Friday, March 1, was a day to celebrate for Puyallup Tribal member and business entrepreneur William Manzanares IV and for the Puyallup Nation itself. It was the grand opening of Smokin’ Willy’s drive-thru smoke shop at 3008 72nd St. E. in Tacoma, the newest tribal smoke shop to open on the reservation. What’s most special about the occasion is that William Manzanares built Smokin’ Willy’s on his own parcel of trust property, which has instilled in him a great sense of accomplishment – and deep gratitude for all the people who helped him to get there.
“I couldn’t have done all this without people who were there to give me advice,” he said. They told him when to do it too, and why. He needed expert advice, so he went to the experts, paying close attention to their words of wisdom and keeping his eyes on the prize.
Smokin’ Willy’s not only offers a full line of cigarettes, tobacco and tobacco accessories, but also cold drinks and hot dogs as well for $1 or German sausage for $1.25. It’s open seven days a week: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. By having a drive-thru window on both sides of the building, customers can breeze through quickly and efficiently.
Handing out free hot dogs and welcoming new customers, his six-member staff joined him in the festive opening day. Even his little daughter Vanessa got into the festivities by handing out hot dogs and saying hello to customers. In fact, a long line of people going back years helped William Manzanares along the way leading up to the big day, and they were at the front of his mind on this first day of business.
Memories of his dad, William Manzanares III, were very much present as well, for his father passed away on March 13 two years ago. “Everything I’ve ever learned was from him. He showed me to never take ‘no’ for an answer. Today is his birthday, so this is a happy day for me to celebrate.”
PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF
William Manzanares’ journey to March 1, 2013 started eight years ago, when he bought the property on which to build his smoke shop. “This was a raw piece of land,” he said. This ignited an eight-year process during which, “I built the whole thing from the ground up.”
After purchasing the property in 2005, William Manzanares started the trust process in 2006. So far so good, but in 2008, he hit some major bumps in the road to his dream.
“There were times when I didn’t even know how I was going to make the payments for this place,” he said. “But I just kept pushing forward toward the light at the end of the tunnel.”
He worked to resolve those issues, and in 2010, the trust process started up again. “As it got closer to trust, I got really excited because it had been years in the making,” he said. It finally happened in 2012 and over the following year, he and many others put in the labor to get Smokin’ Willy’s ready for opening day.
William Manzanares thought hard when asked to name everyone who helped him along the way. “There were so many,” he said. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was helpful to him, and he gave thanks to the Puyallup Tribe’s Planning Department, which he worked with closely to get his land in trust status.
“I’m so thankful for the people at the Tribe who helped me in the Planning and Land Use Department. I really want to give them thanks for how they helped me,” he said. He gave special thanks to Angela Tate. “She helped me with the finalizing of the trust process. And all the staff helped me with the permitting and licenses. I’m thankful for them all.”
William Manzanares wants the membership to know this about the Planning and Land Use Department in the hopes that it will encourage other members of the Puyallup Tribe to pursue securing land and building a business on it.
“They’re here for all the members. They listen to your concerns, they help you, and they tell you what needs to be done. That’s what really pushed it forward for me.”
William Manzanares also thanked Katie Flannigan, owner of Reservation Outpost in Fife, for her invaluable advice. “I had a lot of frustrating moments and delays, and she would give me advice on how to get through it,” he said. His friend since kindergarten, Michael Harris, helped him with marketing and coming up with the business name and logo. And maintenance whiz Charlie Mayo tied up all the loose ends, from the plumbing to putting up the awnings. “He did everything that needed to be done to get this place open,” William Manzanares said.
“You can’t be afraid to admit you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said about starting a new business from the ground up. “You get the people who know more than you about a subject and they can show you how to do things. That’s where all the people I’ve mentioned helped me and that’s how I accomplished my goal. I can’t take all the credit. I had a goal to have a piece of trust property with a business on it and they all helped me. I really couldn’t have done it without them.”
PAYING IT FORWARD
William Manzanares talked about how the Tribal businesses of individual members shore up and strengthen the Tribe as a whole, thus offering a perfect opportunity for members to give back. “This is my way to give back,” he said. “Every new smoke shop or any new stores that help generate sales for the Tribe helps give back.”
Smokin’ Willy’s has six employees who William Manzanares brought over from his other smoke shop, North Point Smoke Shop on River Road (he also owns North Point Bar & Grill and smoke shop in Tacoma, 6210 29th St. N.E., and has a do-it-yourself dog washing business at his River Road smoke shop). “I work with a lot of great people. I never say they work ‘for’ me; I always say they work ‘with’ me. I appreciate everyone’s hard work. I couldn’t be here without the people I work with. You have to have good people around you, and you have to be good to people.”
This is his first time to have his own business on his own land with his own name literally on it. “I kept the North Point name everywhere, so this is the first business with my name branded in it,” he said, another reason he felt such happiness for Smokin’ Willy’s grand opening.
William Manzanares struggled to find the words to express just what March 1 meant to him, and what his Tribe and its people mean to him as well. To pay it forward, he has established an open-door policy to any tribal member, youth to Elder, who is interested in learning more about how to put property in trust and open a business just like he did.
“To the Tribal members out there I want to say, ‘You can put property in trust and you can make a tribal business.’ My goal is to let every Tribal member know they can do it and that I would love to help them. There will be roadblocks – I think people sometimes see a problem and think they can’t do it anymore – but when I hear the word ‘no’ I find another way. How can I accomplish this?” William Manzanares said this is the type of guidance he’ll give to any tribal member who asks. He said he lives by this rule: “Learn from others’ mistakes. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
“I want to see what I can do now to help inspire Tribal members to get their own trust property started. I would give free advice on what I did and what they need to do. For young Tribal members who are about to turn 18 and get their money, they can put money into land. So many of our Tribal youth could be putting property in trust. I love mentoring – I’d love to show them how to accomplish it. If they want to get hold of me, I’m here,” he said.
TRIBAL BUSINESSES = TRIBAL STRENGTH
“I’d love to see every corner on the reservation have a Tribal business. The more trust property we get, the more strength we’ll have. You just have to persevere and see the vision at the end of the road and just go for it. You can’t give up and you can’t expect someone else to do it for you. I kept this goal in mind through my divorce, my dad’s death and grandma dying, through all these years of struggle.”
William Manzanares thought back to his teenage years, and a time when he took a good, long look at the Puyallup reservation map being sure to notice the spots that were filled in with color to mark the location of businesses owned by tribal members.
“My ultimate goal is when you look at the trust boundary map, that it all be colored for tribally-owned businesses. With our 4,000-plus members, we could have that map all colored one day, and not just with smoke shops – there are so many business opportunities that can happen on the reservation. Can you imagine the tax base our Tribe would have from that growth? If I could see this happen in my lifetime, I would truly feel accomplished and my dad would truly be proud.”
Telephone Smokin’ Willy’s at (253) 301-2755 and visit the website (still under construction) at http://www.smokinwillys.com.