Umatilla rolled out the red carpet — figuratively speaking — on Saturday, Oct. 3, for three new businesses.
Lite em Up BBQ, Fruteria Piqui and Evangeline Gift Shop share a newly renovated space at 1201 Sixth St. in Umatilla. The Umatilla Chamber of Commerce and City of Umatilla hosted a ribbon-cutting celebration for them on Saturday.
“It’s unbelievable to have three businesses (open) all at once,” City Manager David Stockdale said, noting he knew that a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” went into all three.
The building, formerly home to Honey Bunnz strip club, was purchased by Umatilla School District Superintendent Heidi Sipe and her husband Kyle Sipe in December 2019 in an effort to make sure a more family-friendly business moved in. Heidi said they bought the building “on faith” not knowing whether it would work out into a good investment.
She said they decided to offer up smaller spaces to multiple businesses to keep rent low and make starting a new business in Umatilla more affordable. They have since seen some setbacks with COVID-19 and ongoing road construction in front of the building, but now all three businesses are fully open.
The Sipes own Evangeline Gift Shop, which features décor and accessories from multiple local artists in Umatilla, Irrigon and Hermiston.
The greeting cards sold at the shop are made by a retired Umatilla principal, and 100% of the proceeds go to Clara Brownell Middle School.
Fruteria Piqui, owned by Gerargo Mejia, offers smoothies and other fruit-based treats, inside the building or through a drive-up window on the west side.
Lite em Up BBQ is run by Rikkilynn and Brian Starliper. For now, the BBQ restaurant only operates on Fridays and Saturdays, but Rikkilynn said they will continue to expand hours as the business grows.
She said they make everything from scratch, including the sides.
“We slow smoke everything and put a lot of time and love into what we offer,” she said.