Businesses shift in downtown Manitou

IMG_5195Walking around downtown Manitou Springs, you wouldn’t necessarily know that disaster struck just six months ago.

The clues are there.

Sandbags poised plump and ready behind the Manitou Spa building. Heavy equipment dredging Fountain Creek behind Cañon Avenue. “For Rent” signs scattered among empty storefronts around town.

Many businesses uprooted as a result of the flooding last year from water cascading down the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar. Some are still cleaning up.

Most of the Manitou Arcade’s 350 games were flooded, and mud is still being cleaned from some of them, said Ron Allen, a manager.

“There was a lot of apprehension when the clouds came over,” Allen said of last summer’s tourist draw.

The business “never really closed down,” he said. One building, the structure that houses the penny games, stayed open through the flooding.

“We got hit three times, and as you can see, we’re past it,” Allen said while young parents showed their children how to play skee-ball. Also, now the business is beginning to see some spring-break revelers.

Allen said he’s not worried about flooding this year because the events of 2013 were so catastrophic.

“Last year was a [once-in-a-]century phenomenon,” Allen said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen again.”

“The business took a pretty good hit,” said Elissa Hokenstad, another manager at the arcade. She estimated business dropped 30 percent as a result of the flooding.

Lane Mitchell Jewelers plans to move from 918 Manitou Ave. across the street to the former Taos Trading Co., 737 Manitou Ave., said Leslie Lewis, of iManitou, formerly the city’s chamber of commerce and economic development entity.

At 918 Manitou Ave., the jewelers were not greatly affected by the flooding (it only took out the back stairs of that structure), but they purchased the building at 737 Manitou Ave., away from the creek, Lewis said.

New Whickerbill, grocery

After having owned and operated The Whickerbill Gifts for 55 years, owner John Eastham sold to Toni Gentry on March 1.

“At 82, he wanted to retire,” Gentry said, while taking inventory and dusting the eccentric items at the 742 Manitou Ave. store.

The flooding last year did not affect the store, and as to future weather-related problems, “floods don’t scare me,” Gentry said. “Mother Nature’s going to do her thing.”

Gentry said she plans to make few changes to the store.

“I plan on carrying a lot of what you see here and maintain the level of quality and the fun stuff,” Gentry said.

Manitou Springs will also sport a new grocery store, the Local First Grocer at 116 Cañon Ave. General Manager Elise Roth said she hopes the store — a cooperative that currently has 60 members — will open by March 22.

“We’re still looking to secure the balance of 100 before we open,” Roth said.

The store will specialize in local foods, but “even if we don’t grow bananas in Colorado, we’ll still have them,” she said.

Local purveyors will provide vegetables, catsup, tilapia and more.

Last year’s flooding “did not touch the inside of the building” upstairs, Roth said, but downstairs did get flooded.

The Piramide clothing store at 106 Cañon Ave. will move across the street to 735 Manitou Ave., said owner Cyndi Fallon.

The store got flooded last year, and “there’s still mud caked in the ceiling” downstairs, said Fallon, who becomes frustrated with people who call and ask if the town is closed.

“Of course, we’re not looking forward to flood season,” Fallon said.

Commercial turnover

Several storefronts donned simple “for rent” signs. Former clothing store Safron’s location at 720 Manitou Ave. is now closed due to flooding and other issues, said owner Safron Neusaenger.

She now is facing legal issues with the landlord, after losing 1,000 square feet of space to the flood. She was evicted and conducts business online. Neusaenger now sells many items at Toscano Interiors in Fountain.

Marika’s Coffee House at 739 Manitou Ave., closed because the building sold, Lewis said. She added that the new owners plan to open a new coffee shop there.

The Dulcimer Shop, which had operated more than four decades, closed its 740 Manitou Ave. location. The floodwater and mud significantly damaged the business’ equipment downstairs in the retail establishment.

Now, a sign in the window announces, “Future home of Pikes Peak Pub.”

One prominent restaurant, Adam’s Mountain Café, will move soon to the former Manitou Pancake and Steak House at 26 Manitou Ave. from its current location inside the Manitou Spa building at 934 Manitou Ave. The restaurant suffered considerable flood damage last summer.

Full jewelry store

Lane Mitchell Jewelers will expand with its move, going from a retail jeweler to a full-service jewelry store, said L’Aura Montgomery Williams, who owns the business with her husband Lane. After the move, jewelers will perform custom design work and repairs on-site, she said.

Flooding impacted the business financially, “although not as bad as some people,” she said. “The smell [dampness] was in there for quite a while afterwards.

“It’s not there now.”

The flooding impacted the business “just those couple weeks during the flooding,” she said. “We had a great year. It’s not like we lost money.”

The Williamses live in Manitou Springs and own rental property there. At the new location, they will be outside the 500-year floodplain and thus won’t need flood insurance, she said.

“We believe in Manitou. This is just a small glitch. People will always come to Manitou. We have faith in Manitou,” she said.

The store’s downtown Colorado Springs location at 102 E. Pikes Peak Ave., will remain open, Williams said.

Tax and parking revenues

Sales tax revenues in Manitou Springs took a hit after the flooding.

Figures provided by city Finance Director Rebecca Davis showed the town collected $2.136 million in 2011, before the Waldo Canyon fire; $2.159 million in 2012, the year of the fire, and $2.116 million in 2013, including August and September when floods struck.

“People were calling and canceling hotel reservations into August,” Davis said. “It started out slow and just never recovered.”

A marketing effort to get people to shop in Manitou during Christmas had success, with sales tax revenues going from $111,310 in November to $165,320 in December. Still, the year ended with lower sales tax receipts than in 2012 and 2011.

In other 2013 financial news, Manitou began collecting parking revenues starting mid-May. The revenues and expenditures are divided among three entities: the Cañon Avenue parking lot, the Barr Trail lot, and two lots owned by the Manitou Springs Metropolitan Special District, Davis said.

The Cañon Avenue lot, parking enforcement and on-street parking totaled $565,606. From that, a fee of $272,971 was paid to Standard Parking.

The Barr Trail lot is accounted for separately. Its revenues totaled $132,225, and Standard Parking’s fee came to $51,226.

The Manitou Springs Metropolitan Special District is a separate entity from the city and has two parking lots in town. They are located next to the Stagecoach Inn and the Ruxton roundabout. Those lots saw $125,853 in revenues, and the Standard Parking fee came in at $32,083.

Net revenues for all three enterprises was $467,404.

One Response to Businesses shift in downtown Manitou

  1. That is a lot of money leaving the Manitou Springs community and going to Standard Parking.Just saying.

    Neal Cully
    March 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm