Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Businesses thrive over holiday season

Customers came despite lackluster snowfall


By ERIC AVISSAR
Express Staff Writer

Though the runs on Dollar Mountain were surrounded by sagebrush and grass, visitors enjoyed the conditions created by Sun Valley’s snowmaking and grooming crews. Photo by Willy Cook

    Despite the continuing lack of snowfall in the Wood River Valley, a number of local businesses said they had a more successful holiday season than they did last year.
“We did better than expected, which was awesome,” said Richard Lethbridge, owner of The Cellar Pub. “I think because there wasn’t as much snow, people wanted to spend more money here instead of going down the hill.”
    He added that while he’s waiting to hear back on the financial records for the holiday season, he estimated that business was between 10 to 15 percent better than it was last year.
According to the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance’s occupancy report, for the week of Dec. 26-Jan. 1, hotel and condominium occupancy in Sun Valley and Ketchum was at nearly 80 percent, the same level as last year.
    Whiskey Jacques assistant bartender Jason Spicer said he was pleasantly surprised with how successful the bar and restaurant fared over the holidays.
    “We did really well despite the lack of snow to begin with, but we still had some record days here,” Spicer said. “The holidays were great for us, and it really seemed like it was great for everyone else because the town looked super busy.”
    Spicer added that the Sunday nights during the holidays were particularly successful, and he believes that business was slightly up from last year. Other especially successful nights at Whiskey’s included the New Year’s Eve party and a Led Zeppelin tribute band that performed on Dec. 30.
    Glenn Thomas, bartender at The Ram restaurant in Sun Valley, said bar business there was better than last year, and the restaurant was full on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
    Toy Store Owner Carol Knight said she was very happy with how her business fared after Christmas and thought people enjoyed the weather and skiing despite the lack of snow.
    “I thought our sales were great,” Knight said. “Going forward, I’m definitely worried about how many people will be here in January and February. Sun Valley needs to get the word out that skiing can be great here with man-made snow.”
    PK’s Ski Shop owner Baird Gourlay said he expects his numbers to be similar to last year’s during December, which usually accounts for 40 percent of his winter business.
   “Normally, the big rush for skiers is on the 27th and 28th,” Gourlay said. “We found that we had an enormous amount of people that came sometime between the 21st and 23rd, and then stayed the entire two weeks. Our big checkout day for rentals was on Jan. 3. Our rentals have been great, but ski sales were not as good. Few people were willing to risk buying skis and wrecking them.”
    He added that he is much more worried about the city’s economy and number of visitors that will come in for the remainder of the winter.
    “January will be interesting,” he said. “People don’t come here unless we have snow, so I hope we’ll get pounded with snow soon. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and see what happens.”
    Atkinsons’ Markets grocery store co-owner Whit Atkinson said the store’s holiday rush lasted longer than usual, and he expects to see business slightly up from last year.
    “Our trucks were able to make it here consistently over the holiday season,” Atkinson said. “When our trucks get held up, it can really throw a wrench into our stocking, but fortunately we have not run out of any items.”
    Lefty’s restaurant owner Dave Hausmann said business was very busy throughout the holidays, a sentiment he said heard was shared by others.
    “I definitely think our business over the holiday season was better than last year,” Hausmann said. “When there’s less snow now on the mountain and less good skiing, people tend to go into town faster. It’s bad for the long run, but at least for restaurants it was good and gave people something to do.”
    However, Hausmann insisted that two weeks does not make the season, and is worried about the future because of the lack of snowfall going forward.
    “If we don’t get snow over the next few months, we’re really going to pay the price,” he said. “Everything I’m hearing is that cancellations are coming and the forecast doesn’t look great at this point. It was nice to have a short bump in business, but without the snow, we’re going to be hurting soon.”
Eric Avissar: eavissar@mtexpress.com




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