Downtown merchants staying optimistic as Meadows arrives |

Downtown merchants staying optimistic as Meadows arrives

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles looking at the new Glenwood Meadows retail development center.

Optimism on Grand Avenue in the face of Glenwood Meadows’ opening might be summed up with a scoop of ice cream.

Locals and tourists both love ice cream, and for Joseph Haas, it’s the stuff of a good business proposition.

Wearing a spiffy blue Marble Slab Creamery apron and sporting a distinct New York brogue, Haas awaited cookies and cream-hungry customers last week while predicting that his venture at the Meadows will be part of the “biggest thing that’s ever happened to this town.”

The day he opened the Marble Slab Creamery on Grand Avenue in May 2004, he decided he wanted to open a “satellite” ice cream shop at the Meadows. Even though there are at least five ice cream purveyors in Glenwood, Haas believes there’s room for one more in the biggest shopping center between Grand Junction and Dillon.

He says he’s thrilled with the possibilities the outdoor mall has in store for Glenwood residents.

“Meadows is offering this town a tremendous advantage,” he said. “It’s going to bring people from all over” “and, Haas hopes, bring people into Marble Slab, whose ice cream will be made at the downtown location.

Haas says he has too much invested in the downtown store to close it and believes downtown shoppers won’t flee anytime soon. After all, he said, his cream and sugar is tourists who leave the Hot Springs Pool late at night for a scoop of ice cream.

“Everybody tells me how bad downtown is doing, and there’s not an empty store here,” he said.

Meadows impact on downtown

The effect the Meadows will have on downtown is anybody’s guess, but business leaders in town say the benefits of the sprawling new retail center will be felt for years to come.

“What Meadows has done is create so much more excitement about the area itself,” said Bill Bullock, a real estate manager for Aspen Land and Homes in Glenwood. It has “brought more national tenant interest to the area than we’ve ever had before.”

He said he expects business in Glenwood to evolve much the way it did in Grand Junction, with national chain stores following other national chain stores into the area.

The Meadows means more shoppers in Glenwood than usual, said Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association President Marianne Virgili.

“I think it will bring needed sales tax revenue that’s now leaking into other communities,” she said. “I think it will make the market more competitive.” But, she wondered, “Where are all these employees going to come from?”

That’s what Gary Miller wants to know.

For Miller, co-owner of Anderson’s Clothing on Grand Avenue, a Meadows one-two punch to the bottom line is hardly a concern.

“I see it affecting my staffing issues tremendously,” he said. “Sales are fine. It’s finding someone to work for me” that’s the problem.

Miller, who employs two people, said the problem isn’t just a matter being unable to find qualified employees, people simply aren’t applying for jobs.

“It’s the worst it’s ever been,” he said. The situation is so dire, he’s offering a $200 reward to anyone who can find someone who can work for him.

Miller also owns a dry goods clothing store in Rifle, where it was feared that the new Wal-Mart Supercenter would have a significant impact on business there.

“The day Wal-Mart opened, my business went up,” he said.

He said he doesn’t think Target and the other big boxes will have as positive an impact on Glenwood as Wal-Mart did in Rifle.

“Rifle was way under-serviced,” he said. “Glenwood is over-serviced.”

More shoppers

But even with concerns about a dearth of potential employees, traffic, customer loyalty to locally owned businesses and the Meadows’ threat to Glenwood’s character, many Grand Avenue business owners share at least some of Haas’ optimism about the future.

Melissa Bellio, owner of the Chocolate Moose Ice Cream Shop, said the Meadows will bring needed variety ” and plenty of shoppers ” to Glenwood.

“If hotels and motels keep on promoting smaller businesses, that’s where the people will go,” she said.

Another ice cream store in town doesn’t bother her, she said, because the Chocolate Moose sells popular fine chocolates, something other ice cream stores don’t offer.

After running the Mountain Peddler boutique shop for 29 years, owner Joan Chaffin said she’s worried about where the locals will shop.

“The tourists, most of which are repeat customers, have said they come to Glenwood Springs to shop boutiques and are leaving behind the opportunity to shop at big box stores,” she said.

Roaring Fork Valley residents, she said, tend to follow the lowest prices. Though Chaffin said locals are the “backbone” of her business, many sometimes show little loyalty to locally owned businesses.

Traffic concerns

Chaffin also said that she’s concerned about possible traffic problems.

“If I can’t get to Target in a neat and tidy, quick way ” if I’m hung up ” I won’t come back,” she said. “The way Highway 82 traffic is, no one’s going to fight to come to Glenwood whether we have big boxes or not.”

Haas said that some business owners, if they are scared by the opening of Meadows, should consider staying open later.

“I can’t tell you how much business I do between 10 and 11 p.m.,” he said. “Tourists shop in the evening.”

Nancy Page, manager of the Main St. Gallery on Grand Avenue, said she believes it’s inevitable the Meadows will impact downtown. But, she said, “we’re catering to different people, a different customer base.”

Downtown businesses offer better service and better products than the chain stores at the Meadows, she said.

“I think downtown is strong and vibrant and alive and will remain that way,” she said.

Judy Larson, one of Miller’s employees, said she’s confident the Anderson’s Clothing’s local following won’t flee to the big boxes anytime soon. Nonetheless, she said of the Meadows, “Apparently something Glenwood wanted was the big box, and they got it.”

The Meadows is sure to bring more people to town and improve business here, said Sandy Boyd, owner of the Glenwood Sewing Center.

“I’m continuously optimistic,” she said. “In the ongoing battle for which community gets tax money, I think we’ll be glad to have tax money.”

Boyd said she’ll have almost no competition from the Meadows, and some tourists come to Glenwood specifically to visit her quilting shop. “We are a destination for people,” she said.

The big boxes are, however, forcing her to change the way she receives merchandise. She said UPS will no longer deliver to her store in the morning because the company changed its routes to accommodate stores in Glenwood Meadows first, creating a significant inconvenience for her.

The Meadows comes at another price, she said: “I think it’s kind of an assault on our small town character.”

Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520

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