Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Month: February 2015

Egli continues tradition as Keizer’s Merchant of Year

Joe Egli, an agent with R. Bauer Insurance, took home Keizer’s Merchant of the Year Award on Jan. 31. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Joe Egli, an agent with R. Bauer Insurance, took home Keizer’s Merchant of the Year Award on Jan. 31. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

It only looked like Joe Egli was practicing scenes from “Rocky.”

In reality, Egli was just a tad nervous while delivering a short speech Jan. 31 after being named 2014 Merchant of the Year at the Keizer First Citizen and Awards Banquet.

Shortly after his name was called by 2013 award recipient Rob Miller, a surprised Egli was on stage, trying to make it through his speech when he remembered some advice from wife Shelly and started raising his arms in the air.

“My wife taught me to do this if I’m nervous,” Egli explained as laughter filled the room at Keizer Quality Suites.

Egli then looked towards his wife at the back of the room.

“Did you know about this?” he asked, regarding the award. “No? OK, good.”

At that point, Miller joked that wasn’t the case.

“Are you lying to me?” Egli called out to Shelly. “You’re not getting any tonight. That just slipped out, I’m sorry.”

Egli, an agent at R. Bauer Insurance, recently stepped down after four years on the Keizer City Council. He is currently chair of the Iris Festival and has helped out with various Keizer Rotary and chamber projects. In 2013, he redid the letters at Newton-McGee Plaza.

Before naming the winner of this year’s award, Miller gave a few clues to the identity.

“He’s a person who has his hand in everything,” Miller said. “To quote from a meeting with Bob Zielinski, ‘He’s like s— in the barn because he’s always there.’ This candidate knows all about Keizer’ just ask him. He’s always the life of the party with his wife. They are so much fun to be with. He’s always there if you need him and he cares about you, from public issues to damages.”

Other nominees were Scott and daughter Kalynn White of Big Town Hero, Shelly Paddock of Shelly’s Kids Preschool and Daycare, Keizertimes publisher Lyndon Zaitz and Larry Jackson of Jackson Auto Body.

Egli gave credit to his fellow nominees.

“Those people I really admire and look up to,” Egli said. “I’m very honored to be mentioned with them. I love each of you guys and all of the people I’ve worked with in the chamber.”

Afterwards, Egli admitted he was shocked to win.

“I was very surprised,” he said. “There was the (Zielinski) reference to the barn. I really thought he was talking about Scott White. I felt Scott and Kalynn were the obvious choices. So I was really sure I was off the hook. Then the camera zoomed in on me and I thought, ‘That’s not good.’ Then Rob started talking about the Iris Festival and I knew I was in trouble. I wasn’t prepared at all for the speech. “I’ve never really been that speechless before.”

As an agent at R. Bauer Insurance, Egli adds to the company’s reputation. Ralph Bauer was Merchant of the Year in 1965 and 1971 and thus established a trend for his sons; Dick Bauer won the award in 1980 and Tom Bauer did so in 1984. Ralph Bauer was also the 1978 First Citizen, an award also won by Dick in 1983, by Dave Bauer in 1995, by Tom in 1997 and daughter Mary Opra in 2002.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Egli said of adding to the company’s total. “There’s been five First Citizens in our office. I’m pretty honored. It’s a family firm. It doesn’t seem like volunteering, it seems like something you’re just supposed to do. You take care of the community that takes care of you.”

Egli could recall his first experience with Keizer.

“I started coming to Keizer in 1976,” he said. “My dad would drive down here from Aurora. We’d get off the freeway in Brooks and take the back roads to the Fortune Cookie, which is now All Stars. I thought it was the best Chinese food around, but it turns out it was Diners Club two-for-one on Tuesday nights. I fell in love with Keizer a long time ago and I still love it. I love the people of Keizer.”

Egli noted a number of businesses were in Keizer before the city became incorporated in 1982.

“Our Keizer businesses are our heartbeat,” he said. “There are some Keizer businesses that have been around 50-plus years, while Keizer has only been around about 30 years.”

Egli’s co-worker Nathan Bauer, emcee of the event and son of Tom, loved the Zielinski comment and told attendees not to ask for Egli by name in the office.

“I told Joe we were going to start calling him 2014 Merchant of the Year at the office,” Bauer said.

