Ketchum businesses measure success
Some say numbers improved
during fall off-season
By GREGORY FOLEY
Is Ketchum experiencing a
small-scale business boom?
Express Staff Writer
Apparently so, according to an informal
survey of businesses outside the tourist sector. Some businesses had their best
months in years in October and November, and many others have seen significant
increases since late summer.
Kathleen Hughes, left, owner of Sun
Valley Lighting in Ketchum, assists a client, Glenn Janss, in selecting
lighting fixtures. Express photo by Willy Cook
"Our goal was to be up 67 percent
over last year, and to date we’re up 75 percent," said Kathleen Hughes, owner of
Sun Valley Lighting, a Ketchum-based lighting store that opened a little less
than two years ago.
Receipts for October were 20 percent over
any month in the past three years, said Andy Hawley of Sun Valley-based Hawley
Graphics, adding that it looked as though November would end on an even better
Hawley said the increased work came from
clients in a variety of areas, ranging from political campaigns to publishing to
"I had more work the first three weeks in
November than in 11 of the 12 preceding months," said Jo Murray, principal in Jo
Murray Public Relations. "I think people who put off public relations programs
because of doubts about the economy are finally realizing that they have to do
Murray, who has offices in San Francisco
and Ketchum, has gained work from clients both in the Wood River Valley and in
the San Francisco Bay Area. "When I opened the Ketchum office a year ago, I
thought I would be happy if 25 percent of my business were local simply because
this is a smaller market. This fall close to half of my work has been local."
Rental business to expand
Tony Lutz, president of Lutz Rentals in
Ketchum, said his company—which rents everything from forklifts and construction
equipment to household items—tends to follow national economic patterns closely.
A recent upturn in national economic-growth figures has indeed led to a surge in
activity in his business, he said.
"October and November were back to where
they should be, and December also is looking very good," Lutz said. "We’re
optimistic about the future."
Lutz noted that he plans to open a new
store in Bellevue in the near future.
Tony Lutz, president of Lutz
Rentals in Ketchum, rents a carpet shampooer to Michael Parente. Express
photo by Willy Cook
Suzanne Hazlett, financial adviser with
BOULDER Financial Alliance, said many small-business owners are gaining
confidence. "There has been a noticeable momentum building since the end of
summer," she said. "For some time, many people did not want to face opening
their statements. Now those who were immobilized seem to be looking for
professional advice and are more prepared to regroup and proceed."
Hazlett said she is seeing increased
business from both individuals and small businesses. "Many small business owners
are considering offering or enhancing employee benefits such as retirement
plans, which leads me to believe that employers are increasingly optimistic
about the economy."
Attorneys in demand
The Ketchum office of the law firm Hawley
Troxell Ennis & Hawley has gained clients in a wide range of areas for the past
two to three months, according to attorney Janice E. Lawson.
"We’re getting calls from people
interested in estate planning, from people opening businesses and from existing
business clients who are expanding," she said. "For example, we have clients
ranging from a fruit producer to a coffee house that are opening additional
People who can work wherever they choose,
thanks to today’s technology, are opening many of the new businesses, Lawson
explained. "Most of them are making a lifestyle choice to come here," she said.
"Interestingly, many of our new business clients are women-owned businesses."
Karl Bischoff, vice president of Phinney/Bischoff
Design House, with offices in Ketchum, Boise and Seattle, said "revenue has been
up more than 10 percent for the past two months and 40 percent since the first
of the year."
Chamber also optimistic
The apparent business upturn does not seem
limited to the non-tourist sector alone.
Carol Waller, executive director of the
Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber & Visitors Bureau, said she has heard a mix of
comments from Ketchum business owners. She said some business owners are
reporting limited growth, while others are simply awaiting the prime retail
sales months of winter.
"I guess what I’m hearing is people
feeling very positive about advance sales (in lodging and travel) for the
winter," she said.
Indeed, Sun Valley Resort, the region’s
premier tourist attraction, has reported that advance bookings at its lodging
facilities are strong for January and February.
Waller noted that forthcoming reports on
local option tax receipts for October and November will provide a solid
indication of whether certain types of business were enhanced this fall.
Ski retailer eyes winter
Rob Santa, owner of Sturtevants sporting
goods store in Ketchum, said Monday that he is confident the winter sales season
will be a success. He noted that he believes the implementation of new direct,
daily air service between Hailey and Oakland will help boost visitor numbers.
"We believe it is going to be a strong
winter season," he said. "We’ve already seen lots of enthusiasm toward skiing in
State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said
she believes the upturn for many businesses in some ways reflects the national
"It stands to reason that as the economy
starts to pick up nationally, business here is improving," Jaquet said. "The
tourism industry typically lags behind other sectors, so it makes sense that
things are getting better for firms that have clients in other parts of the
country or that are not heavily dependent on tourism."
Jaquet added: "Let’s hope it’s an
indication that the tourism industry will soon follow."