As we entered 2009, retailers had cause for worry. In the midst of the worst recession in decades, skyrocketing unemployment and a tight credit market forced consumers into save mode.
Massive store closings hit the news in force and Colorado Springs was no exception as major anchor Macy’s shuttered its 105-employee outlet at The Citadel mall during January.
But even in such dire circumstances entrepreneurs, many using their own money, took the plunge into business ownership, creating jobs and hopes for a brighter economic outlook.
One positive effect of the sour economy actually helped small business owners: locations proved less expensive as commercial building owners sought to fill empty floor space. And the effect proved widespread as entrepreneurs either opened or expanded new stores and restaurants in all areas of town.
Here’s a sampling of retail news covered in the CSBJ during 2009
Kimball’s theater wine bar
Kim Bayles, owner of Kimball’s Peak Three, will expand the downtown movie theater complex within the next few months.
Come January, visitors will find a cozy wine bar to relax in as Bayles vacates his office space in favor of the new amenity.
“I have a 1,200 square-foot office on the second floor and I just felt it was silly to keep it,” Bayles said. “We’ll keep the main bar downstairs, but this will be a place for people to linger … a quiet place to have a drink away from the hustle and bustle of the main lobby. And we’ll show movies behind the bar. Typically we close the downstairs bar after the last show, but we’ll keep this one open later.”
The project comes on the heels of an expansion during August that saw the owner convert an office into a 50-seat theater.
Rock climbing gym
Once the envisioned site for the ambitious, 22-story Cooper Tower, the southeast corner of Kiowa Street and Nevada Avenue will now soon be home to a rock climbing gym.
Joe and Lara Groshong, majority owners of the Rock Climbing Center in Monument, will open a 17,000-square-foot climbing gym and office complex within the next month in a building that formerly housed an antique mart, as well as a movie theater.
The veteran climbing gym owners have wanted to expand their Vertical Fitness business for some time. They spent countless days looking for just the right place, a tall building with an open architecture, when they happened to notice the “for sale” sign on the downtown building’s marquee a few months ago.
North downtown development
Rebecca Taraborelli, her husband, Matt Taraborelli, and brother, Gregory Harris, will open Rasta Pasta, a full-service casual restaurant, at the corner of Boulder and Tejon streets this fall.
The owners purchased a one-time license for the brand, signage, menu and recipes from Rasta Pasta founder Scott Lias, who owns the only other Rasta Pasta locations in Fort Collins and Breckenridge.
The Breckenridge restaurant is what drew the eye of Colorado Springs’ newest restaurateurs.
“We’re big snowboarders,” Rebecca said. “We’ve been going to Breck every weekend, and we always stop at Rasta Pasta. We got to know the staff and eventually met Scott Lias. We started talking to him about the restaurant and those discussions developed into this deal.”
Entrepreneurs fight recession
As the anemic national and local economies have forced many retailers to shutter doors or file for bankruptcy, a few entrepreneurs have turned to creative and innovative solutions for staying afloat and expanding operations.
Take Holli Showalter and Kelly Bolan, for instance.
Showalter, owner of Tejon Tan, and Bolan, an esthetician who formerly operated “Nyla” on Bijou Street, have joined forces in the Tejon Tan space at 101 N. Tejon St., Suite 110 (the storefront actually faces Kiowa Street, though).
“Kelly was a client of mine at Tejon Tan and I was a client of hers at Nyla,” Showalter said. “We started talking and came up with the idea of sharing space, so I invited her over.”
Both couldn’t be happier about the arrangement.
“It’s challenging to operate business downtown,” Showalter said. “I’m in business to make a profit and I have sacrificed everything to, in essence, buy myself a job. But I’m passionate about what I do and Kelly is passionate about what she does.”
As cash-strapped and budget-conscious consumers restrict spending to essentials, one high-end Tejon Street retailer has figured out a way to help ease the pain of a year-long recession.