Lessons in Celt video production courses carry students far beyond the classroom

Jedidiah Hunter and Gloria White record segments for the Celtic News Network.
Jedidiah Hunter and Gloria White record segments for the Celtic News Network.

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Despite taking video production classes for all her four years at McNary High School, Liv Pond isn’t planning to study film in college.

That doesn’t mean what she’s gleaned from her time in teacher Jason Heimerdinger’s studio room will be going to waste.

“I want to travel the world and teach. These classes taught me how to learn, because there’s always one more new thing, and they’ve taught me how to teach others and work with people,” said Pond.

Because of her time in video production classes she’s performed almost every task there is to do, including helping produce video announcements and the Celtics’ new news segments dubbed CNN (Celtic News Network).

“There’s not one part I like the most, I like it all. But one of the things you can do here is take all this knowledge and apply it to everything,” she said.

Senior Nick Wolfert is no stranger to the camera. He’s directed his own short films in his spare time, but his duties as a line producer for CNN are quite a bit different.


McNary’s annual Knight of Arts is slated Saturday, March 7. The event features student work and a play alongside silent and oral auctions. Proceeds cover costs not covered in school budgets and scholarships for arts students. Tickets are $10 and on sale at the McNary main office. Check-in for the auctions begins at 5:30 p.m., the event begins at 6 p.m.


“With this, everybody is doing their own thing. It’s so much more a collaborative effort,” Wolfert said. “I also get to use a lot of high-end equipment, like a tricaster which allows me to switch between cameras on the fly.”

Heimerdinger hopes to expand the scope of what students do within the program with a successful Knight of Arts fundraiser Saturday, March 7.

“We’d like to be able to install a closed-circuit camera system in the auditorium, which will allow us to film productions from multiple angles and direct the filming as happens,” Heimerdinger said.

Students in the video production classes also take part in community projects. When the district was looking for someone to produce a kindergarten orientation video, they turned to McNary students.

“It’s not just about getting things done on time, but about doing them well,” said Courtney Lutz. “What the courses have really taught me is time management. We don’t just stand around trying to figure out what we want to do. We have a plan before we even start shooting.”

Like Pond, Lutz can handle most of the operations that revolve around CNN productions.

Since graduating from McNary last year, alum Zach Cushman – one of Heimerdinger’s most promising recent students – has been tapped to come back and help out with the filming of theatre projects.

“Before I started taking classes, I had worked filming my own things, but it was pretty sloppy,” Cushman said. “I learned how to use more expensive cameras and how to make things look good.”

That was one of the reasons he was called back to direct the filming of McNary’s recent musical, Legally Blonde.

For some students who tend to fly under the radar for any number of reasons, Pond said the classes help bring them out of their shells.

“At first, I was really shy and I wouldn’t talk to anybody, so I had to learn to talk with people to get things done. I learned how to ask other people for help.”

Exceeding Expectations

McNary senior Tregg Peterson slams a ball home on an alley-oop. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
McNary senior Tregg Peterson slams a ball home on an alley-oop. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

With his thick red hair and 6-foot-3 frame, McNary High School senior Tregg Peterson stands out on the basketball court for his physical appearance alone. After the tip off, he stands out even more.

Peterson has been a backbone of the Celtic boys basketball team all season long. He’s averaging 16 points, five rebounds and three assists per game. His most points in a single game this season is 34. As soon as he gets close to the net, there is a collective intake of breath on the Celtic side of any gym. That’s because there’s a better-than-average chance he’ll slam one home. If he does, what follows is most like a roar.

“It’s really the best feeling you can get. When you have everyone there – friends and family – and they explode, it gets your adrenalin going and gets you excited,” said Peterson.

Peterson’s path to becoming a star on the court likely began playing basketball with his father and sister, Teresa.

He laughs and smiles shyly at the mention of her name.

“She used to beat me pretty handily, but she was my push factor. She was good when she played and, coming in, I wanted to be better than she ever was. I’ve tried to surpass her and my dad who played in high school and college,” Peterson said.

After playing on a three-time state champion soccer team through middle school, Peterson turned his focus to basketball his freshman year. In some ways, it was the best and worst time to join the program. The Celtics had been struggling for a couple of seasons already, but it continued for the next two years under a new head coach, Ryan Kirch.

“You could tell there was a lot of confusion and a lot of player issues. There were egos and attitudes, and a lot of them,” Peterson said. “But you still learn to love the people you play with.”

