build on that branding. “In terms of other branding,” he said, they hope to “get the community voice … and see where the majority of the community wants to go … We’re just, like Mac said, trying to bring people together.”
One prominent voice of Rat City support chimed in then.
“This IS Rat City; we’re not going to change it into Wallingford,” said Justin Cline, Full Tilt Ice Cream entrepreneur and Rat City Business Association co-founder, followed by Jesse Lovell of Company, another co-founder, who said “this came together pretty organically because we (business people in downtown WC) see a lot of each other, check in with each other and it came to be based on those organizations.” They have a website which includes “Ratty,” its mascot.
Then, the voice of opposition that emerged last week:
Alan Homestead, who expressed his concern at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting last Thursday (WCN coverage here), was first to speak, acknowledging he hadn’t been active in the Chamber for a while, and saying he has continued to gather information from the community. He says he is glad that WC is being promoted. But he’s wondering, “Have rats become cool? … Rats have had a negative connotation for thousands of years; can a rat change that?”
As he did during the NHUAC meeting, Homestead worried aloud that it would reinforce perceptions of uncleanliness. He said he didn’t want to stifle enthusiasm, but “I hope this marketing energy will maintain its speed and energy … but with a different mascot.” He said he spoke with 57 people in the community over the past few days, “a combination of business owners, managers, and employees,” and found 2 who supported Rat City, 11 neutral, and 44 opposed. He is requesting that the Chamber “make a determination of whether or not it supports Rat City and the rat icon … so that the Chamber’s viewpoint is clear to its members, the White Center community, and the White Center residents.”
Cline suggested “it’s a generational thing … I talked to a lot of the business owners around me, including Asian business owners, where it’s a good luck thing … I don’t think it has to be either/or. … There’s no reason we have to change the sign when you drive in.”
Website designer Wheeler pointed out that the RAT acronym has a military origin. Ufkes noted that the rat’s been on a banner “flapping in the wind,” for more than a year.
Former Chamber president and NHUAC president Russ Pritchard said he was speaking on behalf of past Chambers: “We spent tons and tons and tons of time over the years trying to change the Rat City image,” he recalled. “… Now I’m not so involved in this area any more, but when I tell people I’m from this area, they say, ‘Oh, you’re from Rat City’.” He said his main advice was to do a better job – which he said he and his colleagues had NOT done long ago – about what RAT really stands for.
Trujillo noted that the website will include White Center history – they’ll also be archiving and featuring some of the historic documents and materials in existence – and promised they’ll do a better job of educating people about the name’s history and meaning. Homestead, though, said the rat symbol would do “the opposite.”
Other opinions: “It’s not going to be a ‘scraggly rat’,” pointed out one attendee, who said “To take this ball and run with it is a great idea. It puts us on the map.” Company’s Jesse pointed out that while WC is changing, the rat is just not going away. “It’s all about branding,” said another attendee. “Clean, safe and appropriate – what does that say about White Center? … Just not that compelling. … Sometimes the more controversial a brand the more attention you get.”
Frank Cantwell of Holy Family School said his informal polling was reinforcing the generation gap. “If it’s done right, go with it,” he said a friend had told him, and he agreed. Another opinion: The rat image is “cool … I’d like it on a T-shirt .. .but everytime I run into someone, I have to explain ‘Rat City,’ and if you have to explain it, that’s not such great branding.” She noted that even the Rat City Rollergirls’ name had to be explained, when she was a Seattle-area newcomer some time back. “I also love the ‘not so centered, not so white’ (White Center slogan),” she noted, leading to a ripple of laughter through the room.
“Whether you call yourself Rat City or White Center, they both have negative connotations,” said another attendee. “Fremont has its statue of Lenin, which attracts tourists … but has negative connotations.” That brought a reaction from one attendee who said she lives in Magnolia, and points out that Fremont has “marketed its (quirkiness) quite successfully. … This ain’t your mama’s White Center any more – it’s a different community today. And the more you spend time in this community, the more you recognize, this is the next Columbia City, this could be the next Fremont.”
Ana Castro, owner of the site of the meeting, Salvadorean Bakery, said she originally opened here because it was affordable, but her business now draws people from all over the area “because it offers good products – and if you offer a good product, people are going to (come for it, wherever you are).”
Yet another attendee said “Rat City” seems younger and hipper to her, and that “White Center” seems to have a worse connotation to some from outside, “What a racist name!” she’s heard some say. She says she doesn’t see how “rat” has a more negative connotation than “white.”
“I’m old, and I’m for Rat City,” said North Highline resident Gill Loring, as the last word before Chamber president Ufkes summarized. “I’m going to call the board together and have a conversation – this conversation is not over by any means .. the key is we’re trying to tell the story of a whole bunch of businesses here and the great stuff that they have.”
P.S. If you are a Chamber member, you are invited to get involved in the website committee.
