Existing stores expand as retailers keep occupancy strong in downtown Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Existing stores expand as retailers keep occupancy strong in downtown Steamboat





Commercial tenants finishing remodels at Howelsen Place this month include the new Quiksilver location and a new sports bar, Carl's Tavern.
Tom Ross

— Brett and Bruce Lee, of Straightline Sporting Goods, recall the last time they passed on landlord Steve Nelson's offer to allow them to expand into the retail space behind their store at Eighth Street and Lincoln Avenue. When it came up again this spring, they leapt at it, not knowing whether they'd ever get the chance again.

"Now's the time," Brett Lee said. "I don't want to drive down the road and be saying, 'You could have, you should have.' We've maximized this space. The last time we didn't do it was followed by some really good years when we would have made more sales if we'd had more space."

Straightline, celebrating its 30th anniversary of selling fly-fishing tackle and outdoor clothing and renting skis, will take on 1,600 square feet of additional space after the previous tenant, Embellishments, moved out so owners could focus on the larger Steamboat Art Co. store at 903 Lincoln Ave.

Established operators such as Straightline's Lee brothers and Embellishments' Ashley Edinburg represent a trend in downtown Steamboat Springs' relative vitality.

In the midst of a stumbling economic recovery, Steamboat's downtown shopping district has shown some resiliency in its ability to fill vacant retail and restaurant spaces.

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"It's incredible the progress we've made in downtown in this ability to absorb many of the new spaces in projects like Alpen Glow, Howelsen Place, The Olympian and The Victoria," longtime commercial broker Bill Moser said.

There always will be churn in a resort town, but Steamboat has seen a number of established businesses move across the street or expand into neighboring spaces to help plug any holes.

Spaces opening up this summer include the former Deep Steep Tea Co. in Old Town Square and a pair of spaces in the heart of the golden 800 block of Lincoln, including the former Epilogue Book Co. and Urban Laundry, which is selling out its inventory.

A block west, Rick and Linda Petet have pulled back into their long-standing Steamboat Shoe Market, leaving Goodie 2 Shoes, where they bought the building at 908 Lincoln Ave. and opened a second location last year across the street from their existing shoe store.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said last week that she recently learned that Linda Cullen, owner of the Quiksilver store poised to open an expanded location in the key corner space at Howelsen Place, also will move her smaller DC store into the old Quiksilver spot in Old Town Square, leaving a smaller vacancy there, but creating a net gain on Lincoln Avenue.

Around the corner from the new Quiksilver store on Seventh Street, workers are installing steel framing for the new Carl's Tavern sports bar.

And there's a new coffee shop being planned for a two-story house in the mixed commercial zone district at Fifth and Oak streets, formerly occupied by county offices. The new cafe is right across the street from all of the government workers in the Routt County Courthouse.

"The point is, as bad as this economy has been, everyone was concerned the new buildings would make downtown look empty," Barnett said. "That hasn't happened."

Barnett said that Mainstreet doesn't have a handle on percent commercial occupancy on a per-square-foot basis in downtown but that it is about to launch a market study to compile the latest information about the retail/restaurant/office mix and to determine what types of retail are missing.

Based perhaps in part on her own shopping preferences, Barnett said she thinks Steamboat needs a middle-range women's clothing store.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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