Owners after right mix

Businesses debate pros and cons of 'formula stores'


— Steamboat Springs developer Jim Cook assured downtown business owners Wednesday that large national chains are not eyeing downtown.

"I can honestly tell you that downtown Steamboat is not on the radar of national brands," said Cook, who is spearheading the development of a majority of the nearly 90,000 square feet of commercial space being developed downtown.

Some regional chains that typically locate in resort towns will likely move into the new space, along with some existing businesses that want to expand. Potential tenants are looking for space ranging from 1,600 to 1,800 square feet, with 3,000 square feet being the maximum. Cook said the goal when leasing the space is to keep Steamboat a unique town and attract businesses that will complement downtown.

"We have (identified) the mix we want in that space," Cook said. "If we don't have the business we want, we won't lease the space."

Cook's statements put some business owners at ease during a discussion hosted by Main Street Steamboat Springs organization. The purpose of the discussion, which was attended by nearly 40 business owners, consumers and city officials, was to discuss passing laws to regulate "formula stores." Main Street was soliciting feedback on a potential formula store ordinance before forming an opinion and making a recommendation to City Council.

The city's preliminary definition of a formula store is a store or restaurant among a chain of 10 or more that contains these features: a standardized array of merchandise, a standardized façade, standard decor and color scheme, uniforms for employees, and standard signage along with a trademark.

With all the retail coming online, it is a good time to discuss a formula store ordinance with the goal of keeping Steamboat unique, said Dan Bonner, president of the Main Street board.

Formula store restrictions could include limiting them to one store per corner or at least 75 feet apart. The City Council could go as far as deciding formula stores that meet certain requirements, such as having more than 40 other stores, may not come to Steamboat, said senior city planner Jonathan Spence. Spence said Steamboat would be the first city in Colorado to enact a formula store ordinance.

"We have to differentiate ourselves from other ski areas," said Jeff Brown, who said he would support restrictions on formula stores because they could detract from the uniqueness of downtown.

Brown owns Cantina and Mambo Italiano.

Bonner stressed Main Street does not intend to limit competition through passage of a formula store ordinance. But some business owners made it clear they wanted to keep predatory chain businesses out of Steamboat.

"Anybody who says they are not scared, they're fibbing," said Mike Diemer, owner of Johnny B Good's. "It's not a level playing field."

Bonner asked Cook if he was in favor of a formula store ordinance.

"I'm a free enterprise guy," Cook said. "I think it will take care of itself. I really do."

Many said finding a balance was necessary because there are good things about formula stores.

Jan Lomas, owner of Artisans Market of Steamboat, said there are two businesses on her block that could be considered formula stores.

"They both bring business to my block," Lomas said. "I'm not against formula stores. I'm against huge stores ... a mall environment."

- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com


HolySmoke 10 years ago

Allowing more formula stores and chain businesses to populate the area will just put more pressure on the local small business owner and further detract from the character of steamboat. Maybe special incentives could be given to local residents that are operating /opening businesses in steamboat.


thecondoguy1 10 years ago

The worst that is going to happen here is that Mr. Cook will provide options for the business owner and the consumer. A multitude of concepts may evolve through the competition, such as, reasonable rents, but better yet, decent food, a clean and tidy premisis, and hold on now but possibly, a clean intact restroom one could actually use, and use without getting sick at the obsolesence, abuse, and filth. Mr. Brown's Cantina is a good example of nearly unusable restrooms, and Mambo's is not far behind. These so called formula stores seem to have much higher standards than the mom and pops, just makes it easier to keep the food down......


denskis 10 years ago

I don't understand what all the fuss is about. The Council keeps approving tearing down the old structures on Linclon Avenue to replace them with Breckenridge look-alike buldings while saying that Steamboat must have a unique character. Formula store or mom and pop, put in a faux-turn of the century building that is the duplicate of those at all the ski towns simply identifies Steamboat as a formula ski town


thecondoguy1 10 years ago

If part of the formula is a safe, clean, and sanitary establishmet, I will go along with that, especially the eateries.................


Scott Wedel 10 years ago

Why does Steamboat spend so much on irrelevant issues while ignoring critical issues?

If you seek to limit "formula" stores that are successful then what we'll get are the pale imitations instead of the real deals.

Meanwhile, local workforce housing is being demolished or remodeled into luxury housing at a rapid rate. Which is making it far harder for locals that want to work just enough in order to play. Instead, we are rapidly transitioning to the Vail Valley model of Hispanic workers whose goal it is to work lots of hours and take the money. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but we are undergoing a complete cultural transformation and instead we are talking about "formula" stores.


