Restaurants opening, closing and changing hands. Much-desired retailers opening in the Yakima Valley. And the prospect of more development to come.

That pretty much sums up 2012.

A lot happened this year, but there’s not enough room in this column to highlight everything.

With that in mind, here is my list of the top 10 retail and restaurant stories for 2012.

International House of Pancakes (IHOP) closes in Union Gap. With the lease for the restaurant at 15 E. Valley Mall Blvd expiring, the parent company opted to not renew because it’s phasing out IHOP locations in the older A-frame buildings. The closure frustrated many regulars, prompting some to complain on IHOP’s Facebook page. But the restaurant closed anyway in November.

Outlet mall in Ellensburg makes progress. In March, the Ellensburg City Council revised its zoning ordinance that allowed for a proposed outlet mall on Canyon Road near Interstate 90. That provided the go-ahead for a development in the area that includes the proposed outlet mall of at least 150,000 square feet; two hotels and a water park. A Carl’s Jr. restaurant opened earlier this year in the area. The project garnered buzz for its potential to generate retail sales for Ellensburg shoppers that currently travel to other cities such as Seattle and Yakima. Developer Gene Martin has been working on tenants for the project, though no stores have been announced.

Gallo takes interest in Washington state. The Modesto, Calif.-based E&J Gallo turned heads in June when it announced that it purchased two Washington wineries — Columbia Winery and Covey Run Winery. Columbia Winery has a production facility in Sunnyside and wine grape growers worked on new contracts with Gallo. The purchase generated plenty of discussion of what the impact would be. Most were optimistic that the purchase and subsequent operations by the wine giant would raise the profile of the entire Washington wine industry.

Hahn Motor Co. changes hands and relocates. Dick Hahn, who ran the Yakima-based Hahn Motor Co. at 1201 S. First St. for several decades, retired in October and sold the Yakima dealership to son Steve Hahn, owner of the Steve Hahn Auto Group. Steve Hahn would later relocate the dealership, which sold Mercedes-Benz vehicles, to his lot at 1730 S. First St. while he worked on completing final paperwork for the Mercedes-Benz franchise. Steve Hahn plans to build a new Mercedes-Benz dealership, a requirement of the manufacturer, on its lot.

Lowe’s settles on Yakima for new store; neighboring Union Gap expresses concern. After considering several sites, the hardware retailer settled on a property at the northeast corner of Valley Mall Boulevard and Longfibre Road for a new 111,415-square-foot store and 26,568-square-foot garden center. The proposed development garnered opposition from Union Gap, where the store is now located.

Union Gap officials insist they did not have sour grapes, but had a valid concern over, among other things, a planned driveway off Valley Mall Boulevard. Union Gap argued that it had jurisdiction over access points off the road (though the proposed driveway is within Yakima city limits) and that the proposed driveway was against its standards. That point of contention led Union Gap to appeal the environmental approval by the city of Yakima in November. Earlier this month, a Yakima hearing examiner denied the appeal, stating that determining who has authority to approve access points of Valley Mall Boulevard was beyond the scope of the appeal process.

Wendy’s closes both Yakima locations for good, providing expansion opportunity for Carl’s Jr. Wendy’s franchisee BZB Enterprises closed both of its Yakima locations in January, citing maintenance issues, but word got out that the franchisee was forcing several Northwest Wendy’s locations to close due to food safety issues. BZB Enterprises eventually reopened many of those locations, but never did in Yakima. In April, Paul Jones, who just opened a Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Ellensburg, seized on the opportunity and purchased one of the former Wendy’s properties at 2208 S. First St. After several months remodeling the space, Jones opened the Yakima Carl’s Jr. location in August.

Yakima Sports Center gets new owners. Rumors swirled at the beginning of 2012 about the possible sale of the Yakima Sports Center. Co-owner Chris Malland finally confirmed in April that he and fellow owners Dave Eastlick and Eric “Kid” Phillips had a deal in the works for the restaurant at 214 E. Yakima Ave. Several months later, Travis Heitman, a well-known bartender at Second Street Grill, revealed he was part of the group looking to buy the restaurant. Heitman would spend several months learning the ropes at the Yakima Sports Center before closing the purchase in July.

Property owner confirms McDonald’s plans to open in downtown Yakima. Shortly after the Grand Buffet closed its doors this summer, property owner Patti Schneider said she was working on a new eatery for the property at 19 E. Yakima Ave. In November, Schneider confirmed that she had a 20-year-lease with McDonald’s. For now, McDonald’s remains mum on its plans for the property, though Schneider said she had final say on the restaurant design.

Downtown development gets turned down. In August, land-use plans were submitted for a proposed retail development with a drive-thru at Second Street and Yakima Avenue. There were soon reports that the planned development was to have been a Starbucks. The project generated concern from some citizens, including the safety of pedestrians and the impact on the layout of downtown. Despite strong support for the project from developers and property owners, city officials ultimately rejected the land use application, citing safety concerns.

Washington Plaza opens at the former Costco property. CenterCal Properties’ purchase of the 10-acre property at 1400 E. Washington Ave. in Union Gap was one of the big stories of 2011. In 2012, CenterCal, which owns the neighboring Valley Mall, made good on its plans and opened the new shopping center in October. Much of the buzz came from its two anchors.

Late last year, J.C. Penney announced it would open at Washington Plaza, marking a comeback for the retailer, which closed its store at the now-shuttered Yakima Mall more than a decade ago. In February, outdoor sporting goods store Cabela’s announced it would open at Washington Plaza with a smaller format called Cabela’s Outpost Store. The opening of both stores generated big crowds and long lines. And there’s more to come: Earlier this month, Famous Dave’s, a chain of barbecue restaurants, submitted plans for a new store in the shopping center.

• Do you agree with my list of top retail and restaurant stories? Tell me about your top retail and restaurant stories for 2012 and join the discussion on the Shop Talk blog (, Facebook ( and Twitter (

• Mai Hoang’s Reporter’s Notebook is published Mondays in the Marketplace section. To reach her, call 509-759-7851 or email