While the teams struggled, Peterson turned to what what he could contribute and began hitting the gym, focusing on weights and building strength in his legs.

“Tregg puts a lot of time in during the off season, specifically in the weight room,” Kirch said. “Between his sophomore and junior season he went from being an average looking player to a physically dominant perimeter player. His vertical leap improved by nearly 10 inches, and he became a very physical presence on the floor.”

Kirch said Peterson came into his own two years ago during a summer league team in a tournament at University of Oregon.

“Johnathan (Doutt) missed a couple of games for a family event and we were in a position where we were looking for someone to step up.  We began to run plays to isolate Tregg and he scored at will,” Kirch said.

As a junior, Peterson  was a first team all-league selection, an honor he wasn’t planning to gun for until his senior year.

“My goal was just to start and be a good player for our team, but I exceeded my own expectations and everyone else’s,” he said.

While Peterson has risen to the forefront of his team, he’s also aware that it’s taken progress from everyone on the roster to reach the heights it has in the Greater Valley Conference. The Celts’ record is 13-1 in league.

“We have all these other weapons and when someone is on fire, we start feeding them the ball. On any night, it could be anybody’s big game,” Peterson said. “It’s nice to be relied upon, and I want to be the guy with the ball at the end of the game. It’s a lot of pressure, but I enjoy it.”

He’s getting looks from several Division II schools and is planning to visit a couple of them during spring break. With a 3.98 grade point average, it’s likely he’ll have a couple of choices. In addition to being able to play, he’s looking for a school with a good engineering program – either chemical or bioengineering. Science has been his favorite subject for a while.

Peterson’s accolades on the court are getting him most of the attention, but he’s equally reliable off the court. When longtime friend Payton Williams was diagnosed with cancer last summer, Peterson filled Williams’s room with about 100 balloons he’d blown up himself.

“I got a little light-headed and I was tired after, but it was life-altering. When someone gets a diagnosis like that, you realize how quickly life can change,” Peterson said. While basketball has drawn much of his time since November, he and Williams remain in constant contact via text messaging.

His reliability is what makes Peterson a leader on the court, Kirch said.

“I think he’s come to realize that the responsibilities of being a great player continue off the court. It includes in class, in the hallways and in the community. I know that our youth kids idolize him,” Kirch said. “Tregg is also a funny kid, compassionate towards others and loves the color purple … we are working on his fashion sense.”

Wherever he ends up next year, Peterson will take with him more than just his talent on the court. He will take the lessons the game has taught him.

“Basketball isn’t just about competing, it teaches leadership, accountability and a lot of other lessons. When you fail you have to get up and keep going. You learn the lessons that will stick with you the rest of your life,” he said.

Abbas a merit finalist

McNary High School senior Zach Abbas was recently  named a National Merit Finalist, one of just 15,000 such students around the country. (Submitted)
McNary High School senior Zach Abbas was recently named a National Merit Finalist, one of just 15,000 such students around the country. (Submitted)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Of all the high school students in the country, McNary High School senior Zach Abbas has an honor few others can claim: National Merit Finalist.

“I wasn’t expecting to be a semifinalist. I was completely blown away. Then hearing that I was a finalist … it was just crazy,” Abbas said.

Abbas qualified as a semifinalist based on his PSAT scores as a junior, then submitted an application and essay to achieve his finalist status. He’s one of 15,000 finalists in the U.S. – the only one from McNary – and about half of those will receive scholarships.

“Zack is not only very intelligent, he is one of the kindest, most compassionate, hardworking young mn I have ever worked with,” said Stephanie Hanson, Abbas’s counselor at McNary.

Abbas has a 3.78 grade point average and balances that with working at Walgreens part time and other extracurricular activities. Teacher Dan Borresen said writing has always been a strong suit for Abbas. One testament to that was his inclusion in the annual anthology of student creative writing produced by McNary’s Write Club.

“Zach has the ability to view concepts and reading activities from varying perspectives. This unique skill allows him to connect to ideas and the claims of authors in a thorough and scholarly manner, making his insights and analyses incredibly thoughtful and perceptive. High school students often struggle when asked to consider other perspectives; Zach does it naturally,” Borresen said. “I always enjoy reading his articles and essays.”

This semester, he’s taking three advanced placement courses in biology, European history and literature. Abbas is still taking stock of his options for college, but he has a fairly clear goal in mind.

