What is happening to our downtown White Salmon these days?
In early April, the Elkhorn Bar & Grill closed down due to a lack of business. Now, the White Salmon Grille has permanently closed its doors as well, as of the end of April.
Combined, that leaves 19 employees out of their jobs, and the impact of those lost wages will ripple through our small town.
With The Creamery facing closure to make way for a new mixed commercial/residential building, our business district may soon be without a place to go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or maybe even a cup of coffee.
It's sad, and baffling. After all, we see a lot of new houses being built around the community, and there are active proposals for many more. We also see tremendous expansion in the number of employees at Insitu. So where is the corresponding shopping traffic for our commercial center?
We don't want to see White Salmon turn into an economic backwater, bypassed by all the fast traffic on State Route 14 through Bingen. Yet, it's telling that there are many strong dining options to choose from in Bingen: Viento, Big River Diner, Los Reyes, Beneventi's, Bingen Station, Taquiera El Rinconito, Chips. They all seem to be doing relatively well, and for "fast food," Bingen also has McDonald's.
That's a great deal of variety, and what a contrast with White Salmon!
Business leaders in White Salmon need to consider this odd situation. Restaurants and cafes are an important slice of a community, and we don't want to be left without a place to go. If there is no viable restaurant, that translates into more people going to Bingen or Hood River, further depressing sales for downtown merchants. This is a troubling sign for White Salmon.
Remember what the head of the Klickitat County Economic Development Department said a few years ago? He explained why he would not grant Snowden any of the county's landfill funds, saying that Snowden was not really a community. Why? Because there was no "place to stop and get a cup of coffee."
White Salmon is getting dangerously close to falling into that criteria now.