Gaps opening in downtown Steamboat Springs shopping district
May 27, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The empty storefronts on Lincoln Avenue and its side streets this spring are subtracting from the retail experience in Steamboat Springs' historic shopping district, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs President Bill Moser said this week.
"We're concerned about it," Moser said. "At Mainstreet, our mission is to keep feet on the street. With this economy, it's really been tough on a lot of businesses."
He estimates nearly a dozen Lincoln Avenue and side street storefronts are empty this spring. A partial list includes the Old West Steak House and the corner retail spot in the Old West Building formerly occupied by One Fine Day (the latter has relocated within downtown); the space until recently occupied by an art gallery at 837 Lincoln Ave.; a small space on the lower level of Old Town Square; a former jewelry and fossil shop at 906 Lincoln Ave., where the real estate is going through foreclosure proceedings; the former Cowboys and Angels Western boutique at 435 Lincoln Ave. in the Fifth Street Marketplace; and Awesome Shirtworks at the corner of Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue. The owners at Awesome Shirtworks said that after 12 years, they had grown weary of retail.
The desultory ski season that ended with a whimper April 15 made it doubly tough on businesses that already were running thin on funds, Moser said.
Holes in the continuity of the downtown restaurant and retail district make it less of an attraction in a town where people come from out of town to shop, he added.
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"People from out of town don't go downtown to visit just one store," Moser explained. "The experience of walking the street and having different openings — that lessens the attraction."
He praised Mainstreet Steamboat Manager Tracy Barnett for the promotional events she has created and said the Mainstreet board actively is talking about new ways to support downtown businesses.
Some of the holes in the shopping district already are being plugged. Dave and Alayna Kidd said this week they acted on impulse when they decided to lease a very small retail space in a prime location at street level in Old Town Square.
"We were on our way to dine at Mambo's (Italiano) when we noticed the shop was available," Alayna Kidd said. "So, naturally we had to call our gift shop Impulse."
She will display some of her own fine jewelry creations as well as other gift items that can't be found anywhere else in town, she said.
Holly Boren has opened Shag-A-Licious, a home furnishings and design store, next to Ciao Gelato in Howelsen Place on Yampa Street. Her nontraditional patio furniture already is catching the eyes of pedestrians in that bustling restaurant district.
On the west end of Lincoln Avenue, Amy Symonds is preparing for her first full summer at Calamity Pass at 908 Lincoln Ave. after opening last fall. She has refocused her inventory on handmade and vintage clothing by a number of regional seamstresses, but she still has a large number of one-of-a-kind Western collectibles and accessories.
"Everything here is one of a kind," Symonds said.
She cleverly has constructed store fixtures out of steel ranch implements and relics from North Park. Her little store has as much visual appeal as any shop in Steamboat.
Moser, who is a longtime commercial broker, said savvy Steamboat landlords are working with good tenants to restructure their costs. Working on behalf of a property owner, Moser said, he worked with one downtown tenant to reduce the square footage they were committed to in order to arrive at a 20 to 30 percent reduction in their lease amount. He said per-square-foot rents in the heart of Lincoln Avenue from Seventh to Ninth streets are beginning to slip from the $35 per year per-square-foot plateau.
West of town, Riverside Plaza manager Greg Sumner was pleased this week to add the office of Steamboat Asphalt to bring the number of leased spaces there to 10. He has one large space of several thousand feet remaining and hopes to have news of a new tenant soon.
Realtor Ron Wendler, of Colorado Group Realty, who represents a portfolio of commercial buildings, said the trend he is seeing in Steamboat involves well-established businesses that have weathered the storm taking the opportunity to secure their future by purchasing larger spaces. He is working with two of those clients right now.
Business categories that are beginning to expand, Wendler said, include retail home improvement-based businesses and medical practices.
Some bank-owned commercial spaces here are priced at 50 percent of construction costs, including west side warehouses that can be had for $75 to $110 per square foot, Wendler said. Step up to a live/work space with modern finishes in the residential unit and the price can be as low as $125 to $135 per square foot.
By combining those prices with low-interest, long-term loans that weren't available seven years ago, owners are lowering the cost basis of running their businesses well into the future, he said.
Wendler recently affiliated his practice with Rocky Mountain Commercial Brokers, and through that network, he is fielding inquiries from out-of-town brokers looking for real estate on behalf of nationally branded businesses that are seeking to expand in this region.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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