by Kirby Lindsay, posted 19 October 2012
It may have been the touchdown call heard around the country. It certainly caused more than a few deafening shouts from fans of the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, following the September 24, 2012 game. “I heard a lot of hate on Seattle,” recalled Rudy McCoy-Pantoja Jr., and he brought it up with friends and neighbors around Ballard and Fremont, as he did his work as a gardener.
Together, he and his friends launched a counter-attack on the hate, and after several business owners offered products for a gift package, their effort made a connection.
First, McCoy-Pantoja contacted the Mayor of Green Bay, who declined the gift. For his second attempt, McCoy-Pantoja selected the Mayor of Delavan, Wisconsin, who reportedly responded, ‘We love salmon. We aren’t going to turn salmon down!
A ‘Taste Of Seattle’ For Delavan
“We got it about a week and a half ago,” reported Delavan Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis, “We had it at our [City] Council meeting.” In addition to smoked salmon (from the Fresh Fish Co.,) the package contained samples of several Fremont and Ballard businesses – a Kringle from Larsen’s Bakery, chocolate from Theo’s, beer from Fremont Brewing – all sent by Ballard Mailbox.
In exchange, a ‘Taste of Delavan’ was assembled and sent along. “It kind of evolved,” Mayor Nieuwenhuis acknowledged. According to him, it may have started when, “we got robbed by that call,” by a replacement referee, but it’s become much more. “It’s really about promoting the businesses we have in our communities,” he explained.
“Our local businesses read about it,” Mayor Nieuwenhuis said, “and 10 local businesses donated things to the package. It just kind of grew by itself. It’s really cool how it expanded.”
Finding Friends, And A Niche?
“We had tremendous growth in the east side,” of Delavan, the Mayor explained. That area of town, along the Interstate, has attracted a Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Kohl’s, while Downtown Delavan, “is no different than any downtown in the nation,” he acknowledged, “We are struggling a bit.”
Just recently, Mayor Nieuwenhuis explained, the Council approved a Downtown Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district, to raise money for improvements. They plan to spend the money on repairs to facades, incentives, economic development, and, they’ve considered, a commission for murals that show the history of the area, and the pride of its people.
“We have a beautiful downtown,” he explained, “It’s a postcard look.” Delavan, the Mayor said, “is kind of like the hub between many locations.” The town sits about 40 miles from Milwaukee, 90 miles from Chicago, and has Lake Geneva only about 10 miles away.
The town has plenty to offer visitors, the Mayor observed, if they’ll stop. So, he’s searching for a niche – a draw – to get tourists to slow down, and take a look. They have antique stores, coffee shops, retail and restaurants – with most of their core businesses being small and/or family businesses, just like Fremont.
But what Fremont, and Ballard, have in spades – a clear identity, and unique niche – Delavan still is struggling to identify. “Anyone with good ideas for a niche,” Mayor ‘Mel’ said, “I’m all ears!”
A ‘Taste of Delavan’ For Seattle
Packages are incoming now from Delavan, with venison from one of the Mayor’s bow-hunting trips, plus Wisconsin cheese, wine, candies, and a two-night stay at a local resort. It also contains a Delavan sweatshirt from Bradley’s Department Store (which will celebrate 160 years in business on October 27th,) and a Packer’s hat signed by the Mayor – with a strongly worded request for a picture of McCoy-Pantoja wearing both while walking through Seattle (a Fremocentrist.com photographer has also requested an invite to the occasion…)
For his part, McCoy-Pantoja wants to see the gifts, and the credit, spread around. For him, the entire adventure is about building stronger neighborhoods – and stronger neighborhood businesses. “It’s about working with everyone, and taking it over state lines,” he said, “that’s where I was coming from.” He hopes to show the Mayor of Seattle, and the City Council, that helping our economy, “is not just about social services.”
“Everybody chipping in $5 here, and $20 there,” McCoy-Pantoja explained. “Small businesses are the backbone of our communities,” he observed, and this project, “is a public-private partnership,” to help everyone. “All I want to do is promote our ‘hood,” he said.
“Really it’s about looking out for the interests of all,” McCoy-Pantoja said, “it’s not about me. I’m just the loudspeaker.” He wants any credit – and any support – to go to the business owners, and community leaders, that have come together to share generously – and to get their products and promotions out to a wider audience.
“We love our team, but we have to go back to work,” McCoy-Pantoja acknowledged, and he thinks it’s time to promote the work being done here to anyone – including other football fans. “There are other things about our city,” McCoy-Pantoja wants everyone to know, beyond the visuals shown during televised NFL games of the Space Needle and flying fish at Pike Place Market.
Taking It Farther
McCoy-Pantoja, and his cohorts, have expanded even further the connections for Ballard and Fremont businesses. He’d arranged a shipment of Larsen’s Bakery kringles to San Francisco, home of the 49-ers (the latest NFL team to play the Seahawks,) before they even played the game.
As for Mayor Nieuwenhuis, “I’m a die-hard Packers fan,” he acknowledged. He believes that the call was bad, and he’s ready for a rematch. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” he mused, “If the Packers and the Seahawks meet up in the playoffs?”
It would be wonderful, in a terrible kind of way. A line of communication has definitely continued between the Delavan Chamber of Commerce and the Fremont Chamber of Commerce. McCoy-Pantoja and Nieuwenhuis have also had more than one conversation, even sometimes talking about things beyond football.
“We should stay in contact, and support each other,” stated the Mayor, and it looks like there could be some great friendships – if not some business – here. But if you think the noise stirred up by that call was deafening, just wait until the two teams meet again, and one team has to lose…
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.