For the week of December 2 thru December 8, 1998  

Business as usual in Hailey

Fate of actor Bruce Willis’ Main Street operations a mystery

Express Staff Writer

Hailey businesses appear to have been little affected by last spring’s closure of two of the town’s main tourist draws—the Mint restaurant and bar and Shorty’s Diner.

Owned by actor Bruce Willis, both are located in recently renovated brick buildings in the center of town. Along with a renovation of the Willis-owned Liberty Theatre, they brought about somewhat of a revitalization of Hailey’s downtown.

Representatives of Valley Entertainment, the Willis corporation that manages his businesses, have refused to comment on whether the Mint and Shorty’s will reopen.

But several Hailey business owners said in interviews that it probably won’t make much difference to their sales whether Willis reopens the doors there or not.

"We’re not all dying because he left," said Daniel Venzon, the owner of Venzon Jewelry & Arts West.

Chris Roebuck is the owner of Christopher & Co. Fine Jewelry and Gifts, located within the E.G. Willis building on Main Street where Shorty’s was in operation.

"This location helped me with the tourists when those two businesses were open," Roebuck said.

However, he said most of his business comes from local residents, and he is now doing better than ever.

Bryan Gardner, the proprietor of Read All About It Bookstore, agrees that Hailey business depends more on locals than tourists.

"The increase in population is what is sustaining Hailey," Gardner said. "And the price of living and breathing in Ketchum sends a lot of people down here."

Business owners said they were satisfied with the ongoing promotional campaigns of Sun Valley Company, owner of the valley’s ski resort, and local chambers of commerce, though they acknowledged that only a limited impact can be expected.

"Even with all the advertising and money that is spent on bringing people in (to the resort), it is still a bit of an effort to get here," Roebuck said. "But there is a flip side to that as well. Part of the allure of this valley is the seclusion."

Rodger Fleenor, owner of North & Co., said that despite the two high-profile business closures, Hailey is still "a vibrant community."

"We’ve been in the Wood River Valley for 50 or 60 years and there is a cyclical nature (to business) that goes on and will continue to go on," Fleenor concluded.


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