Other updates from the meeting:
UPDATE ON MURALS PROJECT – AND A COMPETITION: President Ufkes talked about some of what’s in progress right now, including the mural that students have been working on every afternoon for the past 2 weeks – “dozens and dozens of high-school kids from Evergreen are involved” – at Super Saver Foods (WCN coverage here). And that’s just one of several buildings where murals have been created or are planned. Not only are the murals art in their own right, they’re also a deterrent to tagging/graffiti vandalism, as Ufkes pointed out. Others he mentioned: One at 9811 17th SW next to Malo’s Auto Body. And he announced a competition – artists are welcome to take on the blank panels 1 through 7 at the SW 107th site, with $100 prize available to the artist whose vision for one of those seven panels is declared the winner. Artists and Chamber members will judge the creations. (Later in the meeting, Ufkes also invited any business owners who want murals on their buildings to call him.)
KING COUNTY P-A-L IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Head coach Tony Rago from King County Police Activities League‘s White Center boxing club (a member of USA Boxing), based in White Center for eight years, talked about his program, saying about 40 kids (generally between 10-18 years old) are involved right now – not just to box, but to get “physically fit and mentally fit” and to “provide a safe place (to be) after school.” Some kids first show up “so quiet and shy … you didn’t even know they were there,” and blossom as part of the program, which is for girls as well as boys, he pointed out. And he ticked off a variety of honors – including trophies for the boxers, and “Best Boxing Gym” honors from Seattle Weekly last year. He says they live by three mottos: “Leave No Doubt”; “Box to the Bell”; “Take It Like a Man” – whether you’ve won or lost, be gracious, be determined, “keep coming back.” He says they have a show coming up on August 25th at the Evergreen Campus, one of several they present each year. They’re accepting sponsors for the bouts, too (tax-exempt donations).
And, as also mentioned in our story, he plans to take it to the WC Chamber at their lunch meeting today. Chamber President Mark Ufkes sent around an updated announcement asking members to come prepared to discuss it, as well as making them aware they can expect to hear from rat opponents.
So just a reminder, if you are interested – noon today, Salvadorean Bakery (Roxbury just west of 17th).
From White Center Chamber of Commerce president Mark Ufkes:
The White Center Chamber of Commerce will have its June luncheon next Tuesday, June 12th at noon at the Salvadorean Bakery located on the corner of Roxbury and 17th Ave. SW. Agenda items will include the status of the Chamber/CDA mural project to date, an update on our new website, discussion on the status of the Homeless Summit effort, Jubilee Days update, and discussions on how Chamber members can assist local youth programming. Traditionally, Chamber luncheons are not held in July or August, and begin again in September, so this is the last Chamber luncheon for the summer.
Just in from White Center Chamber of Commerce president Mark Ufkes, announcing the Chamber’s lunch meeting tomorrow (May 8th):
The White Center Chamber of Commerce May luncheon will be at the Viva Mexico Restaurant (10601 16th Ave. SW) from noon to 1:15 pm. We will be announcing and hosting our two 2012 Evergreen High School Scholars. Annually, the White Center Chamber awards $500 scholarships to outstanding seniors at Evergreen High School. Tomorrow at the chamber luncheon we will be presenting this year’s awards and asking donations from Chamber members for next year’s awards. Chamber business includes status of the CDA/Chamber sponsored Spring Clean events, a discussion of the Chamber web site, and possible activities during Jubilee Days. We hope that you can attend.
The final White Center Chamber luncheon meeting before summer break will be on Tuesday, June 12 at a location to be determined.
Just a reminder – no White Center Chamber of Commerce lunch tomorrow. President Mark Ufkes shared this note:
Rather than have two White Center business gatherings on the same day, the White Center Chamber of Commerce is cancelling the April Chamber monthly luncheon and encouraging Chamber members to attend the White Center CDA Business Mixer … The Chamber web site committee will be reporting out on our progress to date for our planned web site. We will resume our normal monthly luncheons on Tuesday, May 8th. Also remember that we will have White Center Spring Clean scheduled for Saturday, May 19th and need volunteers and funding support for our several anti-graffiti mural projects.
The WCCDA mixer is at 6 pm Tuesday at Be’s Crawfish House, 9826 16th SW.
From White Center Chamber of Commerce president Mark Ufkes:
The White Center Chamber of Commerce March 13, 2012 luncheon will be hosted by LUSO Food and Wine Imports Boutique, 9988 15th Ave SW, Suite C. Tina E. Hemmons is the owner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-694-3542 http://whitecenternow.com/2011/09/06/new-white-center-business-opens-luso-food-and-wine/. We will be acknowledging Art Spencer’s recent death, and his family contribution to White Center through their well-respected Spencer Automotive. We have invited Rich (his son) and Sharon (his wife) to the luncheon to talk about Art and family life in White Center and the important contribution the Spencer family has made to White Center.
Also, this Sunday, March 11, the Spencer family will be hosting a memorial for Art Spencer at Glen Acres Country Club (Sunday, March 11, from 1-4 pm) Everyone is invited to attend Art’s memorial.
At the Chamber luncheon, will also be installing our new board members, discuss our developing White Center web site, and discussing plans for several large culturally-encouraging murals painted in the core business district throughout White Center during our annual CDA/Chamber White Center Spring Clean on May 19th.