Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Businesses flock to south

New ventures changing face of Bellevue

Express Staff Writer

Dawn Makin, owner of Posh Furniture and Collectibles, opened her business in October. The store's collection of retro furniture complements other business growth in Bellevue. Express photos by Megan Thomas In the next weeks, Danette and Mark Fisher will re-open Mama Inez, formerly located in Ketchum, in Bellevue. Express photo by Willy Cook

The southern migration is under way as evidenced by the number of businesses opening in Bellevue. The southern Wood River Valley welcomes a movement in commerce shared by retail, restaurant, real estate and other ventures.

"I think the whole face of Bellevue is changing," Marguerite Sowersby, an agent of Farmers Insurance Group agency, commented. "The population is moving south. I feel it's a huge opportunity to expand my business."

She plans to move her Ketchum office to Bellevue in March, where she will join a host of business owners seizing commercial opportunity offered by Bellevue. The influx of new businesses includes established operations moving from the north valley, in addition to satellite offices and new businesses that embrace the lucrative opportunity, customer convenience and friendly community feel present in Bellevue.

"We decided to come mostly because we live down here—not because we were tired of the commute—just because we like it down here," said Vicky Walker, co-owner of Oak Street Take Out and Catering. Walker and her husband Ben opened the restaurant that serves sandwiches, soups and salads in April 2004.

Over the last year, the Walkers joined a handful of restaurants and other businesses feeding the needs generated from the growing south valley population.

The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce embraces the growth with its annual meeting slated Monday, Feb. 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the new Mama Inez Restaurant. Those involved with the chamber hope the new business influx will help to jumpstart the organization.

"I think now we are pushing the big annual meeting to get some of the people involved in supporting the chamber as a unifying force that can play a role at city hall and in promoting events," Janet Barton, a chamber volunteer, explained.

The new faces include the host of the event, Mama Inez, which moved from its Ketchum location to the historic building formerly occupied by Glenn's Grocery on Bellevue's Main Street.

"We've got one of the coolest buildings in Bellevue," Mark Fisher, owner of the restaurant, remarked.

The establishment brings Mexican cuisine, a sports bar and quality custom cuts of meat, previously offered by Glenn's Grocery to the restaurant scene.

"There are getting to be some good places to eat in Bellevue," Walker said.

Cost advantages provided an impetus for establishments to open their operations in Bellevue.

"We found the price of rent more reasonable and affordable for what we wanted to do. It makes it less stressful for new business owners," Walker remarked.

Dawn Makin, who opened Posh Furniture and Collectables in October, agreed, "This building was so affordable."

Many share an appreciation for south valley prices.

"I think in a couple of years most of the business will be down south, because property value is going up, it will be difficult to have a business (elsewhere)," Pierre Herrera, co-owner of the Phoenix Bar and Grill, said.

Herrera and his brother Humberto opened the doors to their eating establishments serving worldwide cuisine in February 2004. Other recent additions to the restaurant scene include the Silver Dragon, a Chinese restaurant, on Main Street.

"Once another business opens, it pushes business here," Herrera said.

Business momentum comes from new retailers, such as Isadora, Fridays, Topstitch and Sun Valley Auto Rental. The businesses meet growing retail consumption needs.

"I have good foot traffic," Makin commented. "I didn't know this location had so much traffic."

The consumer traffic for south valley real estate provided the impetus for Windermere Real Estate to open a satellite office on Main Street, which is slated this week. Mortgage Solutions also joins the list of new Main Street businesses. In early spring, First Bank of Idaho plans to join Main Street's lineup with a new Bellevue office.

"Bellevue is just starting to take off, it's snowballing," Makin concluded.

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