Matthew Stoddard 10 years ago

I have no problem with formula stores, unless the particular store is just awful. It helps keep prices low. It's a good way to compete. Can't keep your prices as low as the next guy? That's what competition is all about.

There are 2 ways to combat this:

1- Don't frequent the store. If nobody goes to the particular store you hate, it should go out of business.

2- Start your own store to compete with the formula stores and you can increase your service based on having to charge a higher price. People will see it as a value and frequent your store instead of the competition.


workerbee 10 years ago

I too have no problem with formula stores. I agree completely with Kielbasa, I don't shop at Wal-Mart for that reason. But if a "local store" isn't giving me the price, selection, or service that I want, then you can bet that I will take my money elsewhere. I think a little bit of healthy competition is just what this town needs right now. Especially in the restaurant arena, it's about time that we have some decent restaurants in this town with affordable prices (for a burger!), and I work in a restaurant. Hopefully (but I'm not holding my breath) Intrawest will stop marketing to families (they're taking a vacation anyway) and start marketing to a more upscale client, and in turn more competition and better service will result. I'm not just talking fine dining, I want more of a decent price turn n burn type of restaurant in town that we can afford to go to for just a regular meal out and actually have decent service, good food, and a great price.


agentofchange 10 years ago

Hello all ! I was at the meeting yesterday, and here is what I observed. First off, the reporter made it sound like it was Jim Cook's show. NOT!! Jim was informative, candid, and frank. Thanks Jim! From merchants and food vendors: "pure fear". They reminded me of someone who bought an "exclusive territory franchise", and someone was invading their "territory". Please protect us government !!

From Mainstreet: A house divided. Some wanted the most restrictive rules possible (with the promise, that in the event they over stepped the goal, then they could always reduce the restrictiveness of the rules) RIGHT !? Some wanted something in the middle. The fence sitters (don't want to offend anyone) Others (like myself) want no action on the part of the city. We are true free traders.

Now here is the real kicker... what we have here in River City is a Planning Department AND CITY COUNSEL just chomping at the bit to be the "FIRST" ones in Colorado to write a "RESTRICTIVE LAW" regarding the legalized restriction of FREE TRADE !! They want to be the first! They want to go to the "MUNICIPAL DOG AND PONY SHOWS" and show the rest of the State and World how they fought off the evel "predatory" (whatever the heck that means) competition !! That's what this is all about!! We may even get the Denver TV stations up here, wouldn't that be something !? How exciting, how stupid !!

Further, when I asked planning if they need a public vote on the issue, the answer was NO ! By the way, some of the crowd at the meeting, not only want to keep competitors out of down town, but all of Steamboat!! YIKES!

What about the consumer at large?

By the way, the City already has a "Draft" in the works... It is coming, like it or not, the dogooders and the protectionists are going to get their way, if there's any one from the Department of Justice out there... HELP !


agentofchange 10 years ago

Oh, sorry I forgot... Parking anyone?? Parking anywhere?? CLUELESS !!


dodobird 10 years ago

the reason you moved here...a small sense of community. the reason you'll leave?????? when is enough, enough?!


thecondoguy1 10 years ago

dodo, the only people who really embrace change are babies that just crapped their pants, we can't expect the town to stay the same just because we are here. enough is enough is a personal thing, whats enough for you may not begin to be enough for your neighbor. when you are green you are growing, when you are ripe, you rot........


ahowl7mx 9 years, 12 months ago

Restricting the allowance of "formula" stores in Steamboat would result in a long term loss for the community. It seems to be more of a question of character than business: why hobble a "chain" store because it has a dominant business model? If the purpose of the debate is to keep the small town feel of Steamboat, that is a question of architectural building codes, not trade rules. These "formula" stores provide solid employment for locals and improved tax revenue to boot. No one is flying in from out of town to run these businesses.

Second, allowing chains and big box stores bring incredible innovation. Some of you are really going to hate this and I respect your opinions, but Walmart is providing wonderful new services by opening up healthcare clinics inside their stores. These clinics provide outstanding jobs to young doctors and nurses for treating basic conditions and preventative care. I'll plug 'em here: http://www.rediclinic.com/

Third, attracting formula stores on Steamboat's terms can lead to changes in the industry. For example, why not require affordable housing on top of large commercial buildings? I wouldn't mind living in a condo on top of City Market. I could just go downstairs and grab some groceries instead of driving through traffic for a 30 min round trip. Same goes for Walmart, Home Depot, and other big box retail. Make these areas a source of commuting, not a destination. If its successful, then the rest of the country would look more like Steamboat, as opposed to Steamboat looking like the rest of the country.


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