Minturn combats business decline
eagle county correspondent
MINTURN – The exodus of three Main Street shops and an overall business downturn ” which one official called a potential ‘catastrophe’ ” has led to the creation of a chamber of commerce-style committee to boost business in Minturn.
“We might have a business catastrophe if we don’t get something going,” said Karen Earley, the town’s economic development director.
The departure of downtown businesses ” including Soke, Two Elk Gallery and Eagle River Trading Company ” has worried some business owners, though others say the departures are part of the ebb and flow of Minturn.
The committee plans to have its first meeting Thursday. During the group’s formation, business and local leaders talked about problems facing the town including a strained relationship between business and residents, more and better parking, increasing tourism and dealing with Highway 24 traffic.
“I think residents need to perceive the value of having a business community,” said Harry Gray owner of Harry’s Bump and Grind restaurant and art gallery.
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Councilman Tom Sullivan called the three business departures “natural attrition.”
“Minturn is not as tourist-oriented as it was when it was the only place other than Vail,” he said. He suggested a park along the Eagle River could would lure people to Minturn.
Tom Ricci has also dealt with declining business in Minturn during his more than 20 years as owner of the Minturn Country Club, he said. During that time, he said other business associations have formed and disbanded. But he remains optimistic, he added.
Speed – not traffic – is the main problem on Main Street, also known as Highway 24, Ricci said.
Pedestrian crossing signs, which by law require drivers to stop for pedestrians, will soon be placed along the highway in an attempt to slow traffic, town officials have said.
“Slowing traffic down is harder than it seems because it’s a state highway,” Earley said.
Along with Ricci, longtime businessmen Andy Kaufman said there is a disconnected feeling between residents and business owners. While businesses want more traffic, residents do not, Ricci said.
Before a business plan is formed, residents and business owners need to communicate, Kaufman said. We can’t “be acting in isolation” and that there “needs to be some CO-mingling,” he said.
“Where economic development has got to start is with the citizens and the town council they elected,” Ricci said. “It needs to be heard that you want business in Minturn and that you’re making it a business friendly place.”
People in town also are tangling over the pending Ginn Company private ski resort development. Some business owners have said the development will be a boon for business success in the future. Others said the Ginn Company should not be considered the town’s savior.
“The thing we’ve got to focus on is the Ginn Company is five years out,” Gray said. “We’ve got to plan for the now, otherwise business owners will be gone.”
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