Rep. Larsen visits Arlington businesses

ARLINGTON — Architect Greg Minaker has lost at least three or four projects due to bad bank loans or other financial factors beyond his control.

“They were all good developers, but something happened and they were unable to move forward and we got shorted,” said Minaker, who owns and operates Minaker Architecture in Arlington, to U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen on Monday, May 3.

Minaker’s concern was just one of many voiced by members of the downtown Arlington business community during Larsen’s most recent visit to his hometown.

The Congressman spent Monday afternoon talking with business owners, listening to the challenges they face and speaking about what he’s doing to do in Washington, D.C., to try to help alleviate the situation.

“I thought it would be a chance to remind my colleagues that this is about Main Street,” Larsen said of the tour. “It’s a ripple effect of what’s happened on Wall Street that puts the pressure on small businesses.”

Larsen joined officials from the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce during the two-hour business walk, which began at an established business — Flowers by George — and ended at one of Arlington’s newest businesses — Petite Sweet.

While visiting the Arlington flower shot, Larsen spoke with Flowers by George owner David Boulton about his family owned business.

Boulton said that business at Flowers by George has been slow during the past year.

“We’re still trying to dig out of a hole it seems like,” Boulton said.

After the two talked for about five minutes, Boulton gave Larsen a quick tour of the business. Staff members from Flowers by George were busy preparing for Mother’s Day — one of the store’s busiest days of the year.

“You’ve come in on a good day — we’re in the middle of Mother’s Day prep,” Boulton said.

Larsen then walked over to The School Box, where he spoke with owner Nola Smith.

Smith shared with the U.S. representative a few notes that her students had left with her for Larsen. In addition to selling school supplies, books and games, The School Box offers classes and instruction for homeschool students.

On one student’s note, he asked Larsen why schools teach students how to get a job but not how to create a job.

“I won’t speak on behalf of the school districts, but for me, part of school reform is trying to teach kids how to think critically,” Larsen said. “Throughout the country, we need to see more of those critical thinking skills.”

Larsen then moved on to Minaker’s office, and took a look at some of the schematics for projects the architect was working on or had designed.

Finally, Larsen and Chamber officials walked over to Petite Sweet — formerly Three Peas in a Pod — and talked with owners Sherie and Joe Rzeczkowski.

“We had our best week last week,” Joe Rzeczkowski told Larsen. “We’re trying to do our part. All (Sherie) did was have a dream.”

Sherie Rzeczkowski said that she’s been putting in 14 hours a day in the couple’s new business, but added that she has been enjoying every minute of it.

“But I never get up saying that I never want to get to work,” she said.

Larsen said after his business walk that he wanted to connect with what he called “Main Street” and how they’re affected by the financial crisis taking place on Wall Street.

“What better place to do that than right here?” Larsen said.

On April 29, the Congressman called for the Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct a great investigation into Goldman Sachs and other banks, and sent a letter to commission Chairwoman Mary Shapiro stating that 100,000 families in Washington state have lost their homes and fallen into bankruptcy.

“Small businesses in our community have been forced to shut their doors and millions of dollars in hard-earned retirement savings were wiped out by the reckless behavior of Wall Street,” Larsen said in the letter. “We need to act now and prevent another economic crisis from happening again by focusing on the needs of hardworking families and small businesses on Main Street.

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