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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2004


Business good but not great

Local merchants and restaurants give mixed reviews on Fourth of July holiday

Express Staff Writer

Holiday business in the Wood River Valley was brisk, but not exceptional, this Fourth of July weekend.

According to anecdotal information gathered Tuesday, some merchants and restaurateurs fared very well, and others hosted average business. At least one Hailey business broke its own records for the holiday.

In the Wood River Valley, where tourism is an economic cornerstone, the Fourth of July is a primary staple in the tourist season. It is also unofficially considered Hailey’s holiday. Hailey hosts a rodeo, parade and community fireworks display.

"We did phenomenal. It was the busiest Fourth of July we’ve had since we’ve been in business at The Red Elephant, and it was very strong at Zou as well," said Rob Cronin, owner of the two Hailey restaurants.

Cronin said Hailey seemed much busier than during previous Fourth of July holidays.

"There seemed to be a lot of tourists in town," he said. "There were a lot of new faces at The Red Elephant."

Rob Santa, who owns Sturtevants Mountain Sports stores in Warm Springs, Ketchum and Hailey, said business was "a little bit soft." The Hailey store was certainly very busy, reflecting the north-south nature of the weekend holiday.

"It seems like there was decidedly less traffic over the holiday weekend than there was on any given weekday in April or May," Santa said. "We were not unhappy about the weekend, but it seems like a little bit of a fluke that the Fourth of July fell on a Sunday."

Santa said when the holiday falls mid-week, tourists are more apt to stay for an entire week. As it was, most people seemed to stay in the area for an extended weekend.

Santa also posed questions about larger trends that might be at work. As it continues to grow and mature as a full-service town, Hailey might be siphoning business that might have once gone to Ketchum.

Also, as second and third homeowners who aren’t always here increasingly dominate Ketchum and Sun Valley, business is moving south, along with the average Wood River Valley resident.

While visitors might not have been shopping and eating in Ketchum with their usual vigor, they were certainly asking for information.

"Anecdotally, it was busy. Our visitor center was inundated," said Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau Communications Coordinator Amy Olson. "They said it was absolutely busier than usual."

Olson said April, May and June were busier than average in the Ketchum and Sun Valley area.

"We were seeing 82 percent occupancy for the forecast, and it was filling up on the weekends during June, which is odd," Olson said.

Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach called the weekend business "fair."

He said the Utah Bar Association typically brings 400 people over the Fourth of July holiday, but switched dates this year.

"We weren’t at 100 percent," he said. "There were some rooms available. I think that’s mostly because the group moved to July."


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.