Like a smart business owner, Jeff Trass sought out a busy street when he moved Chinook Sales & Rental to Industrial Way in 2000.
The company — founded in Clatskanie nearly four decades ago by Trass’s parents, Bob and Rosemary — had outgrown its previous location behind Bob’s Sporting Goods on 11th Avenue, where it had resided since 1991.
“If you think about it, back in 2000 and prior to that, business owners or somebody with retail business always looked for the best and highest traffic count they could get,” Trass said in a recent interview.
But now Trass is looking to escape traffic with Chinook’s new Longview home at 643 California Way.
In one way, Chinook’s move represents yet another step in California Way’s gradual development. Longview officials and property owners are still in the early stages of an effort to extend Beech Street from 14th Avenue to California Way. And Home Depot, Walmart and other new businesses have opened nearby in recent years.
“It’s slowly starting to develop up, and I believe hopefully within the next few years you’re going to see more development there,” Trass said in a recent interview.
The move also reflects at least one business owner’s desire to escape the impending gridlock that will likely accompany a major overhaul of the intersection of Industrial Way and Oregon Way near the on-ramp to the Lewis and Clark Bridge. The state has committed more than $80 million to the project, which will involve an overpass and major road realignments. Trass is worried that Chinook’s old building, located within the proposed construction area, could become isolated during and even after the project is completed.
Trass said the pair of busy left-hand turn lanes and the old railroad tracks flanking the old property had caused problems for his customers, who often needed to pull in and out of the parking lot with trailers attached.
In addition, Trass estimates that about 80 percent of the traffic along Industrial Way is either truck traffic or tourism-related.
“It’s not the best traffic that I was looking for,” he said.
But with Chinook’s new location — not far from Home Depot and Walmart — the traffic ratio is reversed, Trass said.
While the heavy truck traffic was a major consideration, Trass had other reasons for moving.
For starters, Trass wanted to own the building Chinook is located in. Trass said he was told he could buy the old Industrial Way property after five years when he moved the business there in 2000 — but “that never happened,” he said.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the building fell into disrepair and had foundation problems.
So in early 2015, Trass started investigating a 6-acre parcel of land on California Way owned by the Weedman Family. Because it was bare land, Trass said he thoroughly researched the property to make sure it was buildable.
Throughout the process, Trass said, the City of Longview was easy to work with, singling out Community Development Director John Brickey and building inspector Mike Murray.
“The whole crew, they were outstanding,” he said.
Trass had originally planned to open the new location in October, but poor spring weather forced him to push the open date back a few months. Chinook opened for business at its new location on Jan. 15.
“A lot of people thought (the city) was the reason for the slowdown, but they were absolutely great to work with,” Trass said.
Trass — an experienced home builder — served as his own general contractor position and hired his own subcontractors. Trass said he had help from his brother, a contractor. He estimates that he’s spent close to $900,000 on the land and building materials, and he reckons he’s saved about $150,000 by assuming the lead contractor role.
Trass said his family completed all of the finish work, including the stone work and counters.
Although Chinook has a new location, customers will still see the original signs from the company’s first location in Clatskanie when they walk up to the counter.
“My wife said, ‘Don’t even clean them, they’ve got to look rustic,’” he said.
Trass said the move wouldn’t have been possible without a strong customer base that’s stayed loyal during Chinook’s 39-year history.
“If we didn’t have a good customer base after being in business for so long, we couldn’t have accomplished this.”
Chinook has a grand re-opening celebration scheduled for March 9.