Steamboat Springs 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 faÃ§ade, 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."
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