When LuLu owner Tess Loo began noticing slipping sales last fall, she borrowed an idea from her sister, Ann Siner. Siner owns several consignment stores in Arizona that have performed well despite the recession.
LuLu sells high-end women’s apparel and accessories at 214½ N. Tejon St., but two months ago, Loo began offering consignments. And the response has been positive.
The Citadel mall
Economy hasn’t hampered Melt Brands’ expansion
Denver-based bath and skincare retailer Melt Brands LLC has opened a retail store inside The Citadel mall.
Melt Bath and Skincare occupies 900 square feet near the mall’s food court and represents the ninth store in an expanding retail skincare company.
Melt Bath and Skincare was founded during 2001 by Steve McNally, Thomas Smith and James Saylor. Melt Brands President and CEO David Fisher joined the venture a year later and quickly set about licensing the Melt name and trademark.
Fisher, founder and former CEO of Millenium Venture Group, specialized in retail real estate development. He recognized the value of Melt products after his daughter was born with exema.
Manitou bike shop
For several years, Colorado Springs resident Tim Chase had been looking at Manitou Springs, largely a tourism business market, as a potential spot for an enterprise. He just didn’t know what type of business might fit in among the rows and rows of boutiques and restaurants.
He has owned several businesses, worked as a business consultant and labored in the corporate world for 14 years, but early this year, a revelation came to him. There were no bicycle shops in Manitou Springs.
Chase and business partner Shaun Geogarty opened Manitou Bikes at 713 Manitou Ave. during the first week of June. The 1,500 square-foot, full-service sales and repair shop carries a variety of bicycles, including: mountain and BMX bikes, tandems, unicycles and road bikes, even lightweight, full-carbon frame bikes.
The Nile cafe
Veteran New York entrepreneurs Jimmy Sabry and Michael Ezzat have opened a Mediterranean-style café in Manitou Springs.
The Nile Café, 954 Manitou Ave., offers Mediterranean food, coffee and desserts.
Sabry and Ezzat also plan to offer hookah for nighttime customers.
The pair plans a grand opening on May 1. Customers can expect breakfast, lunch and dinner to be served seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and pending city approval, hookah until 2 a.m.
The west side
The Attic finds new home OCC
Veteran Old Colorado City merchant Charles Irwin has moved The Attic three blocks west on Colorado Avenue and increased his retail space by 200 feet.
The Attic’s new home is at 2716 W. Colorado Ave. Irwin purchased the location last July, but was renting it as residential property.
“It was in our long-term plans anyway to move to his location, but since our renters moved out, it made sense to move now,” Irwin said. “Luckily we refurbished the location back when we purchased it, so it’s brand new.”
The North side
When Stacey Turner moved to Colorado Springs during 2007, she began the process of remodeling the home her new husband owned here. So, she went shopping, but after visiting stores throughout town, she just couldn’t find anything she wanted.
That’s when an idea struck her. Why not open a furniture store? There’s a real need in the market.
Furniture Connection opened during March 2007, and April 1, Turner moved the store from the Plaza at Chapel Hills to a larger location at the Promenade Shops at Briargate.
“It was just time,” Turner said. “We really enjoyed our first two years, but the opportunity came along to move here. The traffic is good and we’re at a more visible location.”
Based on U.S. Commerce Department estimates, March retail furniture sales nationwide declined 14 percent year-over-year.
Furniture Connection has bucked that trend.
“Our business has done very well,” Turner said. “When we opened two years ago, we started with nothing. People didn’t know we were there. But, they started bringing their friends in and we grew.”
Pikes Peak Ice Cream
Richard Hauf jumped into entrepreneurship fresh out of graduate school and has recently opened Pikes Peak Ice Cream and Gelato in Monument.
Upon earning his MBA from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Hauf and his wife Denise couldn’t wait to get started in business. They opened an Internet retail operation, moved to Florida and built a successful business.
But the Haufs grew tired of conducting business impersonally. When they returned to the Colorado Springs area during 2007, they imagined life as brick and mortar retailers. They dreamed of one day owning an ice cream store. They researched and planned, looked for space around town and finally found the perfect spot — in their hometown of Monument.
