CARA backs pastry chef’s plan

Pastry chef Jolene Wilson at City Hall after getting approval of the CARA board of a loan to help launch her downtown business.

The old Tripp and Tripp Building at the corner of Second Avenue and Ellsworth Street may soon house a bakery, with help from CARA, the downtown urban renewal agency.

The CARA advisory board questioned business owner Jolene Wilson at length on Wednesday but eventually voted, without dissent, to endorse her request for a $50,000 five-year loan at 2.5 percent interest. A trained pastry chef, she plans to renovate and equip what used to be the Tripp real estate office and run her Natural Sprinkles Co. Bakery there. She's renting the space from building owner Seth Fortier, who also is contributing toward what the CARA board was told was a project costing nearly $150,000.

The lengthy questioning and debate dealt with details of how the business would be run and how the loan would be repaid if the venture fails. Among other things the owner, who lives with her husband and children near downtown Albany, is to sign a promissory note.

Only eight of the 14 CARA board members were there, including five city councilors, barely making up a quorum.

Councilman Rich Kellum questioned making a loan of public money to a new bakery that will be in competition with two others that recently started downtown on their own. Wilson said her operation is different from the others. She has run her business online for three years, selling sprinkles made entirely from natural ingredients.

Councilman Dick Olsen, a longtime advocate of CARA and its activities, once again spoke strongly in favor of encouraging downtown businesses.

Once the loan agreement is composed and run past the city attorney, it will come up for final action by the council acting as the Albany Revitalization Agency or ARA.

The loan money will help pay for interior renovations of the space, which the city staff told the CARA board would raise the building's value 50 percent to an estimated $750,000. But Linn County tax records list the property's real market value as only $179,030, even though it was purchased for $360,000 in December 2015.

Jolene Wilson is eager to get going. She's rented the corner storefront since September and would like to start serving customers before too much more time goes by. (hh)

The Tripp & Tripp Building at Second and Ellsworth is to house Natural Sprinkles in the corner storefront.


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