Editors Note: Changes in tax law and the economic downturn have forced Woodinville to tighten its budget. In the past five years, the city has seen a 30 percent decline in sales tax and property tax growth.
With the economy still sluggish it is difficult for cities to plan for the future. So what’s a city to do? How can a city develop and attract investors into the community. What type of development should be courted?
In an attempt to answer some of those questions, Woodinville Patch is launched this series asking business owners, civic leaders and the community where the future of Woodinville lies.
Jens Molbak is the owner of Molbak’s Garden & Home, which was founded by his parents in 1956, and has since become an iconic Woodinville destination. Molbak worked at the store for much of his youth, but also worked as a tour guide and stock boy at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. He founded Coinstar, Inc. in 1990.
Molbak sat down with Patch to share his thoughts about Woodinville’s future.
Patch: What has been the best change or changes in Woodinville in the last 30 years?
Jens Molbak: The biggest change has to be the influx of the wine industry. That is a really unique thing that Woodinville has. It’s a big draw. Frankly, that’s where a lot of Woodinville’s future lies.
It took the city a long time to implement a master plan for the downtown. The planning commission did good work, but it was a 10-year process. I think it created a lot of confusion for people, but fortunately, those questions have been answered and there’s clarity. It takes a little while to make something good.
Patch: What are the biggest challenges facing the city now?
Jens Molbak: From a tax change standpoint, it’s hit the city pretty hard. The challenges are not necessarily specific to Woodinville. They’re general economic challenges — how are we going to invest for the future? I think Woodinville has a lot of potential.
Patch: What do you think that potential is?
Jens Molbak: Developing a reputation as a wine center. I’m disappointed that the didn’t move forward. As the economy strengthens, hopefully something good happens down there.
Patch: Why have you kept your interests in Woodinville for so long?
Jens Molbak: It’s home. (Molbak’s is) a one-store operation. We’re a destination retailer. We have long, deep roots in Woodinville.
Patch: What sets Woodinville apart from surrounding cities?
Jens Molbak: Its natural assets. I think the Sammamish Valley is beautiful. Other cities have other characteristics. The thing that sets us most apart is the wine industry. Thank goodness that (Chateau) Ste. Michelle decided to settle here. They really anchored it.
Patch: What do you think will be unrecognizable about Woodinville in 30 years?
Jens Molbak: Woodinville’s been slowly evolving over the last 10 years. I would see the continued evolution. I don’t see anything dramatic. When I look back 30 years, it was relatively different. I’d imagine we’d be on that same trajectory.
I think so much of where Woodinville’s character is going to come from is wine-based. I don’t want Woodinville to lose the wine industry to Bothell or Kirkland.
Patch: Where do you see yourself in Woodinville’s future?
Jens Molbak: Running Molbak’s. We’re very focused on helping people create great spaces. It’s a point of pride that people take a piece of Molbak’s home.