Customer Spotlight: Pizza Schmizza
The Oregon Travel Experience’s (OTE) blue Interstate and off-Interstate sign program was launched in 1975. The ubiquitous logo signs alerting motorists to services and activities near freeway exits may have state and federally mandated names, but what they really provide are business name recognition and a potential for increased sales.
As part of our commitment to helping local and regional businesses flourish, we’re shining the OTE spotlight on one of our sign customers every newsletter. Make sure to read the inaugural story below.
Special Delivery: Pizza Schmizza
Oregon Travel Experience’s Director of Sales Harry Falisec spends an enormous amount of time thinking—and a great deal of his brain workout occurs while driving down I-5 and I-84. A few months ago, Harry was behind the wheel in the Portland Metro region and realized he wasn’t seeing a well-known pizza company’s logo on OTE signs.
Pizza Schmizza is a local company whose roots connect to numerous stores near interstate exits. Since part of Harry’s work includes promoting local businesses, he figured Pizza Schmizza was an ideal candidate for OTE logo signs. Harry decided to visit the franchises in person and see if their owners knew how to “sign up.”
Many local businesses operating within a larger franchise model rely on their mom and pop owners to carry out the brand from start to finish. When Harry interviewed franchisees, he heard that while it was a great idea to be featured on Interstate signs, logo placement funds weren’t part of their budgets.
Harry was still chewing over the pizza idea on his drive back to OTE’s new Salem headquarters. After he pulled into the parking lot, he realized he had parked right in front of a Figaro’s Italian Pizza company sign. (Figaro’s also owns Pizza Schmizza.) Figaro’s main offices just happened to be located across the hall in the same office building. Harry felt this might be one of those “ah-hah!” moments and seized the opportunity to chat with Figaro’s President Rick Glenn.
Rolling up their sleeves, Rick and Harry hammered out a plan for Portland area Pizza Schmizza stores. Oregon travel Experience is acutely aware that customer satisfaction relies heavily on forging personal and meaningful relationships tailored to each business.
Rick was impressed with the entire process. “I just wanted you to know how happy our franchisees are with the signage and the attention we’re getting. I put this deal together with Harry Falisec who made the whole process very painless. He even went beyond the call of duty and helped us choose a signage vendor and helped me keep costs down. Very much appreciated!”
Oregon Travel Experience would like to thank Rick Glenn and Pizza Schmizza for their business. Their new logo signs have become an opportunity to bolster local economic vitality together. Our congratulations to Pizza Schmizza for being OTE’s featured Sign Spotlight nominee of the month!
If you would like to have your business featured in the Sign Spotlight, contact Harry Falisec, OTE Director of Sales, 503-378-3555.
Graceful Giant: The Ewing Young Oak Heritage Tree
Many states in the US tout regional lore based on actual events. Remember Johnny Appleseed or Davy Crockett? At the heart of Oregon’s statehood, stories featuring pioneers and indigenous residents sprouting giant trees from acorns abound. The Oregon Travel Experience’s Heritage Tree Program helps identify and preserve these living icons, ensuring their presence for future generations.
Newberg, Oregon is home to one such legendary tree. Spanning 14 feet and 8 inches in circumference, the Ewing Young Heritage Tree marks the grave of one of the Willamette Valley’s first farming and cattle barons. The tree’s namesake possesses equal measures of lore and mystery.
The youthful adventurer Ewing Young left San Diego, California in 1834 accompanying friend Hall J. Kelley. Kelley was a spirited proponent of settlement in the “new” territories. He convinced Young to join a large company of men and horses heading north to Fort Vancouver. Kelley was pleased that Young would help guide the group. “Near the port of St. [sic] Diego, I met with Captain Ewing Young and his party of hunters. He was the very man to accompany me; because, like myself, he had an iron constitution, and was inured to hardships.”
As the group slowly and laboriously made its way through the mountain passes between California and Oregon Country, California Governor Joseph Figueroa sent word to fort officials naming Young, Kelley and their group as renegade horse thieves.
Young reacted to the news somewhat diffidently. “When we set out from the last settlement, I had seventy-seven horses and mules. Kelley and the other five men had twenty-one, which made ninety-eight animals which I knew were fairly bought. The last nine men that joined the party had fifty-six horses. Whether they bought them, or stole them, I do not know.”
Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor, Dr. John McLoughlin, denied Young and his group access to stores, food and goods. When Kelley suffered a malicious bout of malaria, McLoughlin arranged his passage to Hawaii for treatment. McLoughlin relegated Young, the purported horse thief, to the outskirts of the fort. Young was infuriated by McLoughlin’s judgment; Young envisioned the new territory as land waiting to be tamed and believed McLoughlin and the company were deliberately discouraging settlement by US citizens.
In an act of defiance, Young claimed a 50 square mile parcel in Chehalem Valley, from the Willamette River to the slopes of the Dundees. He planted wheat, built a cabin, raised cattle and eventually established a trading post. Young’s operation was the first working ranch in Oregon; his sawmill and gristmill helped build a foundation for western Oregon’s agricultural community.
Young was proud of his Oregon Territory “rancho” (as he liked to call his property) and was determined to fight the Hudson Bay Company’s cattle monopoly. By contract, all cattle in the region were owned by Hudson’s and leased to settlers. Any calves born to leased cows were considered company property. Young and other local pioneers decided to crack openthe company’s iron-fisted grip on the cattle industry.
In 1837, Young and his neighboring ranchers established the Willamette Valley Cattle Company. Thirteen men and boys set sail from Oregon Country to San Francisco. Over 745 head of cattle were purchased in California for three dollars a head and driven over the Siskiyou Mountains in the summer heat. Many were lost during the drive, but more than 600 survived. The cattle were sold for a resounding profit: eight dollars and fifty cents per head. The pioneer-supported cattle industry helped bring prosperity to many early ranchers in the Willamette Valley, including Young, who became one of the wealthiest men in Oregon Country.
Young fell gravely ill during the winter of 1840. Sidney Smith (a New Yorker with limited medical training) tried to help with Young’s ulcer complications. Despite Smith’s best efforts, Young died in 1841.The state’s first cattle baron was laid to rest on his beloved rancho.
When Young passed away, there were no known heirs (although a son from Mexico later stepped forward). There were also no Oregon laws in place to help disburse Young’s great fortune. In his simple act of dying, Young opened the way for state law to be created. Dr. Ira Babcock was appointed superior court judge to administer rules on behalf of the community. Although access to copies was limited, Judge Babcock used New York State codes to draft Oregon probate law. Two years later, the first provisional government was formed. Following the superior court’s decision on the Young estate, Sidney Smith was able to buy most of the rancho and its livestock.
Several years after Young’s death, Miranda Bayley and Smith planted a sprouting acorn (or so rural legend records) on Young’s grave. As the years passed, the oak blossomed into a magnificent memorial. Today, Newberg’s Oakhurst Farm is host to both Young’s gravesite and his namesake oak. Oakhurst is a working thoroughbred farm where champion stallions are pastured within perfect view of Ewing Young’s “graceful giant.”
The Ewing Young Heritage Tree was inducted into the Oregon Travel Experience’s Heritage Tree Program in 1999. Ewing Young Day (adopted by Senate Bill 625 in 2009) is celebrated on February 9th each year. Farm owners Cookie and Jack Root welcome history lovers to the site but ask visitors to obtain permission first.
Baldock Restoration Project: Phase II
To Wilsonville’s local residents, chapter one in the Baldock rest area story is familiar. In 2010, Oregon Travel Experience (OTE) inherited supervision of both north- and southbound sides of the I-5 rest area, including its resident homeless population. As part of our mandate, a coalition of community business leaders, law enforcement, social services and OTE staff worked together to solve the rest area’s problems.
For those unfamiliar with the story, a small portion of Baldock’s approximately 100 acres was occupied by a homeless camp of rusting trailers, tents and broken-down vehicles. The population was so entrenched that a Canby school bus made regular stops to pick up the camp’s children.
Baldock was known by law enforcement and the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office to be a hub of illegal activity. Problems of drug use and prostitution were seen as nearly hopeless to resolve. The homeless were terrified they would be dismissed as “throw-aways” or judged as lacking the skills to contribute to society. Oregon Travel Experience was charged to revitalize the rest area, and at the same time, provide a safe and clean environment for all Oregonians.
In the short year that framed coalition goals, the tattered encampment was dismantled. Thirty-two full time residents were placed in housing with the guidance of the Canby Center and supported by funds from an interagency taskforce. Nuisance or complaint calls to state police are now down by two-thirds. An OTE supervisor team now meets and greets the traveling public.
