Friday, January 13, 2006

South valley businesses form alliance

Organization starts to promote local shopping options

Express Staff Writer

A group of retailers in Hailey and Bellevue have decided to band together under the banner of the South Valley Merchant's Alliance to promote the retail shopping options available in the two communities.

The primary idea behind the organization is to show local residents they don't have to leave the valley to find both competitive prices and good customer service, said Sarah Hedrick, one of two primary organizers of the alliance. Hedrick and her husband, Gary Hunt, are the owners of Iconoclast Books, which has retail stores in Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley.

The alliance's other primary organizer is Kim Garvin, the owner of Vintage Gypsy in Hailey.

"We'd like to dispel the myth that it's cheaper and you're getting a better product by shopping in Twin Falls," she said.

Hedrick said smaller retailers like those found in Hailey and Bellevue provide something significant chain store retailers like Costco and Wal-Mart cannot. "What we can offer is a warm environment with an inviting, knowledgeable staff," Hedrick said.

While larger retailers may sell select book titles at reduced prices, they're typically unable to provide more hard-to-find books, Hedrick said. "Are you going to go to Costco and find a signed Hemingway? No," she said.

Hedrick said local businesses also tend to give back more to the communities they do business in by paying higher wages to locally hired employees and supporting nonprofit organizations. "These are independent businesses that keep our valley vibrant," she said.

Without the support of local shoppers in Hailey and Bellevue, retailers there are in danger of going out of business, Hedrick said. "I don't think people know how in jeopardy we are," she said.

Membership in the South Valley Merchant's Alliance is open to retailers in Hailey and Bellevue and membership dues will not be charged, said Garvin. "You just have to bring good ideas with you," she said.

The alliance will be holding its first meeting at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at the Inn at Ellsworth Estate at 702 South Third Ave. in Hailey. The meeting, which Garvin expects will draw up to 40 local business owners, will be open to any merchant based in the south valley. For more information, call Hedrick at (208) 720-2639.

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