Businesses change, merge, move
Some businesses in downtown Colorado Springs experienced ups and downs this year. Businesses closed their doors, expanded, at least one signed a one-year lease, and others merged.
“We’re always disappointed to see any business leave downtown,” said Laurel Prud’homme, director of communications for the Downtown Partnership, after Bruegger’s Bagels, 132 N. Tejon St. closed its doors in June.
Early in the year, Koru Street on Tejon signed a one-year lease. Nearby, Peanut Butter & Jellies New York Deli at 106 E. Kowa St. sold to new owners.
ANB Bank broke ground later in the year on its new building on the corner of Cascade Avenue and Cimarron Street.
The Leechpit closed shop at 802 N. Nevada mid-year; in December, owner Adam Leech announced he will reopen at 3020 W. Colorado Ave. The Gazette moved into downtown in late December.
The Antlers Hotel went into foreclosure. No one bought it at auction in early December, so the holder of the note became the owner. It is now for sale.
Coquette’s Bistro will open a second location at 321 N. Tejon St., the former space of the Curry Leaf Restaurant.
Meeker Music needed more room, so it moved from 113 E. Bijou St., to 624 N. Tejon St., and Buttercup’s closed its doors in December.
The Bank at Broadmoor merged with Colorado Community Bank, and in doing so, it was renamed Northstar Bank of Colorado and is building a new headquarters location on South Tejon Street.
Away from downtown, Corney Cravings opened on Powers Boulevard, and Revolution Jewelry Works opened a new shop in northeast Colorado Springs in November.
Some Palmer Lake businesses attributed low sales to the lake having no water. Other business owners said it didn’t make any difference.
Black Forest businesses experienced loss due to the fire in July, and many businesses donated to the victims.
The retail space next to Safeway at the Monument Shopping Center in Monument sold in November for $3.76 million. The 16,399-square-foot shopping center at 556-590 W. Highway 105 has Safeway as an anchor store, which was not part of the sale, said Anne Monaghan of the public relations firm which made the announcement.
Biz Alliance deploys new team to help local business
Within the military-style organizational chart that describes the new Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, a group of volunteer foot-soldiers is deploying to small businesses.
They’re conducting interviews, hosting educational forums and networking.
They were known as ambassadors in the old Chamber of Commerce model. They had launched Chamber University and Chamber Connect and hosted business-after-hours events.
Then last year the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce merged with the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., and small-business owners wondered who would go to battle for them.
The answer, said Amy Scheller — who chairs the executive committee of the Business Alliance Local Business Team — is the Business Alliance.
Scheller once headed the Chamber ambassadors. After the merger, she took her ideas about how to improve the group, and give it some teeth, to the new leader, Business Alliance president and CEO Joe Raso.
Scheller and others had been researching other combined Chamber-EDCs. They knew there was fear among small-business owners about the merger and they wanted to get out in front of it.
“We knew that with the merger … that obviously things were going to have to change radically,” she said.
Edmondson selected as ‘game-changer’ for Downtown Partnership
Susan Edmondson will bring a passion for downtown and a reputation for action to her new role as the CEO and president of the Downtown Partnership.
Edmondson served more than 10 years as the CEO of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, which supports arts and nonprofits in the Pikes Peak Region. She was the foundation’s only employee.
“There is almost nothing that could have lured me away from the foundation — other than this position,” Edmondson said. “I’ve always had a passion for downtown.”
Edmondson was selected from among more than 70 applicants. She started her new job in March.
“We were extremely impressed with our candidate pool,” said Sam Eppley, president of the Downtown Partnership board of directors and owner of Sparrow Hawk Gourmet Cookware. “The bulk of the people were local and the ones that weren’t local had strong local ties.”
Food trucks offer fare downtown
Just a few years ago, Sara Crowell flew C-130 cargo planes for the U.S. Air Force.
Now she’s flying a food truck downtown, serving up organic fare. The Local serves locally grown salads, and sandwiches with antibiotic- and hormone-free beef. They also have options for gluten-free and vegetarian dining.
The Local is one of six to ten food trucks downtown at the corner of Platte and Nevada avenues as part of the city’s Curbside Cuisine operation, which opened in the spring. The area is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., though individual trucks set their own hours.
The food trucks are an initiative of the city of Colorado Springs. The city charges $400 a month rent and requires vendors to operate on the corner, a former gas station, five days a week.
Business has been brisk, said food truck owners and operators.
“We’re doing something much different than before, but I love it,” Crowell said.
Crowell and her business partner Jo Marini met at the Air Force Academy. They graduated together in 2004. Their other business partner is Phil Petty.
For something sweet, walk a few steps to The Heavenly Dessert Truck, with 28 menu items created by pastry chef Stephanie VanWuffen.
Vagrants incite business owners
Downtown’s vagrant presence reached such proportions this year that business owners dug into their own pockets to hire extra security.
Also, an effort by a cadre of women business owners led to police placing more emphasis on the problem downtown.
Downtown business owner and investor Kevin O’Neil said he’d commit $20,000 to hire around-the-clock security to ward off the vagrant population. O’Neil owns the office building at 6 N. Tejon, and there, he said, “we have them sleeping in front of our doors, sleeping in our stairwells. There’s human waste inside our loading bay almost every day.”
Vagrants cost businesses thousands of dollars a month, owners said. The 7-Eleven at 3 N. Tejon St. loses $55,000 a year to shoplifting, said owner Russ Mallery.
“It’s just out of control,” said Kathy Guadagnoli, owner of several businesses and real estate at 20-28 N. Tejon St. “Something needs to be done ASAP. It cannot be shelved.”
Guadagnoli was one of 16 women and business owners who met to devise a solution. They included Suzi Bach, wife of Mayor Steve Bach; Susan Edmondson, Downtown Partnership CEO; Aimee Cox of the city’s economic vitality department; and others.
Guadagnoli, O’Neil and others announced their plans to hire off-duty police officers, security officers and ambassadors to educate people that their donations should go to an agency helping the homeless, rather than to the homeless persons.
“It shouldn’t become a business cost, but we’ve got to do something … if we want it cleaned up and our police force can’t do it,” Mallery said. “The front of my door seems to be a magnet for these homeless.”
The police department later added two officers to the downtown team and another officer to the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). Also, two officers were moved to conduct traffic enforcement related to pedestrian concerns, Miller added.
Linda Weise, director of the Colorado Springs Conservatory, an after-school music and theater program located in southern downtown, says she’s concerned because many students walk from Palmer High School to the Conservatory. Vagrants sometimes approach people up to four to five times in one block, Weise said.
Because of the vagrancy, Weise requires students be walked to their cars at night by an adult.
“We don’t know who’s homeless and who’s out there to cause problems,” Mallery said.
“It’s gotten worse in the past year,” said Darrell VanOrmer, manager at Vintages Wine & Spirits, 9 S. Tejon. Police dismantled the homeless village at Fountain Creek, “so now they come downtown,” he said.
“There’s an issue with homelessness and there’s an issue with vagrancy,” said Cox, senior economic vitality specialist with the city. “They’re distinct issues. My focus is trying to reduce homelessness downtown.”