“I always thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I started working at Walgreens and talking with the pharmacists and pharmacy techs.  Conversations with them swayed me. Now I’m going to pursue a pharmacy degree. I think providing the medicine for patients will be just as interesting,” he said.

With so many balls in the air already, Abbas is still making time to mentor younger students and imbue them with his interest in reading and writing.

“I’ve been working with a friend coaching an elementary school team for Oregon Battle of the Books. As a student, I took part in it as a member of a team, but it’s cool to be on the opposite end of that,” he said.

Abbas is the son of Janine and Dan Kidd and Harry “Leon” and Nanette Abbas.

Keizer Florist set to reopen March 2

Lisa Vasquez is the new owner of Keizer Florist on Chemawa Road NE. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Lisa Vasquez is the new owner of Keizer Florist on Chemawa Road NE. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Car after car pulled into the parking lot of the flower shop both Feb. 13 and 14, with regular customers getting out to buy flowers for Valentine’s Day.

Except there were no flowers to be bought at Keizer Florist.

Lisa Vasquez and her husband Rich bought the business from Julie Wallace earlier this year, with the sale closing on Feb. 4. Lisa is busy getting things up and running for a reopening on March 2. The store closed shortly before Christmas.

The new opening date means Keizer Florist was closed for Valentine’s Day – traditionally the busiest day for a flower shop.

“It was torture,” Lisa said of not having flowers to sell. “For so many of the people, for years they pull up and pick up flowers for Valentine’s Day. I lost count of how many people came up and saw the store was closed.”

With the sale closing shortly before the big day, Lisa said there wasn’t time to get things like taxes, flower accounts and a myriad of other details arranged in time.

“We didn’t want to open when we weren’t ready,” said Lisa, who noted she has hired three of the store’s former employees. “All of these things have to happen before you can start. Last Friday was the worst. It was the same on Saturday. People didn’t see the signs and just came up to the door. There wasn’t much I could do. Whenever we saw them pull up, I would open the door and greet them.”

If there was a silver lining, Lisa found out something about her customer base.

“My belief is there’s a large, loyal following,” she said. “Most people said they would be back. That made me feel good. I will have to do something nice for the loyal people who come back. A lot of the loyalty is due to the staff that was here.”

An information technology consultant whose husband is retired, Lisa has always been on the lookout for business opportunities.

“I have always been pushing to own my own business,” she said. “This wasn’t on my list, to own a floral shop.”

Lisa saw an ad on Craigslist in early January about the business being for sale, then soon met with Wallace and her realtor.

Lisa and Rich, who moved to Keizer in 1996, had some familiarity with the business. Rich became a regular customer shortly after that and got to know previous owners. Once the opportunity came up, it was Lisa pushing forward.

The couple will be an FTD florist, while also selling local flowers. In the days since the sale, they have been getting up to speed.

“Rich has been reading up on FTD systems,” Lisa said. “He will be our driver at first. He will be the support system. The business side I have down. I’ve been a government employee and I worked for two large companies, but I have to be schooled on flower arrangements. My team will school me. I can be trained on the job or FTD offers courses. They have courses on the business side, classes on how to arrange flowers and they have webinars. FTD has been around for a long time, so I’ll take advantage of that.”

In talking with her team, Lisa has decided not to continue the drive-through coffee window.

“They did coffee and baked goods, but the team said it was slow,” she said. “It was a lot of effort, so we’re not going to keep it. I told them to just focus on awesome flowers. There is a higher expectation here (for flowers), because you will pay more. I want it as close to perfection as a human can get.”

In addition to flowers, other items like vases, truffles, small gifts and cards will be available. Eventually Lisa wants to give the store at 631 Chemawa Road NE a more contemporary look.

“The real point is the flowers,” she said.

One focus for Lisa will be different price ranges.

“I want to focus on affordability,” she said. “I want to have it where a customer can still buy something nice even if they don’t have a lot of money to spend. We will run the gamut. That is very important here because this is a working community, not a luxury community. I don’t want people to come in and not be able to buy anything.”

Along those lines, Lisa has a picture in mind of the perfect customer.

“I look forward to the first time a little kid comes in with change and wants to buy a flower for mom,” Lisa said. “That will be the best sale.”

“A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler

Spool-of-Blue-Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler

c.2015, Knopf / Bond Street Books
$25.95 / $32.00 Canada
368 pages

BOOK REVIEW
by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

Cut from the same cloth.

