Online marketplace forming for Wallowa County goods

Kathleen Ellyn/Chieftain This sign has gone up at the site where the Manuels are planning to building four history centers.

By Kathleen Ellyn

Kristy Athens of Enterprise is launching a new business that will allow Wallowa County businesses to compete with Amazon for those online orders.

Her business is an e-commerce site called “Genuine Wallowa County” and will feature products (and possibly services) made or offered in Wallowa County only.

“We have so much talent in the county –– we need a showcase for it,” Athens said.“What’s so great about this county is we have so many people who make something. People who visit or used to live here want to remember and share Wallowa County and how amazing everything here is.”

The ecommerce business would allow those people the opportunity to say “this is what I’m talking about” by ordering and shipping Wallowa-made products using the online marketing tool.

The website will sell product online to anyone in the world, and the focus will be on quality and authenticity.

“GWC will be a marketing tool for Wallowa County businesses, as well as an additional sales channel,” Athens said. “And I’ll do all the work.”

At this point, Athens is still gathering information about how the business could most benefit county businesses. To that end, she has launched a survey. Visit surveymonkey.com/r/3LDK6RR. Please complete the survey by Nov. 23.

You are welcome to answer anonymously, but if you would like to continue to learn about this opportunity as it unfolds, please complete the contact info section at the end of the survey.

“There are lots of spaces for comments — the more input I have at this stage, the better Genuine Wallowa County will serve all of us,” said Athens.

You can also email or call Athens at genuinewallowacounty@gmail.com or 541-406-0831. The website is not up yet, but there is a Facebook page genuinewallowacounty

She has received 24 survey responses so far but is hoping for many more.

In other news, the Manuel’s are back. Sculptor David and his promoter wife Lee Manuel operated the Manuels Museum in Joseph for 25 years before departing for Union County in 2005.

They also owned and managed a number of other businesses including Magnoni’s Restaurant, The Four Corners Coffee Co., Bronze Bear Bed and Breakfast, Carriage House Foundry and the Manuel Education Center. At the time the couple moved to Union County, they listed 13 properties for sale in Wallowa County.

They moved to Union County to renovate and repurpose the Hot Lake resort near Union, a business they still own and are working to develop into a Veterans Restorative Care Center. In 2017 the estimated the cost of that development was $42 million.

The nonprofit Veterans Restorative Care Center received a $30,000 grant from USDA Rural Development to create and develop a business plan in 2017 and this week confirmed that plans involving several other stakeholders were in development.

The striking Manuel Museum building in Joseph, the large log structure across from the Josephy Center, is now owned by Kirk Makin and in addition to housing several business offices, serves as a multi-unit vacation rental.

This time around the Manuels are developing four small history centers: A Native American center, a military history center, a pioneer history center and a center combining the subjects of history and bronze casting.

A ground-breaking ceremony took place at the new location one-quarter mile outside Enterprise on the right side of Hwy. 82 as you travel from Enterprise to Joseph. The property is the graveled square where drilling equipment used to be parked. A sign advertising the new centers has been erected.

The Manuels do not have a precise finish date but plan to open the business some time in 2019.

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