Businessman John Yonich says he doesn’t understand why more Harborites don’t come back to Aberdeen to help clean up the city’s image.
As a 1972 graduate of Aberdeen High School, Yonich says he’s heared many friends say that if they ever “made it big,” they’d “clean up the city, make it like the good old days.”
“The Donovans, the Isaacsons, the Quiggs, they all stayed or came back and they contributed, where names I don’t want to mention just flat out left and that’s just not right,” Yonich said.
Yonich, 56, has made good on his pledge. On Saturday, the Friends of the Aberdeen Museum of History will honor the businessman as the 2012 Harborite of the Year.
Yonich re-opened the historic D&R Theatre in 2009, along with the accompanying Scoops ice cream shop and Backstage Espresso. He also opened Amoré Italian Restaurant in downtown Aberdeen and is currently in the midst of overseeing the renovation of the old Clevenger Building in Aberdeen, as well.
Everything has been financed using his own money, he says. That has often made his timetables stretch out longer than he’s wanted. He started the building renovations to the old Clevenger building almost two years ago. When the “Coming Soon” signs got too annoying for him, he asked photographer Darrell Westmoreland to turn the windows into a rock photo gallery.
Yonich said he’s happy to announce that the renovations are nearly finished. The building had its roof cave in following the December 2007 storm and the resulting damage took plenty of time and money to fix.
Harbor Beads & Craft already moved into one of the two smaller store spaces in the building. And Flowers By Pollen will re-locate from its Hoquiam location to the other smaller retail spot, Yonich said.
Yonich said he’s still renovating the larger space for another potential retailer.
Yonich also revitalized the classic 1940 Shell service station in downtown Aberdeen to display his classic cars, although he’s invited the general public to come by and snap photos of its exterior. He says car clubs that cruise through town sometimes see the station and often turn it into a photo op with their cars.
“Once, I had the state Department of Ecology contact me because someone had complained I was actually selling gas in the antique pumps,” Yonich said. “They said I was in violation of all these permitting rules and I had to say, ‘Wait, wait. This is all for show. There’s no actual gas here.’ It took a bit to convince them. Because, they thought, why would anyone just build a showcase if they didn’t want to make money off of it? But that’s just the kind of guy I am.”
A few weeks back, Yonich celebrated his 40th high school reunion. Knowing the reunion was coming up, he also scheduled a return date for the Fab Four Beatles tribute band for that same weekend.
“There are some benefits to owning your own theater,” Yonich said, with a smile.
Yonich said he’s proud of almost every act that he’s been able to get to the D&R Theatre. Sometimes, it’s been a learning curve to see what kinds of acts will actually sell tickets. He says he recently took a chance on psychic Sylvia Browne, and he managed to sell nearly 1,000 tickets.
“The place was packed,” Yonich said. “I was amazed. She wants to come back. I think she sold out of nearly every book she had here.”
He’s had plenty of near sell-out shows, but true sell outs have included country acts Josh Turner, LeAnn Rimes, Clint Black, comedian Bill Cosby and rockers Styx. Yes, he admits, country acts sell more tickets than other acts on the Harbor.
“I really see the D&R Theatre as a place for families,” he said. “There’s no smoking here. It’s a fun environment.”
“But, I wonder, how would Snoop Dogg do here?” Yonich mused.
At this point, tickets for Saturday’s 7 p.m. Harborite of the Year dinner at the Aberdeen Museum of History may be hard to come by. Stop by the museum to check or call (360) 533-1976.
For more information on concerts, visit http://www.dandrtheater.com. The next show is Loretta Lynn on Oct. 25.