That’s what your grandma said about you and your siblings, but it couldn’t have been further from the truth: you were different as sun and rain. You came from the same set of parents, and that’s about all you had in common.

Still, there are always things in life that stitch families together and in the new book “A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler, the Whitshanks needed that kind of mending.

When Junior Whitshank built the house on Bouton Road just after the Depression, folks noticed that he threw his heart into it, but no one fully understood.

They didn’t know that Junior aimed to someday live there himself, even though Bouton Road was built for well-to-do clients, and Junior wasn’t. Even so, eyeing a dream that would surely come true, he insisted that every door, newel, and window were the finest his clients’ money could buy.

Red Whitshank knew that the house he inherited from his father was a great place to raise a family but he never thought much past that. Over the years, as he and Abby brought each baby home, Red remodeled some, moved the girls to make room for boys, and added a bathroom – but for him, there were other things more pressing to consider. Like work, for instance.

For Red’s wife, Abby, the house on Bouton Road was the heart of her family, though there were times when she didn’t understand where things went wrong – especially with her oldest son, Denny. He’d always been the Black Sheep child, the one who flitted from here to there and could never settle down. It wasn’t unusual for him to disappear, for years to pass before they heard from him again.

That hurt Abby because, deep in her heart, Denny was her favorite and she’d never admit that to anybody but Red. She wasn’t even sure Red listened anymore (he was just like his father); he said she worried too much but wasn’t that a hallmark of a good mother? And wasn’t a good mother the ribbon that tied the family together?

Much as I loved “A Spool of Blue Thread,” I struggle to define it because it’s really not about anything in particular: through the eyes of three generations of average people, author Anne Tyler spins a tale of love and family dynamics. The Whitshanks marry, they squabble, they grow, they deal with tragedy, that’s all.

Then again, that’s not all.

Tyler makes this book feel like a long conversation on the front porch with a friend (or two) whose family is going through a rough spot. You’ll listen, you’ll raise eyebrows in gentle surprise, you’ll nod, you’ll sympathize – but you just can’t turn away.

Nor can you put this heart-striking novel down because it feels just right for a few winter afternoons. And so, if the next book club pick is yours or you want a good family drama to read, “A Spool of Blue Thread” has that all sewn up.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

After open-heart surgery 11-year-old back in the game

Gubser Elementary School fifth grader Mehki China underwent open-heart surgery last summer and was cleared to return to the sports he loves last fall. (Submitted)
Gubser Elementary School fifth grader Mehki China underwent open-heart surgery last summer and was cleared to return to the sports he loves last fall. (Submitted)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Mehki China was practicing with his baseball team last spring when something started going wrong.

“I got panicked because it was hard to breathe and I started stumbling,” said Mehki, who was 10 years old at the time. He had been diagnosed with sports-induced asthma prior to this attack, but it didn’t take long for his mother, Brooke, to figure out something else was going on.

She was playing with her younger son when one of Mehki’s friends came to let her know something was wrong.

“I went outside and he was slumped against a wall. I tried to stand him up and get him to breathe through it, as he tried to stand up his eyes turned black and rolled up, then he passed out,” Brooke said.

Assuming it was an asthma attack, Brooke ran back inside and began yelling for someone to get an inhaler. Mehki’s had been left in the car that day.

She went back to check on Mehki and found him still unconscious on the ground, then back into the gym to find Andrew Copeland, one of the team’s coaches and a Keizer police officer, running across the gym with an inhaler.

“Mehki was still out and I thought, ‘How is this going to work if he’s not breathing?’” I went into terror all over again,” Brooke said.

Copeland opened Mehki’s mouth and sprayed the inhaler into it. He was about to begin CPR when Mehki began moving about 30 seconds later.

“The ambulance came and they checked him out. They offered to take him to the ER, but I wanted to take him to his doctor,” Brooke said.

Mehki’s doctor’s performed an EKG and things looked fine, but the family opted to pursue further testing. The hardest part for Mehki – a three-sport athlete in baseball, football and basketball – was his unquenched thirst for the competition sports bring.

“I’ve been playing since I was younger and I like everything about it. I didn’t like not being able to play. It’s all I wanted,” Mehki said.

A sonogram of Mehki’s heart revealed the problem.

