PLATEAU AND THE VALLEY BELOW: Sumner's new visitor center puts rhubarb front and center

Shelly Schlumpf - File Photo
Shelly Schlumpf
— image credit: File Photo

By Shelly Schlumpf

Executive Director, Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce

This is my inaugural column in the Courier Herald as President and CEO of the Puyallup Sumner Chamber of Commerce and I’m pretty excited about it because there are plenty of good things to write about.

The big news here at the Chamber right now is the grand opening of our new Sumner Visitor Center on April 7th. The really great thing about the new visitor center is that it was created as part of a private/public partnership with the Chamber, the City of Sumner, The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse and Columbia Bank. And in my humble opinion, it doesn’t get better than creating partnerships where everyone wins.

If you’ve had an occasion to visit the Old Cannery in the last two months, you may have seen the retro teal enamel kitchen appliances that have taken up residence in a newly created kitchen space just down from the fudge bar. This new kitchen space is also the Sumner Visitor Center and I have to tell you that every single time I’ve been in the Old Cannery in the last eight weeks, I find someone in there either opening the refrigerator door or the oven door to the 1950’s stove. The teal farm sink even has running water and every appliance is fully functional, provided our project manager, Chris Mason, flips the breaker for the circuit in the kitchen area.

The visitor center was strategically created as a venue for photo shoots and video filming, as well as providing information for tourists and visitors that promotes Sumner’s title as the Rhubarb Pie Capital of the world. Because of this planning, we now can schedule opportunities such as the April 7 grand opening that features Mayor Enslow and several councilmember sous chefs making rhubarb delicacies. I’ve been hearing over the last several years from Mayor Enslow that he was an above average cook during his military days, so it will be interesting to see if that’s true. Another special feature in the visitor center is a map of the local area, which is an original painting by local artist and Sumner Arts Commissioner, Lana Hoover.

The visitor center also boasts a 60” LCD screen which will run videos of Sumner rhubarb history, interviews with local residents and photos of old rhubarb farms. I especially like the Columbia Bank commercials we’ve included in the looped video. And why, pray tell, would I say that? Because the whole visitor center project got its legs when Columbia Bank stepped up to be the presenting sponsor. They believed in supporting the Chamber’s idea of a unique visitor center in the Old Cannery and partnering with the city and the arts commission to create a place where people can learn about Sumner. And the fun thing about their commercials is that they feature local-celebrities Kent Hojem, CEO of the Puyallup Fair and Events Center and Patty Denny of Denny’s Valley Autobody - both of whom are Chamber board members - as is Dave Radcliffe, CEO of the Old Cannery.

This is just a snippet of the fun that that is planned for the grand opening. So mark your calendars for April 7, from 5-7pm, and be sure to show up at the Old Cannery for some old-fashioned 1950’s retro rhubarb fun. And a big Chamber thanks to Columbia Bank, The Old Cannery and the City of Sumner for creating the perfect partnership recipe that links businesses to community. It doesn’t get better than that.

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