For many years the East Portland Avenue corridor has been left pretty much the same, with no new major building developments or beautification projects in the works. Home to many Tacoma residents and small businesses, the avenue is a busy thoroughfare with a long and storied history among the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and the neighborhood’s diversity has grown considerably over the years. Thus, breathing some new life into the area has been a long time coming and that is exactly what’s taking place with the opening of the War Pony Xpress tobacco shop and espresso stand at 4206 E. Portland Ave., with more new development on the way.
Owner Faron Young, a Puyallup tribal member whose father Gary Young owns the original War Pony at 2615 E. Portland Ave., gathered family and friends to the site on Jan. 10 for a blessing ceremony. The shop is currently open for business, with the grand opening set for Feb. 1 complete with lots of giveaways and other means of welcoming new customers.
Among the guests at the ceremony was Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Annette Bryan. “I’m extremely excited for our tribal member venturing into economic development to make dreams come true for himself and his family. I think it’s wonderful when tribal members can get their businesses up and running and the business owners pay taxes into the government so it’s a win-win for everyone,” she said. “We want to embrace the community as partners. We are hoping to stimulate business in the community and make improvements on the neighborhood and we love to be good partners with the surrounding jurisdictions.”
At the ceremony Faron Young talked about additional new businesses he has in the works for the lot of land on which the War Pony Xpress is located, including a car wash, strip mall and storage units with a completion date coming in about a year. The construction and staffing of these new businesses will also provide jobs for people in the neighborhood.
“This is the first phase of a larger development,” he said of the War Pony Xpress. “It will be a big project. We’re trying to bring some revitalization to this road because there hasn’t been anything new built here in years. This is just the start of it.”
Puyallup tribal member David Duenas led the blessing that day in song, drumming and prayer with fellow tribal members Archie Cantrell, Chris Duenas and Kyson Young. David Duenas said he is very glad to see that Faron Young is continuing the Young family’s investments in business ventures on the reservation, as doing so will bring the same improvements that the elder Gary Young’s War Pony smoke shop brought to the bottom of the Portland Avenue exit ramp off Interstate 5. That area was also somewhat of a forgotten eyesore but was transformed into a busy and popular business.
“That’s a good thing that needs to happen,” David Duenas said. “There’s nothing really happening tribal-wise along this whole Portland Avenue corridor for quite a few years. It shows that we’re still here, not just as Natives but as part of the community at large and part of the business community.”
War Pony Xpress will have all the amenities of the original location that its robust clientele line up for every day. “We’re taking the same concept and doing it up here on a bigger scale. Why mess with something that works?” Faron Young said. There will be a few key differences as well, like espresso and beer and wine sales and three drive-thru options to keep lines of cars moving.
“We reached out to a grocery store (Grocery Outlet) to come in but they weren’t interested in it,” Faron Young said, but that will not stop him from offering the community new places to shop. Young has a long and successful career in managing his family’s businesses around the state going back 15 years, with experience in storage units and retail spaces in particular.
“There isn’t a coffee shop for many blocks from here,” he said. “There is no car wash either, so we want to develop things that aren’t out here.”
His new ventures also include getting into online clothing sales of the War Pony brand, which are designed by his son Will Young. “It’s done so well just through the store and people wanting it,” Faron said.