Ringing in the New
Oregon Travel Experience hired an additional five workers this January to clean restroom facilities, mow fields, prune trees and shrubbery and help motorists who are stranded by dead batteries or flat tires. Each of the five workers shares a history of unemployment and views this “second chance” as a way to give back to the community that helped them.
Baldock’s grounds are unique; it is the largest rest area in Oregon and, unlike many smaller, less utilized areas within the state, the enormity of the grounds and frequent use by the public require constant upkeep. Its grand scale stems from the Eisenhower administration’s Federal Highway Act. The surrounding flat fields were intended as an alternative landing strip for military aircraft. Open gateways from the interstate make it an ideal staging area in case of a national or state emergency.
The Oregon Travel Experience is tasked by the Legislature to maintain and supervise Baldock, ensuring safety for travelers. Cooperatively, Baldock is integral to the economic vitality and infrastructure of local businesses. A travel kiosk and lighted back panels highlight local attractions, dining and travel information. In 2011 and beyond, OTE remains committed to rest area improvement and delivery of services. At Baldock, the newest employees truly represent the life force behind the scenes of the local economy.
Brewing for half a century: Free Coffee Program
Did you know Oregon’s rest area free coffee programs share common “grounds” with Lady Bird Johnson? When the federal Highway Beautification Act was created in the 1960s, Lady Bird urged her husband to ban billboards and create open spaces that would encourage Americans to explore the country.
While history doesn’t reveal the exact moment when travelers woke up to their first cup of free coffee, state programs percolated upwards between the creation of highway rest areas in the 1950s and the 1960s beautification act. Oregon’s rest area free coffee programs have been in existence for over 45 years and were administered by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
When the Oregon Travel Experience (OTE) assumed administration of five Interstate rest areas last January, it also needed to support the free coffee programs located at those sites. OTE realized it needed an education in what makes the program so special; the program would not exist without volunteers from community nonprofit organizations.
From local charitable funds to ecumenical schools, the volunteers who staff the rest area coffee programs are the foundation of the program. Not only do they show up on time for their scheduled shifts, they do so with smiles and a welcoming attitude to the state’s grateful motorists.
Organizations are encouraged to apply, since participation in the program is an excellent opportunity to earn money for nonprofit activities. If more than one group requests a specific date to host serving free coffee, the organization names are entered into a random drawing for scheduling.
In a recent customer satisfaction survey, many nonprofit organizations enrolled in the program reported positive news. Motorists appear to be grateful for the much needed safety break and the friendly service. “As a public service project, our workers enjoy the service and love to sign up,” one group told OTE. “Most people say how gratified they are about us being there,” wrote another.
Nonprofit groups who offer free coffee and cookies may receive donations (not payment) from motorists for refreshments provided. Donation totals can range from $150 to $800 on a busy weekend.
Volunteers also cited numerous examples of how the program raises funds for important community programs and services. Money raised throughout the year is channeled into hospice services, Dogs for the Deaf, community senior centers, after-school activities, Shriners Hospital for Children, Meals on Wheels and other charitable organizations. Each non-profit group chooses where their dollars are spent. One club spokesperson said, “Over a one year period, our volunteers raise more youth program funds than any other club activities including our Veteran’s Day Breakfast. Thank you for your help.”
As part of OTE’s quest for quality improvement, a dedicated coffee program site has been created at the Baldock rest area. A permanent installation makes it easier for nonprofits to participate, eliminating the need to haul travel trailers in and out of the rest area. Oregon Travel Experience plans to provide a dedicated space for free coffee service in all of its managed rest areas in the future.
Think your organization might be a good fit with the OTE Free Coffee program? Give Sarah Lenz a call at our offices in Salem: 503-378-6289.
Oregon Travel Information Council Quarterly Meeting: February 2011
The Oregon Travel Information Council’s (TIC) quarterly meeting takes place on February 25, 2011, at the Salem headquarters, 1500 Liberty Street SE, Suite 150. The council will convene at 9:00 a.m. and discuss a wide range of topics, including pending legislation.
House Bill 2330, concerning rest area enforcement, and Senate Bill 13, regarding loans to semi-independent state agencies, will be reviewed. Also on the agenda: an update on the Baldock rest area homeless project, rest area solar array updates and reports from OTE’s executive staff.