Our View: Restaurant owner’s decision seen as a negative for community | CraigDailyPress.com

Our View: Restaurant owner’s decision seen as a negative for community

Editorial Board:

Corrie Ponikvar — Community representative

Bonnie Hulstine — Community representative

Renee Campbell — Newspaper representative

Noelle Leavitt Riley — Newspaper representative

Economic disparity is a huge deal in any community, and the recent news that Stacks Smokehouse closed after less than six months of being in business adds to the imbalance of Craig’s economic outlook.

Editorial Board:

Corrie Ponikvar — Community representative

Bonnie Hulstine — Community representative

Renee Campbell — Newspaper representative

Noelle Leavitt Riley — Newspaper representative

Stacks Smokehouse owner left a message for the Craig Daily Press on Tuesday morning informing the newspaper that he had closed his restaurant because his business model would no longer work with the looming Colowyo crisis.

He went on to tell the newspaper he will continue his work as a small business consultant for the Craig Moffat Economic Development Partnership. CMEDP Executive Director Audrey Danner said she’s excited to have Fulton consult small businesses again as did CMEDP Board Chairman Jay Oxley.

“I have nothing but respect for Steve Fulton. I know him quite well through the business center. That guy has a lot of experience in business, and he’s been trained in counseling businesses,” Oxley said.

However, we feel it’s a problem for the CMEDP to retain him — not only because Fulton refused to sustain his own business but also because he’s shown he doesn’t believe in Craig’s economy.

Government officials also raised their eyebrows at the CMEDP’s choice.

“Anybody looking at the situation and didn’t question it is concerning,” said Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe, noting that he needs to talk to the CMEDP and Fulton to understand the whole picture.

Fulton takes exception to the criticism and told the paper, “I’m not teaching about business principles, I’m teaching about how people can open the proper business in this economy.”

When he first closed his restaurant, Fulton said he refused to lose money based on his business model — a model that sells high-end, grass-fed beef and organic vegetables. He claimed that his overhead was higher than restaurants such as Carelli’s and JW Snack’s, and he will not bankrupt himself by trying to stay open, especially not in light of the uncertainty of what might happen with Colowyo come September.

Fulton outlined that he never would have opened his business had he known what was coming down the pike with Colowyo.

His sales dipped 40 percent following the June 3 community meeting hosted by Colowyo officials, only to see a 25 percent increase from that low figure.

Yet other restaurants have said business is better than ever.

Fulton said he can’t understand why people would be critical of him closing his restaurant, especially because his model no longer worked. He, Oxley and Danner can’t grasp why it’s a problem to allow Fulton to consult businesses.

When interviewed on Tuesday about his decision to close, he told the Daily Press, “We have four people come in and sit down and they buy steaks and have a glass of wine and their bill is $130. You’d be pretty hard-pressed for four people to go spend a $130 at Carelli’s or at JW Snack’s.”

We wonder if Fulton has ever eaten the “higher end” menu items at either of those restaurants. Carelli’s prides itself on buying top-notch products. The most expensive steak on Carelli’s menu is $18.95. When that was pointed out to Fulton, he said that his most expensive steak was $25. Carelli’s boasts specials each night, with choice meat and seafood, often with a $25 price tag.

Regardless of restaurant pricing, we wonder how well Fulton actually knew his competition.

Yes, we recognize that there’s a higher risk of running a business in an uncertain economy, and when Fulton talked to the Daily Press on Thursday he said, “You don’t even understand business. You don’t even know how to evaluate business risks.”

On one hand, we commend Fulton for not wanting to lose money (he didn’t take out a loan to open Stacks, but instead used his own money), but on the other hand, we think he gave up too soon. Additionally, he gave his employees a few hours notice that they didn’t have a job. His former chef feels upset about the situation.

“As far as the restaurant goes, everybody knew we had the best food,” former Stacks Smokehouse chef Shane Burum said. “I just don’t think Steve knew how much work it was going to be, and he quit way too soon. It was very unprofessional.”

The CMEDP needs be mindful of its reputation. We’re questioning the CMEDP’s wisdom of retaining a guy who decided not to sustain his own business.

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