‘Bringing dollars into the local economy’

Downtown Camas Association shares year’s highlights with Camas City Council

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Clark County Historical Museum Executive Director Brad Richardson (right) leads a walking history tour of downtown Camas during the Downtown Camas Association’s “Spring into History” First Friday April 7, 2023 (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files)

From the more than 2,900 hours its volunteers contributed to improving the city of Camas’ historic downtown district to the nearly $30,000 worth of facade improvement grants and $5,800 mural investment on Northeast Cedar Street, the Downtown Camas Association (DCA) clocked some significant accomplishments in 2023.

On Monday, Dec. 18, the organization’s executive director, Carrie Schulstad, and board president, Sarah Laughlin, presented the DCA’s proudest moments with the Camas City Council.

“On social media, we reached 232,000 unique viewers (through Facebook) and over 12,000 on Instagram,” Schulstad told the Council this week.

The DCA helped the City bring back its popular tree-lighting during the 2023 Hometown Holidays the first weekend in December; sold out its inaugural “Summer Nights Sips and Bites” event in August; greeted the highest number of vendors ever at its 24th annual Camas Plant and Garden Fair in May; held its first Camas Comic Con during the August First Friday celebration, which saw an 83% increase in attendance and included at least 30 Portland families who sought out the event; and will soon launch a new website.

Schulstad said the DCA events help bring dollars into Camas’ downtown shops and restaurants.

“The average person spends about $35 at events,” she said. “(The events) are bringing dollars into the local economy.”

Schulstad said it’s hard to get exact sales numbers during the DCA events, but that the organization had asked attendees at the Sips and Bites and Sip and Shop events to share their receipts with the DCA in 2023.

“The Sips and Bites (had) $14,000 in receipts and over $20,000 for Sip and Shop,” Schulstad told the Council this week. “So, that gives an idea of sales revenues at a time when (merchants) aren’t usually open.”

Laughlin added that the DCA is also helping to expand the concept of “downtown Camas.”

“We’ve made creative use of space,” she told the Council this week, adding that more entrepreneurs are opening “really robust businesses” off of Fourth Avenue.

“The plan was always to go from Third to Sixth (avenues), so this is really central to the work that we do,” Laughlin said.

The DCA awarded seven facade-improvement grants to local businesses worth $29,520. The grants “spurred $92,825 in investments” in downtown businesses, including a new awning over Tommy O’s at the Camas Hotel, which the hotel’s owners said they wouldn’t have invested in if not for the facade-improvement grant, Schulstad said.

The group will soon launch its $15,000 pilot lighting project on Northeast Cedar Street to help improve safety and visibility off the downtown’s main streets.

“We want to increase safety, increase equity to make sure our side-street businesses do just as well as the ones on Third and Fourth (avenues),” Schulstad said.

Councilman Don Chaney credited the Downtown Camas Association and former city leaders with helping turn a once boarded-up downtown into a thriving shopping and dining destination.

“I really want to tell people here today that our downtown hasn’t always been as beautiful and viable as it is today,” Chaney, who is celebrating 51 years of service to the City — as a police officer, police chief and city council member — this month, said during the Council’s Dec. 18 workshop. “When I retired from the police department, the majority of windows in the downtown business area were all boarded up. I give credit … to (former Camas Mayor) Paul Dennis and the city council around him at the time, 16 or 17 years ago. … I don’t think they ever could have imagined it would be the way it is today.”

Chaney told the DCA staff that their work in the city’s downtown district has had far-reaching impacts.

“You’ve touched the lives of so many people … and we owe you a great debt of gratitude,” Chaney told the DCA staff. “I want to thank you for that.”

To learn more about the DCA and its events in Camas’ historic downtown, visit