The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

Commercial Club Bolsters Business, Builds Community

Club Looks to community dinners, pickleball, and a New mural to GROw interest in Waitsurg


October 12, 2017

Courtesy Photo

This rendering depicts the conceptual design for a mural that the Waitsburg Commercial Club is sponsoring to be painted on the JP Kent building. The mural will be seen as one enters Waitsburg from the north, coming from Bolles Road.

WAITSBURG – Over the last several months, dozens of people from Walla Walla, Dayton and Waitsburg have gathered at the Whoopemup Café on the north end of Waitsburg's Main Street for Whoop EM Up Wednesday dinners. The unique meals, which have been highly successful, are the Waitsburg Commercial Club's most recent attempt to build community and bring folks to downtown Waitsburg.

The Waitsburg Commercial Club was founded in 1912 and functions as the city's chamber of commerce. It operates on a one hundred percent volunteer basis. Current board members are: Joy Smith, president; Terry Hofer, first vice president; Valerie Mudry, second vice president, Sandy Kleck, treasurer, and Fred Gonzalez, treasurer.

Whoop EM Up Wednesdays

The idea for Whoop EM Up Wednesdays was inspired by Lane Hill and Barb Jaksa who were trying to put together a Tamale Tuesday event at Hill's Ten Ton Press building on Main Street. While the logistics are still being worked out for that event, it gave Smith the idea to approach other business owners about doing something similar.

"We have one business that's willing to stretch so I said, 'let's see what other business are willing to stretch.' And Valerie was more than willing to do it," Smith said, referring to Whoopumup Café co-owner Valerie Mudry.

The goal of Whoop EM Up Wednesdays is to raise the profile of downtown Waitsburg by providing an event that requires low volunteerism because it fits with an already-existing business model. The meals are priced at an affordable $15 per person and the first three events have been very successful.

Nearly 70 people attended the first dinner, on Aug. 2, which featured Whoopeumup Café Creole Filet Gumbo, corn chowder, cornbread, and New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich bites. Jack Sherrill played guitar for diners who were served on the patio.

On Aug. 30, about 60 diners enjoyed grilled chicken tacos with specialty salsas, guacamole, beans and rice, prepared by The Q. Brian Hunt and Paul Gregutt entertained during the meal, which was also al fresco. The house was full with seating limited to 50 diners for an indoor family-style pasta meal on Sept. 20.

Smith said the events have the feel of a dinner party-style social event. "It's a great way to meet new people and visit with people in the community. It's been a good mix of people who are longtime locals as well as those who are new to the area," she said.

The October 11 Whoop EM Up Wednesday event is an Oktoberfest-style meal and a Halloween-themed event is planned for October 25.


In another attempt to build community, the club purchased an outdoor pickleball set, which will be sponsored by Star Fitness, which is owned by club member Fred Gonzalez. The highly popular paddle game is easy to learn and can quickly develop into a competitive game for experienced players. Pickle Ball enthusiast Barb Jaksa is spearheading the drive to set up games at the middle school basketball courts.

"We want to pull people in and teach them to play. It's an amazing sport with health as well as social benefits," Jaksa said.

She said if Waitsburg is able to generate enough interest, the city may consider installing a permanent court.

Port of Walla Walla

The Commercial Club also works closely with the Port of Walla Walla. The port commissioners have made a point to meet in Waitsburg twice a year, and will hold their Oct. 12 meeting at the Waitsburg Lions Club Building.

The public is invited to meet the commissioners and port staff during a meet and greet from 5-6 p.m.. The Whoopemup Café will serve gumbo, cornbread, and beverages, courtesy of the Commercial Club and the port. Attendees are welcome to stay for the official port business meeting at 6 p.m.

Smith said the Commercial Club is in an ongoing discussion with the port regarding the Waitsburg Business Park located behind McGregors off Millrace road. Harvey Johnson Plumbing currently operates from the park and additional lots are platted and set up with water, sewer, garbage and electrical.

"The port can help with build-to-suit as well as business advice and direction. The good thing about the Waitsburg Business Park, as opposed to port property at the Walla Walla Airport, is that lots can be sold. They are available for rent, lease, or sale," Smith said.

"It is uniquely sited in that it's the only place we can put light manufacturing," she added.

Community Promotion

Smith said Commercial Club members make a point to be liaisons or voting members of committees that impact events, such as the historical society, the Celebration Days Committee, and the Friends of the Fairgrounds Committee.

"We want to hear what's happening on a broad-based community level so we can bring that back to the club," Smith said.

The Commercial Club hosts the Celebration Days community bonfire (they plan to have the band biG foNT play this year) and Gonzalez runs the Classic Auto Show. The club is responsible for organizing Hometown Christmas, which will include visits from Moana, Princess Ariel and Spiderman this year.

The club is a partner in the annual Swim the Snake fundraiser and Smith said they hope to add an optional bicycle leg to that event next year, which would allow the event to start and end in Waitsburg.

"This area is a great sports bowl for hunting, fishing, and biking. The fact that we have this adjacency to the Blue Mountains and Ski Bluewood and all of this hiking, biking, sports arena is something we need to capitalize on," Smith said.

The commercial club supports businesses as the opportunities arise. Blush Salon & Spa will hold a Holiday Open House on Nov. 9 and owner Brooke Mikesell will host some pop-up businesses in her store. Smith said she has found another pop-up business to sell from the former liquor store space and Jaksa is organizing a pop-up art show, which will take place in the Heaven space, next to the former jimgermanbar.


The Commercial Club is also sponsoring the painting of a mural on the JP Kent building, next to the former Delta Connection. The club's executive board, the building owner, and the historical planning commission have all approved the art, which will be executed by Jaksa. The art is based off of an image Jaksa captured while traveling down Middle Waitsburg Road.

Courtesy Photo

Diners enjoyed good food and conversation at a Whoop EM Up Wednesday dinner earlier this year.

"A lot of my artwork is based on landscape and travel. It's a road traveling off into the distance and it celebrates the great big blue skies, the wheat fields, and the gravel roads. It's about the road of possibilities, the road to the horizon," she said.

Jaksa said she would like to involve the community, possibly high school students, in the creation of the mural. "This is just the basic image. It will evolve and grow. It's not the finished image," she said.

The Commercial Club will soon begin fundraising for the mural which they estimate to cost approximately $20,000.


Smith said the club is also working to add dog waste receptacles on the sidewalks downtown and a Facebook partnering workshop, focused on teaching businesses to use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, is in the works. A financing workshop is also planned for the near future.

To keep updated on Commercial Club Events and Waitsburg happenings, follow the Waitsburg Commercial Club on Facebook.


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