Easy come, easy go

Turnover of Craig businesses is sign of the times

As one business owner posts a "For Sale" sign in his window, another across the street loads equipment into her new store.

Numerous small businesses are opening and closing their doors, and Chamber of Comm-erce Executive Director Cathy Vanatta said that she's noticed an increase in business activity the past six months.

She attributes that to the increase in relocations to Craig. More people are moving here and setting up shop.

"I think that's what you'll see ... more people coming here and new businesses opening up," she said.

Young people coming in is the biggest transition Vanatta cites. Cody Draper joined his family's insurance company, Troy DeRose opened Identity Graphics, and Jeremy Browning and Cyme Browning operate Chaos Ink.

At other places across town, Chris Miller opened Miller Family Appliances in February, and Standard Plumbing op--en-ed last September. The mother-daughter team of Jamie Patterson and Marcia De-wall has plans to debut Tranquilities Day Spa at the beginning of May.

Mike Durner and Bob Edwards are transforming the old Burger King building into an Applejacks restaurant, and Scott Clark and Lori Tomey opened Windy City Dogs and Beef just down the street in January.

Vanatta has heard talk about a four-plex movie theater being built here, and the new bowling alley, Lightning Strikes, is in the works. She also mentioned a decorative cake shop going in on Yampa Avenue.

"I think it's great we're filling up these places," she said. "People are drawn to old downtown-type places."

Bridgette Harris and her husband, Matt, started Fun & Games on Victory Way on March 12 after 3C's Card Shop in Centennial Mall shut down. They bought much of the store's cases, fixtures and inventory and have added many items to their "off-the-beaten path" selection.

"I saw that customer base and knew that if we could expand on that customer base we'd do really well," Harris said.

And she said reception has been phenomenal. Customers were so thrilled she was opening, they helped with moving into the new location. Business has been great since.

But not all small business owners are that lucky.

Restaurant Bad to the Bone has a real-estate agent's sign in its front yard, and Craig Sports owner Dave Hutton admits his business is up for sale but could not comment on whether he's found a buyer.

See Shells owner Sheli Steele also is searching for a taker after two years. She knew when she started that the road would be a difficult one, but she said profits have been increasing.

"It's just requiring more than I want to give it," she said. "I miss my kids."

Until Steele can sell the location and inventory, it's business as usual.

But for other shops across town, things are changing. Rocky Mountain TLC added Carpet One to its name after remodeling its location and adding a new showroom.

Creative Kitchen Solutions just built its first showroom in Centennial Mall, and it debuted this weekend at the Spring Expo.

"It's nice for people to be able to come and touch and open doors," owner Joanne Birdsall said.

She and her husband, Bob, have been in the cabinet business 20 years, though for just a couple in Craig. They wanted to get their name out and let people know about the business.

"I don't know if it's any harder to have a business in Craig than anywhere else," Birdsall said.

"It's a lot of work to have a business, no matter where you're at."

Vanatta agreed and said businesses coming in seem to be more numerous than those headed out. As evidence, she said she has seen an increase of shoppers from out of town, including Steamboat Springs, and Baggs and Rawlins of Wyoming.

Harris said she is excited to have her business going in Craig and thinks its location is one of its strongest attributes.

"The positive response we got was really great. It made us really confident in the decision we were making," she said. "Now I can't imagine trying to open this any place else."

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craig-daily---press.com.

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