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Buddy, can you spend a dime?

Thomas Kinkade Gallery, Threads, Ski and Sport Swap, Glenwood Photography Studios, Andra Stamps Ink, Outriders, Sweet Dreams Fine Bed & Bath Linens: going, going, or gone.These are part of the ever-growing list of stores that are closing or have recently closed in Glenwood Springs. And it seems that the more their reasons vary for closing, the more they stay the same. Store owners contend that skyrocketing rents coupled with the lingering effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are the underlying reasons so many shops have gone and are continuing to go out of business.In the downtown core, where complaints about a lack of parking are added to the other issues, the number of empty stores is becoming conspicuous. In the King Mall and vicinity, there are two empty stores and another, Andra Stamps Ink, is on the verge of closing its doors. “Parking is the No. 1 hindrance to doing business downtown,” said Andra Bersson, owner of arts, crafts and stamps store Andra Stamps Ink. “Customers say it’s more convenient to go to the Internet than to shop downtown because of the parking.”The hefty expense of stocking the shelves also contributed to Bersson’s decision to close her doors. She said she knew it was time to close up shop when her daily decisions consisted of buying either groceries or crafts. “The overhead is really prohibitive,” she said. “Twenty-Nine to $30 a square foot is almost impossible.”Bersson said she’ll continue to make custom stampers from home – the kind used by businesses for stamping checks and other uses – and she’ll concentrate on creating her own art. Across Grand Avenue, Scott and Susan Riley’s Ski and Sport Swap, a consignment sports equipment and T-shirt store, is also closing its doors after 18 years.But rather than closing because of the financial climate, Ski and Sport Swap is closing because of a loss of habitat. The funny old building is set to be torn down early next month to make way for a new mixed-use building. “It’s been an institution under the bridge,” Scott said. “I think it’s going to be sad for all the poor people who like to go skiing. There won’t be any choice for them anymore.”Riley is trying to sell everything he can before he’s forced to abandon the old shop. As customers walked in last week, he told them, “Don’t be shy, I’ll drop the price on anything!””I’m ecstatic, I’m due for a change,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be going out of business if this wasn’t happening. I’d do it for another 18 years.”The loss of quaint, small businesses like Ski and Sport Swap could be a glimpse into the city’s future, Riley said. “I think the town is going to be a Wal-Mart, Gart Brothers kind of town,” he said. “No more mom and pop type of operations will be able to afford it. … It’ll be just like everywhere else, chains and big boxes.”Ski and Sport Swap’s neighbors in the building, Charm School Boutique and Animated Artz Tattoos and Piercing both will relocate and stay in business. Charm School will move to the old home of Threads at 819 Grand Ave. and Animated Artz will relocate across the street under the Sapphire Grille. Rosemary Cincera, who owns Rosemary’s Gourmet and Gifts with her husband, Chris, said times have been difficult lately. And while she’s not planning to quit business just yet, she said if business doesn’t pick up soon, they might not have a choice. Her shop, located in the King Mall, peddles gourmet foods, spices and kitchen items, as well as seafood such as lobster tails shipped directly from Boston. “It’s been tough,” she said. “It’s tough to pay the rent. … This is our last shot this summer. We need a slamming summer.”Cincera said the slump in sales started soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”It’s scary. I tell people that I never thought one man could do so much damage,” she said of Osama bin Laden. “This is going on our second year, and it’s a big difference from last year.”Across the way in the King Mall, Night and Dance owner MaryAnn Sullivan said while business has picked up a bit lately, it’s still unpredictable. “It’s scary right now how many businesses are closing,” she said. “I just kind of think if the rents were lower, more people could afford it. Then rather than (the owners) having to go through the aggravation of renting it, they would have consistency. … I think we’re going to see some more shakeout in 2002.”Sullivan called on locals to shop downtown and bring friends downtown to support the local businesses. “The locals need to see why the tourists come to town,” she said. Some argue the trend downtown is just temporary and the stores will soon be filled again and to some extent, they’d be right. A new restaurant called Sak will soon be opening on Cooper Avenue, and plans for other businesses are in the works.

As one ambles along the covered promenade that is the Glenwood Springs Mall, it’s hard not to notice the number of empty stores. Where there once was a photographer’s studio, a sports merchandise store, a restaurant and a furniture store, there are now just faded walls and memories. Ruth Gonzalez, manager of West Wind, explained some of the reasons why she thinks so many are going out of business. “After September 11th, a lot of things have changed. People are holding onto their money, and I can’t blame them,” Gonzalez said. Similar to downtown shop owners, Gonzalez said the high rent along with the faltering economy has driven some business people out of the mall. “They just can’t afford to stay in business, so they have to leave,” she said. But mall manager Linda White insists that’s changing. “The vacancies that we have – we’re on the upswing,” she said, pointing to the recently-signed deal with Staples to fill Country General and a snowboard and skateboard store called Zumiez that will fill two empty store spaces. White also said some of the business people who left the mall did so for personal rather than financial reasons.

As in sports, numbers have their own stories to tell.City records show that sales tax revenues have been down each month in Glenwood Springs from December through February. But when broken down further, the types of sales tax revenues that have dropped clarifies matters further. A chart comparing sales tax revenues from 2001 to 2002 shows that apparel and accessory sales are down a whopping 37 percent and miscellaneous retail fell 8.6 percent. Raelyn Westley, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s director of member development, agreed that in tough economic times like these, it’s the smaller operations that get hurt the most. “It’s the small mom and pop businesses that don’t have the capital to make it through the tough times,” she said. “They can’t afford to hire employees and they get worn out.”Westley pointed out that tourists are still visiting the city, a trend illustrated by recent increases in lodging tax receipts. But they just aren’t spending as much.”People are still coming, but the retail sales are being affected,” she said.


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