“The left coronary artery is supposed to come from the aorta. His was coming from the pulmonary gland and cutting off the oxygen to his heart,” Brooke said.

The condition is a congenital heart defect that is usually caught in the first several months of a child’s life, but Mehki’s had gone undetected. It’s in the family of conditions that sometimes result in sudden athlete death.

Brooke said they could have left it untreated, but it would mean Mehki would likely never play sports competitively again.

“It was a question of the risk of surgery versus a better quality of life,” Brooke said.

Mehki went under the knife for open heart surgery in July 2014, but was back on the field six weeks later as an assistant football coach to Bill Klem.

He was cleared to play himself in November and started basketball in December.

“We’re not doing so great right now, but I really want to see our baseball team do good this summer,” Mehki said. The team took second in the state last year while Mehki was benched.

“Now he’s free and clear to do whatever he wants. He had no complications and was out of the hospital in four days. He was laid up for a really long time, but he can live the life that he wants,” Brooke said.

Jazzed up for change

Jim Nardi (right) handed over control of Uptown Music to Paul Elliott (left) last year and is preparing to leave the business at the end of the month. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Jim Nardi (right) handed over control of Uptown Music to Paul Elliott (left) last year and is preparing to leave the business at the end of the month. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

You can tell Jim Nardi and Paul Elliott have worked in a music store a long time.

How? In normal conversations, music-related words just pop up, with no puns intended.

For example, here is Nardi talking about Elliott’s impact on Uptown Music over the years.

“He’s been instrumental to our growth,” Nardi said.

Last year Nardi sold the business he started in 1991 to Elliott. How does Elliott feel about that?

“I’m pretty jazzed about it,” Elliott said.

Late last March Elliott took over as president of the business. Nardi stayed on board, helping his longtime employee – Elliott worked for Nardi for 17 years – get through the transition.

“I have the confidence we can meet future challenges, with his help in preparing me,” Elliott said, motioning to Nardi. “It’s time for the training wheels to come off. We will solve problems as we keep moving forward.”

Replied Nardi: “Keep rocking.”

Nardi, 57, hasn’t indicated what his next step is. He said the longstanding joke between the two men was the moment Nardi left the business, he would open a new music store right across River Road.

One thing is certain, however: Nardi won’t be coming in every day. A going away celebration party was set for Wednesday evening this week, after the Keizertimes went to press.

“Once we reach the end of the month, my day-to-day time here will cease,” Nardi said. “I’m not quite sure what the next adventure will be. My wife works from home. Once I decompress, I will decide on the next venture. I don’t have to jump right into something.”

Over the years Nardi, Keizer’s 1999 Merchant of the Year, had looked at selling to Elliott, but the timing wasn’t right. The sale finally took place last year.

“The process has been going amazingly well,” Nardi said. “Paul has been part of how we became what we are. He’s been alongside me.”

Nardi recalls a busy time in the life of his company.

“It was in 2007 or 2008,  when the economy went weird,” he said. “We had just bought this building. We’d had 15 years of steady growth, then things got strange. We’d made a huge investment with the building and started talking about bringing Paul in as a partner. We realized we would have to do something.”

Though business was hampered by the recession and a sale didn’t happen, Nardi said the lessons made both him and Elliott better business people. When the two started talking seriously again a few years later about a sale, things went smoothly once a second arrangement was worked out.

“Basically it was a title change,” Nardi said. “I became the director of accountability and he became the president of the company. Janis (Elders) was transitioned to an administrative role. There was a divine hand on all of this. It’s been a really, really smooth transition.”

For Nardi, there was no one else he considered selling to.

“I couldn’t think of a better person to take the reigns and move this company forward,” Nardi said. “Paul has a servant’s heart and he loves to serve people. As my position was more in the back, Paul has been our company face for a long time.”

For Elliott, taking over the music store was years in the making.

“I talked long and hard with my wife (Karen),” Elliott said. “She knew this was my lifelong dream, but we had to get things in position financially. We were saving like we never did before, getting our financial ducks in a row. All of these aspects were new to me. Two years ago things were in place as far as finances. Then it took a year to put together the documents to make this happen.”

Elliott laughed when remembering being asked what his goal was when he took the business over.

“My goal is not to mess it up,” Elliott said. “Jim and his wife Sylvia have built a community staple here over the past 24 years.”

Nardi quickly adds his two cents.