A Coffee Cup
Wendy Diggins remembers walking into A Coffee Cup the morning after a fire had ravaged part of the restaurant she and her husband, Jeremy, own.
“It was a pretty eerie experience,” she said. “The day before, the restaurant was really bustling, but that day, it was smelly and scarred and empty.”
In the midst of what the Diggins called a “record breaking” summer, a fire started near the roof of the restaurant, just above the kitchen. Investigators provided multiple scenarios about how it started, but the Diggins are still uncertain about the actual cause.
What they feared was losing their restaurant — and their livelihood.
Kevin Kratt of Kratt Commercial Real Estate said during December that he expected the first stores at University Village Colorado to open during the third quarter of 2009. Right on schedule, Smashburger, a Denver-based restaurant chain, will offer customers a sneak peak on Oct. 27, and open for business the next day.
At the same time, Costco, one of University Village Colorado’s premier anchors, also will open its doors.
Kratt, a development partner, expects Chipotle, XSthreads, a fashionably hip pre-owned clothing store, and Panera Bread to open the same week.
By February, nearly 70 percent of the 650,000 square-foot shopping center will be leased as its other major anchors, Kohl’s and Lowes Home Improvement welcome shoppers.
Mollica’s Italian Market
Mollica’s Italian Market and Deli owners Toni and Jerry Mollica plan to open a second restaurant during October.
At 7,500 square feet, the Mollica’s in the Broadmoor Towne Center will offer seating for 70 and feature both a deli and a bakery.
“We’ve been looking for the right place for the past 10 years,” said Jerry Mollica, who opened the first Mollica’s at 985 Garden of the Gods Road with his mom, Toni, and dad, Dominic, 22 years ago. “This new place (1872 Southgate Road) is a very good location. We’ve got the Broadmoor, Fort Carson and downtown and we’re right in the middle of it all.”
Developers Emmitt Mitchell and Julian Branker have broken ground on a four-story, 124-room, extended-stay hotel just south of the Colorado Springs World Arena.
Mitchell expected construction to be complete on Value Place by May, but said the project has been pushed back and should be finished by December or January.
Mitchell and Branker are spending about $6 million on the project, and the pair plan four other openings in Colorado during the next few years.
Mitchell said he chose the location, 3250 Value Drive (formerly Bob Johnson Drive), because it was near Interstate 25 and Fort Carson.
Chapel Hills Mall
New mattress store
The Chapel Hills Mall has welcomed a new mattress store — with a twist.
Retired chiropractor Duane Smith and his son Alma and daughter Debra have opened Natural Form Mattress on the upper level of the Macy’s wing.
The store sells Natural Form Mattresses, along with an exercise machine called Whole Body Vibration.
“A Natural Form Mattress is a medical mattress, a pressure-free sleep system that uses a patented air technology, which allows pressure to be uniform throughout the body,” Smith said. “(The bed) has nine horizontal air compartments, and the technology allows air to move in and out without the use of pumps or regulators.”
Printer offering more
Justin Koback has been wrestling with the idea of expanding his printing and copying business for more than a year.
Since business at American Printing and Copying, on the city’s south side near Academy Boulevard and Astrozon Way, has performed well during the 21-month national recession, Koback thought about opening a second location.
Then another idea hit him: Why not expand his existing business instead.
Located less than three miles from Fort Carson’s Gate 4, Koback decided to begin offering shipping and packaging.
Private equity and concept development firm Consumer Capital Partners is poised to capture a niche restaurant market not only here in Colorado Springs, but around the country.
That market lies somewhere between fast food and casual dining, and CCP plans to open up to 1,000 Smashburger locations within the next 10 years.
CCP will launch a 2,000-square-foot Smashburger restaurant at 3707 Bloomington St., near North Carefree Circle and Powers Boulevard on March 13, and plans a second Colorado Springs opening during September.