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Lesser Hillyard Business Association members, from left, Jim Wheatley, Steve Bell, Steve Mauro, Jay Miller, Don Lehn, Larry Murray and Tony Rossi pose with Susie Mauro. (Dan Pelle)
Lesser Hillyard Business Association members, from left, Jim Wheatley, Steve Bell, Steve Mauro, Jay Miller, Don Lehn, Larry Murray and Tony Rossi pose with Susie Mauro. (Dan Pelle)

Doug Clark: Business association guys lesser in name only

Adhering to the Code of the Independent Columnist means I never join any organization, be it civic, social, political, fraternal or made up of shabby occupiers loitering on a downtown traffic island.

That said, I made an exception the other day by accepting an honorary membership into the LHBA.


You’ve never heard of the Lesser Hillyard Business Association?

Okay. Neither had I until Steve Mauro and Jim Wheatley invited me to one of their infrequent gatherings.

The conversation went something like this:

DOUG – “So where do you hold these, um, meetings?”

STEVE – “In the garage behind my house.”

DOUG – “What time should I be there?”

Adding to the interest was that the LHBA wanted to present me with some sort of an award to honor my efforts at sticking an index finger into the eye socket of local politics.

It helped that the LHBA is a lighthearted spoof of the Greater Hillyard Business Association. The latter group is dedicated to promoting Hillyard, the raw-knuckled historic railroad district in northeast Spokane now distinguished by its antique shops.

But the main reason I paid a visit to Mauro and his gang was to get a few laughs.

The last couple of months have been anything but funny, what with the Karl Thompson trial, saluting Gestapo SPD cops, the police chief calling it quits and the latest changing of the one-term Spokane mayor.

So on the prescribed evening I drove to Mauro’s tidy abode in lower Hillyard.

It wasn’t difficult to locate. After all, how many other Spokane homes have a rusty ’32 Chevy as a front yard centerpiece?

Soon I was escorted into what Mauro calls his “Garage Mahal,” the lair of the Lesser Hillyard Business Association.

A half-dozen members were there to greet me in purple T-shirts festooned with a gold “LHBA” on the chest.

You can’t make this stuff up.

So how did the LHBA come about?

Mauro said it happened a few years ago while he was sitting in the Alaskan Tavern, a landmark Hillyard watering hole that burned down in 2010.

When the topic of discussion turned to the Greater Hillyard bunch, Mauro was seized with inspiration.

“Let’s start our own organization,” he offered to his buddies, who immediately jumped on board.

I asked innocently if the Lesser Hillyard Business Association had a mission statement.

This prompted the following pantomime act.

Mauro made a “f-f-fwitt!” while mimicking the opening of a beer bottle. He then raised his closed fist to his mouth and went “glug-glug-glug …”

I see. The LHBA is Hillyard’s version of a WSU fraternity.

At least drinking in a garage takes away any worry of toppling out of an upper-story frat house window.

This is a pretty cool man cave. Mauro has decorated his garage with furnishings from Mauro’s Grocery, his late father Silvio’s iconic Hillyard market that closed in 2003.

The counters. The signs …

I had the privilege of interviewing Silvio Mauro back when the store was closing. A wonderful guy.

Putting the store items on display means a great deal to Steve, said his wife, Susie.

Now as for that aforementioned award …

An hour or so after my arrival, Don Lehn presented me with a framed 3-by-4-foot Spokane Daily Chronicle poster circa 1930s.

The cardboard poster advertises the newspaper’s “Daily Comics” like Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy.

But get this. It comes with a letter from a Texas auction house appraising it at $1,000 to $2,000.

Because of its Spokane journalistic content, Lehn, who owned the poster, figured I would appreciate it.

He’s right. I delivered The Chronicle as a kid, so this gesture is fantastic.

Alas, the Code of the Independent Columnist prevents me from ever accepting such a valuable gift.

However …

Mauro and the others had no problem with donating it to my charity, Spokane Street Music Week.

The poster will be put into an auction next spring with all proceeds going to help feed the area’s hungry via Second Harvest food bank.

Next year is the 10th annual street music week, and we’d love to mark that by raising $10,000.

This generous gift from the LHBA will help make that an achievable goal.

So as it turns out, the Lesser Hillyard Business Association is pretty damned great after all.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.

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