“We wouldn’t be here without his contributions,” Nardi said of Elliott.

How would Elliott describe taking over the business?
“It was really exciting and terrifying at the same time,” he said. “But I’m surrounded by the best group of people.”

Things haven’t been too bad; Elliott reports sales rose 8 percent last year compared to the previous year.

Nardi points to some changes Elliott implemented as at least part of the reason.

“There are some new things to make us more competitive,” Nardi said. “There’s a bigger online component now, with a new website and online payments. Paul kept the good and is building on top of that.”

Elliott said he simply followed advice from his mentor.

“What Jim has taught me is to put the people and process in place to help make it easier to do business with us,” Elliott said. “It takes time to implement new technology and there are growth pains, but it’s easier for us now and for those who want to do business with us. I try to approach this with great humility. I’m humbled by the opportunity given to me. My previous 16 years was just practice for this.”

Nardi noted the difference in starting a new business versus taking one over.

“We started from zero,” Nardi said. “We invested a total of $2,500. We invested more over time. It was a long and slow process to build it.

Elliott noted the difference in starting point for him.

“Jim was able to start it small and learn along the way,” Elliott said. “He didn’t have to jump aboard a large business and go on a merry-go-round. I just grabbed on and Jim pulled me into the center of the merry-go-round, where it moves slower and I can see what’s going on.”

Elliott, 46, recalls when the reality of the change hit him.

“When it sunk in is when I did payroll, when I signed Jim’s check,” Elliott said. “Then it was real. There’s no way I’d be here today without the support of my wife and my crew here.”

Nardi looks back at the last 24 years with fondness.

“I feel blessed,” he said. “Paul and I both came out of performing backgrounds. We’re music people at the heart. We’re fortunate to make a living doing something we love.”

Boys cage McMinnville, need rally to beat West Salem

Celt Trent VanCleave lays up a shot in McNary’s game with McMinnville High School Friday, Feb. 13. McNary won 57-42. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Celt Trent VanCleave lays up a shot in McNary’s game with McMinnville High School Friday, Feb. 13. McNary won 57-42. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

A tie at the end of the first half in a game between the McNary High School and McMinnville High School’s boys varsity basketball teams ended in a 57-42 win for the Celts, Friday, Feb. 13.

The Grizzlies were first to the board, but a pair of quick buckets by McNary senior Devon Dunagan gave the Keizer team a 6-5 lead.

“We played really well and had a few too many turnovers, while they made some good adjustments,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach.

Both teams turned the ball over on several possessions in a low-scoring 11-7 first period, but McNary’s Harry Cavell, Mathew Ismay and Dunagan drained baskets from the line to take control going into the second period.

As the half wound down, Celt Cole Thomas put in one from the foul line and another from the paint to help McNary hold on to a four-point lead, but the Grizzlies had the game tied up at 21-21 with 1:45 left in the half. McMinnville went up 23-21 on their next possession, but Dunagan laid one in to knot the game before retiring to the locker room.

“I think we closed pretty well and we had a good field goal percentage in the second half even though we weren’t there in the first half,” said Celt junior Trent VanCleave.

Ismay put McNary up 25-23 as the second half started and a tougher defensive stand on the part of the Celts kept McMinnville six points. The Celts outscored the Grizzlies 18-13 in the final frame for the win. Midway through the fourth period, VanCleave, a point guard and McNary offense runner, took a hard fall but returned to the game by the end of the night.

“I jumped out and my legs got kicked out from under me. It was all back, and there was a big knot, but I didn’t want to sit out and get stiffer.,”  VanCleave said.

Cavell and Dunagan had 13 points each on the night; Thomas had eight; Tregg Peterson, who was kept out of the paint for most of the night, had seven points; Ismay put in six; Cade Goff and VanCleave had four each; and Connor Goff hit two from the foul line.

Three days prior, Tuesday, Feb. 10, the West Salem High School Titans had McNary on the ropes for much of the game.

“We didn’t start with good energy and it wasn’t there for the longest time. Sometime in the fourth quarter, something clicked. Maybe we were in desperation mode,” VanCleave said.

The Titans outscored the Celts 17-7 in the first frame, but McNary edged back into the game with a 15-11 second period. West held on to a 46-34 lead at the third frame buzzer. Only a runaway fourth quarter saved the game. The Celtics poured in 26 points to West’s 14.

