Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Downtown Hailey shows signs of life

City looks to state for business recruiting help

Express Staff Writer

Bo Bahr and Amanda Buhler have opened a costume shop in Hailey, just in time for Halloween. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Hailey business community is picking up speed. Despite the recession, several businesses have opened recently, or are planning to open soon in the Wood River Valley's largest city.

An abundance of vacant commercial space and creative thinking among Hailey business leaders and politicians may help turn things around.

A Cut N M'Orr hair salon opened two weeks ago in the former Barber's Edge location at 312 S. Main St. Terri Orr and Pamela Maughan are the proprietors.

"We closed temporarily because the former owner moved unexpectedly to California," Maughn said. "It's wonderful to be back in business. We felt like lost sheep there for a while."

Nearby, at 408 S. Main St., Jeffrey R. Roth Dental Studio opened recently in a remodeled office previously occupied by a mortgage company. Ketchum-based Video West is planning to open a new video-rental store soon at Bullion Square on Main Street.

Bullion Street has seen a surge of commercial activity in recent weeks, most recently with Poindexter's costume shop in the Old Town Mercantile Building.

Poindexter's, based in Twin Falls since 1998, was contacted by the Hailey Chamber of Commerce and talked into coming to town for the month of October, just in time for Halloween.

"Things are going well," said Bo Bahr, an employee at Poindexter's. "People are friendly and the city is great to work with, and people are very excited about Halloween."

Hailey's first "mini-mall," Yellow Brick Road, opened two weeks ago in the Old Town Mercantile Building with several satellite stores from Ketchum businesses joining Hailey-based Vintage Gypsy.

Yellow Brick Road is comprised of Vintage Gypsy, the Board Bin, Tater Tots, Ketchum Bed and Bath, Iconoclast Books and Sun Valley Shoes.

"We're all sharing the rent," said Iconoclast Books owner Sarah Hedrick, who helped form the South Valley Merchants Alliance several years ago.

The alliance has relied on a synergy of ideas among its members to keep people shopping locally, rather than driving to box stores in Twin Falls for deals.

Also on Bullion Street are the newly opened Chic Nail Boutique and the newly remolded Aqua Pro Spas showroom.

"Commercial real estate is still struggling in Hailey," said real estate agent and restaurateur Rob Cronin. "Much of what is happening is that businesses are coming in to replace others that could not make it, but the fact that we are holding our own is encouraging."

Cronin said the most promising development he has seen in the face of the recession is that politicians and business leaders are working together to tackle problems.

"This has been a big hurdle in the past in the Wood River Valley," he said.

In addition to the recent flurry of small-scale commercial activity in Hailey, officials are also hoping to land bigger fish with help from the state of Idaho.

On Sept. 8, state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, toured Hailey with representatives from the Idaho Department of Commerce, meeting with business leaders from Marketron, Rocky Mountain Hardware and Power Engineers to see what makes Hailey a good place for large companies to do business. The goal of the tour was to see how the state could help Hailey recruit large businesses to the area. Jaquet also went to Ketchum during the tour.

"The state is really interested in the economic development efforts in the Wood River Valley," said Hailey Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Heather LaMonica Deckard, who attended some of the meetings arranged by Jaquet.

Deckard said she is hopeful that companies from around the country that are in contact with the Department of Commerce will one day relocate to the Wood River Valley.

"We are definitely on the state's radar," she said. "They want to recruit businesses to Hailey that will not compete with businesses that are already here."

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