Residents, downtown retailers brainstorm how to survive tough times

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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.

Comments

popcan 5 years, 2 months ago

I would certainly be willing to give downtown Restaurants and bars more business. But there are a few problems here. I am not allowed to have a drink and drive, because there is a good possibility that I will be arrested from the SSPD that is always looking for someone with alcohol on thier breath. I am not allowed to smoke at the bar ... So I no longer patronize the bars. Food, well I would be happy to eat downtown, but it is too expensive. A lunch is $10.00 which includes a hefty 20% tip ontop of sales tax. If I leave a smaller tip, I get a very dirty look from the wait staff. So Lunch is out. I brownbag 90% of the time vs a year ago, 35% of the time. If downtown wants me to patronize them ... Get rid of some rules, and make it fun to go the bar again. Make some lunch deals and get rid of the high tips.

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bubba 5 years, 2 months ago

And the winner for the best economic stimulus idea so far...

Legalize drinking and driving!

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

Quit complaining about internet sales and that it is somehow an obligation of locals to spend time looking in local shops to pay more for something. If the businesses are providing a less enjoyable shopping experience than internet shopping then they are in deep trouble.

And it is a misleading to suggest that $10 spent on the internet purchase is gone from the valley while spending $15 for the same item in a local store keeps all the money here. The store might have paid $7.50 to get that item into the store. So of the $10 there is $7.50 that is leaving the valley regardless and now the person has $5 extra to spend on lunch in which far less of what is spent leaves the valley.

As for downtown parking, why won't the business owners and their employees park at the transit center and leave downtown parking for their customers???

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popcan 5 years, 2 months ago

Bubba ... I said nothing about legalizing drinking and driving. I just wanted to give my REASON WHY I DO NOT SPEND MY MONEY AT THE BAR AND RESTAURANT. Thats all. Under these conditions. I think the bar owners and restaurant people were much happier running their businesses in earlier times, when people had the freedom to smoke and drink in these establishments. More drink sales, more cash flow ... More rules, less cash flow. Simple!

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 2 months ago

This downtown area is a real treasure, we are lucky to have what I consider, my all time favorite shopping area. We need to plan ahead and take advantage of this priceless potential. This is the center of the larger community, and is key to defining the future of the area. The character and success of Steamboat, will be determined by what we project in our atmosphere downtown. The meeting last night seemed more like a weekly planning session, with no real vision, other than to discuss daily problems. For us to achieve the success, that I sensed that we are looking for, we needed to roll the clock back ten to twenty years. This is not feasible, so our only option is to start planning now and control the future. We need to have the option of being selective in who we market to. I am not qualified in several venues but I do know thansportation. The present traffic fiasco limits our options and the potential of the whole community. We can only offer our customers the same traffic snarl that they go on vacation to get away from. This, along with many other improvements, will give us the choice, and the ability to raise the bar to heights that we have not dared dream. Vail has removed delivery vehicles form their village, claiming that they will not be a world class resort if old habits remain. We can remain frustrated and complacent, take no risks, and hope the ball players keep coming back. We need bold leadership, to change the attitude, and completely elevate our downtown atmosphere, everything else will follow.

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flotilla 5 years, 2 months ago

What else, besides food and drinks, would locals buy in downtown Steamboat during an economic recession?

Womens clothes? Not at the prices. Accessories? Do we "need" them? Steamboat souveiners? obviously not. Music- sometimes, books- sometimes... what else is there in this "treasure". New equipement? How can we have cut hours, less tourism, no affordable housing and expect to drop cash on frivilous items?

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 2 months ago

This film at this meeting discussed competition with big box and internet sales. The only way to compete is to market to clients that do not frequent the large retailers. This will require the changes that I mentioned above. We need to attract the fur coat crowd and give them what they want. I can envision a completely revamped atmosphere downtown. I wonder if consultants familiar with high end marketing would have any ideas. It wouldn't hurt to ask. This is obviously out of my league as are most matters. The locals could still get along and the prosperity would certainly help.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 2 months ago

This film at this meeting discussed competition with big box and internet sales. The only way to compete is to market to clients that do not frequent the large retailers. This will require the changes that I mentioned above. We need to attract the fur coat crowd, and give them what they want. I can envision a completely revamped atmosphere downtown. I wonder if consultants familiar with high end marketing would have any ideas. It wouldn't hurt to ask. This is obviously out of my league as are most matters. The locals could still get along and the prosperity would certainly help.

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ybul 5 years, 2 months ago

Fred,

The fur coat crowd, like most are suffering.  This is the result of 40% of all wealth having been eliminated, at least on paper.  Was it real wealth that was lost?

 You also mentioned that we can not go back in time to 20 years ago.  No we can not, but given the declining retail numbers and the increasing supply of retail square footage (by the way the fur coat crowd will not need that much square footage and there is a lot of it in this town) something will give it is a simple matter of supply and demand.

So in about 6-12 months when those newly developed properties are foreclosed on rents will come down as they will have to in order for the spaces to be filled as there is a limit to the amount of money that will be spent in this town.   So creative new uses for those empty spaces will have to come about, and those probably will not justify the high rents some seem to think places should demand.
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aichempty 5 years, 2 months ago

I foresee a rash of Chinese buffet restaurants.

Ummmm . . . . c a t . . . . ummmmmm

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 2 months ago

ybul, Im talking long term and I don't have all the answers, but unless we think big and long term, we are at the mercy of Arafat and triple crown. I don't think that Commerce City with a ski hill is likely to find a niche.We are loaded with potential, but a real vision is lacking. We need the assistance of high end planners. Steamboat is an attractive investment and raising the bar is attainable. The economic problems of today are irrelevant in the long term.

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ybul 5 years, 2 months ago

Attainable? I think that you and I read different news stories.

You gest about commerce city with a ski hill. I do not believe I have suggested the likes of commerce city.

I think that the possibilities are limitless here and to think that commerce and beautiful scenery can not coexist is ignorant. The commerce I could see would add to the ski hill not detract from it.

Given the 1.9 trillion in treasury holdings by the chinese, I think that they will be a future tourist. But personally, I prefer roaches as opposed to cat, dog maybe but no cat for me.

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