“We were certainly nervous. We shot terribly even though we seemed to get ones that looked good,” Kirch said. “On the other hand, West is a good team and guarded well.”

The rally tied up the game just in time to send the contest into overtime where the Celts outscored West 8-2.

Peterson scored 26 points for McNary; Dunagan put in 20; Cavell had 12; VanCleave had nine; and Cole Thomas and Connor Goff had two each.

Final approval given for Area C development plan

A look at the Area C development plan as formally approved by the Keizer City Councilors at their meeting Tuesday night. Bonaventure is building a 154-unit senior living facility, while Mountain West is building 180 apartment units that will be on either side of an expanded McLeod Lane. (KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson)
A look at the Area C development plan as formally approved by the Keizer City Councilors at their meeting Tuesday night. Bonaventure is building a 154-unit senior living facility, while Mountain West is building 180 apartment units that will be on either side of an expanded McLeod Lane. (KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The ending was somewhat anti-climatic.

For years a war of words surrounded development in Area C of Keizer Station.

By the time the Keizer City Council gave final approval Tuesday of plans calling for 180 apartments and a 154-unit retirement community, only a handful of people were in the audience – most of whom were people who had put the plan together. No one from the audience spoke.

The majority of discussion among councilors centered around sidewalks. Councilors approved the order by a 6-0 vote, with Dennis Koho abstaining from a vote and discussion due to a potential conflict of interest.

In short order, a master plan and lot line adjustment were approved and three previous orders for the area were repealed.

“A lot of my life got repealed,” mayor Cathy Clark quipped.

The approval Tuesday – a day later than usual due to President’s Day on Monday – was a formality after councilors approved the joint proposal by Mountain West Investment and Bonaventure Senior Living last month, which had been the first time councilors discussed the project.

Representatives from the two companies first met with city officials last September and soon after started meeting with neighbors.

A previous proposal to do commercial building – a rumored 116,000 square foot Walmart was the lightning rod – a few years ago was vigorously protested, in particular by Kevin Hohnbaum and his Keep Keizer Livable group. The plans from 2011 were hotly debated. A revised plan from the fall of 2012 was eventually passed, but nothing ever came of that project.

The previous groundwork in terms of a master plan for the land was utilized as the starting point for the current proposal, with an amendment deleting the previous medical office and substituting in the retirement community.

That seemed to be in the distant past on Tuesday as city attorney Shannon Johnson focused on two new additions to a staff report, a table listing off-site improvement fees and a description of sidewalks that will be constructed in the vicinity of the development, which will be along Chemawa Road and an expanded McLeod Lane.

“Earlier today I talked to the mayor about any concerns and she brought up one of sidewalks,” Johnson said. “I think there was a general understanding between city staff and the applicant of where sidewalks should be when (the project is) built out. The question was what should be done in the first phase.”

Thus, an 84th and final condition was added, calling for sidewalks to be built on the east side of Chemawa from the Chemawa/Lockhaven Avenue intersection to the southeast corner of the retirement community, from the existing sidewalk next to Countryside Church to the McLeod/Chemawa intersection, through Area C to the southeast corner of the area and on the opposite side of the McLeod/Chemawa intersection abutting retail development in Area C-2, continuing on McLeod past the multi-family development to the southeast corner of the development adjacent to the railroad tracks.

The sidewalks must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as Keizer street standards. The sidewalk sections need to be constructed before occupancy permits are issued.

“So this section 84 is brand new,” councilor Brandon Smith said, looking out to the audience. “Is the applicant aware of this?”

The answer was affirmative, with Community Development director Nate Brown noting the new agreement is on top of a previous requirement for sidewalks down Chemawa.

“The additional sidewalk along Chemawa on the south side is something where they will pay an amount to the city and the city will then construct a sidewalk within two years,” Brown said.

The off-site improvement fees are assessed in proportion to the share of transportation improvement costs, based on the number of estimated trips shown in the Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA). Included are costs for the apartments and retirement community and several potential future retail buildings.

“The reason we wanted to do this is not for the current applicants but because we don’t know how long it might be before other phases come in,” Johnson said. “The idea is if someone just wanted to build a retail store, they would know exactly what had to be paid.”

In response to more sidewalk questions, Johnson explained the change.

“Unlike the first Area C plans where it would all be built at once, it’s clear now there may be a gap (between phases),” Johnson said. “These developers are putting in a lot more than required for their development.”