Please join us in congratulating WAC Tacoma board member Bill Evans in being named the Small Business Leader of the Year by The Milgard School of Business at the University of Washington Tacoma.
From the Tacoma News Tribune:
Bill Evans’ career in retail sales began at an oxygen-deprived 11,000 feet in Cusco, Peru.
A student of linguistics — and a former reservations clerk for Pan Am in New York City — Evans had earned a teaching fellowship. During his travels to small villages he would purchase local handicrafts, including dolls and weavings, which he would then send to his mother, who owned a gift shop on Seattle’s Capital Hill.
The Peruvian connection continued when Evans returned stateside and opened a small table at Pike Place Market, where he said he sold “mostly ponchos.”
One September Sunday afternoon in a borrowed car, Evans recalled recently, he and his wife took a drive. After riding to Vashon Island, they continued south to the Talequah dock.
“There was this city south of Seattle called Tacoma,” he said. “I had never been here. We got to the Stadium District, and drove along Stadium Way, and there was this tower, Old City Hall.”
A sign said it was “Opening Soon,” and Evans saw a man locking one of the doors.
“We signed up that day,” he said. “We opened in November. We got an apartment near Wright Park.”
As with many entrepreneurs, Evans said, “We didn’t have any money.” Neither did the first bank he spoke with — at least not for a guy from Seattle with three kids and an ambition to sell Peruvian artifacts. A second banker was more hospitable, to the tune of $5,000.
Incaland opened that November.
But after a year, he said, “everybody in Tacoma who wanted a poncho, had one.”
Folk art from West Africa followed. Evans also opened the precursor of the current Pacific Northwest Shop, which he now owns and operates in Tacoma’s Proctor District.
Hoping to build Old City Hall into a commercial hub, Evans also invited his mother to open a fabric store called “In the Beginning.”
Alas, eventually, Old City Hall began filling with echoes rather than customers, and it wasn’t long before Evans opened his Pacific Northwest Shop in a former TV-repair shop on Proctor.
Other projects, partnerships — and politics — followed.
Evans served on the Tacoma City Council from 2000 to 2008. He helped establish the Proctor Antique Mall, Old House Mercantile and the Old House Café.
Add the Proctor Farmer’s Market and Proctor District Association.
When the Blue Mouse Theater threatened to close if a buyer could not be found at $170,000, Evans marshaled 17 investors, including himself, at $10,000 each.
Evans has lately been focusing on Proctor Station, a $32 million retail and residential project that will offer 171 underground parking spaces and 151 apartment units.
While a member of the City Council, Evans said, he regularly met with a group of sixth-graders.
“We analyzed the word ‘community,’ ” he said.
And he learned, “What we have in common unites us. That’s what started Thea’s Park, the globe and the flag.”
A successful small business, he said, must recognize that it exists within the context of a place, and within the place are people.
“Listen to the people,” he said. “You are what they are. Build your business accordingly.”
- The WAC Tacoma community