Local investment driving Stanfield surge

Kathy Baker owns and operates Fun Fashions in Stanfield, one of five businesses that recently opened in the city's small downtown.

Kathy Baker opened her small boutique in downtown Stanfield in the fall of 2014. Five more businesses opened during the next year.

Baker’s Fun Fashions Boutique at 165 W. Coe Ave., offering new and “softly used” fashion, is going strong, along with the consignment store Bazaar Happenings, the Old Stanfield Junk Store, Joe’s Treasure House, Blanquita Restaurant and Pupuseria, the area’s only eatery featuring cuisine from El Salvador, and the latest addition, the Lucky Jam Barn coffeehouse.

For a city of about 2,040 people, Baker said the streak of successful upstarts was impressive. And the driving fuel has been local connections.

Baker is a Stanfield native. She said she built a career in retail, including working at Maurices, and loved fashion and helping women with their style choices. She traveled in 2014 to Cleveland to visit her son and daughter-in-law and stopped into a boutique there. Soon after, she said, she decided, “That’s what I’m going to do.”

She went to Real Business Solutions, Hermiston, to seek help on how to start and manage a small business. Baker said Carol Franks there stepped her through creating Fun Fashions on Main LLC, which does business as Fun Fashions.

Baker said Franks also opened her eyes to what it takes to make a business go. Franks, for example, wanted to see the business ledger.

“I didn’t even have one,” Baker said. She was using her personal check book. Franks showed her that would not cut it. Relying on that expertise, Baker said, can be the difference a small business needs to be successful.

Lucky Jam Barn also is a local endeavor. Owner Jason Sperr serves on the city council and teaches at Stanfield Secondary School. He hired his Future Business Leaders of America students to help run the business. And Stanfield librarian Cecili Longhorn owns Bazaar Happenings, which shares building space with Fun Fashions.

Having a niche also helps. Baker said Fun Fashions is unique to the area and allows locals looking for affordable but upscale attire to shop local.

Making it past her first year was a milestone, but Baker said it took hard work, sometimes putting in 18-hour days running the business on her own. She said she aims to hire one full-time worker this year to help with everything from inventory to customer service.

The city also has its eyes on adding to Stanfield’s business profile. City manager Blair Larsen said the city recently purchased a run-down property near city hall for about $65,000 and plans to spend about $30,000 on repairs before putting it up for sale. That kind of taxpayer investment, he said, can lead to private investment.

“You can make a big dent by cleaning things to a little bit,” Larsen said.

Stanfield benefits from lower tax rates and rents, he said, so that helps businesses, and Baker said Highway 395 brings 10,000 people a day right through town, which she and others try to capitalize on. But the business boom in Stanfield is coming from the people who built and are building their lives there.

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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