Steamboat Springs residents and business owners wrestled with familiar issues at a forum and movie screening Monday evening.
About 60 people attended the discussion at Centennial Hall, which included a viewing of "Paperback Dreams." The documentary featured two independent California bookstores' struggle to survive. Local business owners and residents discussed Steamboat Springs' economic trials and possible ways to combat them.
"People are paying the highest rents Steamboat has ever seen, and sales are sliding," City Council member Jon Quinn said. "There are going to be some hard days for Steamboat businesses."
Mainstreet Steamboat Springs and Off the Beaten Path Bookstore sponsored the discussion. Off the Beaten Path co-owner Ron Krall led the conversation after the movie, and business owners offered suggestions.
All That Jazz owner Joe Kboudi suggested that Mainstreet take business owners to check out other stores' inventories. That would help him direct customers to other local businesses if his store doesn't have what they need.
Resident Mike Forney encouraged businesses to join and support Mainstreet.
"I would say when I was on the Mainstreet board, I was appalled at how few of the businesses really gathered together and went behind the Mainstreet flag and realized this was the only voice they had," Forney said.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association focuses on the tourism economy, he said. Mainstreet is the main voice for downtown businesses, Forney said.
Residents encouraged business owners to focus on locals, particularly during the recession. Some suggested sales, but Linda Laughlin said that wasn't necessarily the answer. She said she appreciates businesses that invest in the community and allow her to hang posters for events.
"I'm not sure it's a two-for-one special," she said. "I think for me, the businesses need to show they're part of the community, and it's ways that are very subtle but build over time. : We have just the best people that live here, and I think there are ways that we can get them back that sort of show the heart of who we are here."
People also said parking, U.S. Highway 40 and traffic kept them from downtown.
Cantina owner Kristi Brown suggested that businesses get together and remind residents why they should shop in town. Those dollars go back into the community, she said.
"When you click that button to spend that $10 in cyberspace, it's gone," Brown said.
But Leslie Faulkner, who owns Sweet Potato Lingerie, said education might not be enough.
"The loyalty we expect, just by saying shop locally, that doesn't pull their heartstrings," Faulkner said. "They're broke."
Landlords need to take a look at the cost of rent and consider cutting businesses a break, she said. Faulkner said her business was down, but she thinks it will be viable again when the economy rebounds.
"Unless Victoria's Secret comes in, I've got a corner on the market, and I'm suffering," Faulkner said. "It wasn't this way last year."
Business owners also talked about promoting their downtown shops and restaurants at the mountain. Some, such as Great Outdoor Clothing, give concierges or taxi drivers perks if they send tourists to their business.
Sue Krall, who owns Off the Beaten Path with her husband, said locals should remember that independent businesses support nonprofit groups in the community. If they suffer, everyone suffers, she said.
"It gets harder and harder and harder for us to be able to give to the community if the community doesn't support us," Sue Krall said.