LONGVIEW, Wash. — In the largest city in Cowlitz County, businesses have moved into the historic downtown Longview.
A decade ago, there were more "for lease" signs than "open" signs. In 2017, the city of Longview invested $5 million in community development block grant funds by widening sidewalks, improving lighting and making the historic downtown section more appealing to the eye.
"We see a lot of businesses moving off of their kitchen table, maybe they were selling on Etsy and now they are willing to invest in downtown," said Lindsey Cope.
Cope is the president of the Longview Downtowners Organization, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion, preservation and development of Longview.
"We have boutiques, we have thrift, we have bars, we have restaurants. We have service based industries. We've got a day spa, we've got hair salons galore, you name it we have it," Cope says.
On the corner of Broadway and Commerce in a prime location sits 3,000 square feet of prime storefront. It's now occupied by the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. It's a store full of games, toys, those well-earned badges and will even have cookies, while they last.
"It's been a long time coming, we've talked about it for years and years. This has been something we had hoped to bring back to Longview," said Rae Davenport, volunteer support manager for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington.
She says the only other store is an hour and 15 minutes north in the town of Dupont. It's a big deal for Girl Scout troops in Cowlitz County, making it easier to pick up badges and other items needed for their members.
"For girl scouts it's an opportunity to have something local. We can do program and events, STEM, prepping for the outdoors. We have girls that are learning dutch oven cooking, girls who are learning trail signs and hiking. This is kind of the stepping point," Davenport said.
The store isn't just for troops.
"If they're looking for presents for birthdays, there's really cool STEM kits and outdoor supplies too even the regular camper would enjoy," Davenport said.
Down the street, Michelle Philbrook owns Posh on Commerce.
"I like to think I'm your one-stop shop for date night or gift giving at any time," she says.
The "new-to-you store," as she describes it, moved into it's new location in April of 2018. The store opened in 2016, but quickly outgrew the space.
Moving into the downtown area was a risk for Philbrook, but one that paid off.
"Three-and-a-half years ago when I opened up, there was hardly anything down here. You had some great restaurants, you had some interior design shops and you had some second hand stores. So I knew I was taking a chance, by opening up, being the only new to you fashionable clothing for everyone accessories. I knew I wanted it downtown, because there was such potential."
Longview is home to an interstate bridge, connecting Washington to Oregon. Many drivers use it as an access point to reach the Oregon Coast. Lindsey Cope says more drivers are stopping and staying instead of driving through.
In the future Cope says she would like to recruit a boutique hotel or two to the area hoping more will stay overnight.