Monday, November 24, 2014

Melaleuca moves to new headquarters; open house still pending

The empty parking lot at Melaleuca's old office building on South Yellowstone Highway.
Melaleuca, Inc., moved its operations last week from South Yellowstone Highway to its new $50 million complex near Interstate 15 Exit 113, but there are a lot of finishing touches to be made.

Company spokesman Anthony Lima said employees are settling in, but many of the common areas still need to be finished. He estimated the work could take another few weeks and that an open house may come after the first of the year.

Melaleuca broke ground nearly two years ago on its 371,000-square-foot corporate headquarters nearly triple in size of the office space it was occupying. The new location puts it closer to the company's research and development building and warehouse.

The stage for expansion was set in July 2012 with the announcement of a $399,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to Bonneville County for sewer line extensions, a lift station and roadway widening. Melaleuca contributed $1 million of its own money to the project, bringing its total infrastructure investment in the area to $2.3 million.

At the time of the groundbreaking, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot said he expected the project to result in new jobs, but declined to estimate how many. Melaleuca passed $1 billion in annual sales in 2011. The company makes and distributes close to 350 health and wellness products through a network of "marketing executives" who earn commissions based on product purchases by customers they refer.

Although the majority of Melaleuca’s business growth has been in the United States and Canada, global sales accounted for 45 percent of the company's 2013 revenues. Melaleuca does business in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Broulim's confirmed as Sandcreek Commons tenant

Broulim's first store, on Rigby's Main Street.
Ball Ventures and Woodbury Corp., the developers of the Sandcreek Commons shopping center in Ammon, confirmed today that regional grocer Broulim’s will be one of the anchor tenants, joining Cabela’s and Hobby Lobby.

The new grocery store will be constructed near Cabela’s off Hitt and Sunnyside Road. It will be roughly 60,000 square feet and the company’s plan is for it to open in spring 2016.

Broulim’s is a family-owned grocery chain founded by Charlie Broulim with the first store opening on Rigby’s Main Street in 1922. The Ammon grocery location will be the tenth store for the chain. Broulim’s has stores around eastern Idaho and western Wyoming, including Rexburg, Driggs, Afton and Montpelier. The Ammon store will add roughly 100 jobs, taking the company workforce to well over 900.

The new location in Ammon isn’t the first time Broulim’s has served the Idaho Falls’ area. “My grandfather Charlie Broulim and his brother actually opened a store in Idaho Falls in 1928. It was the first store in Idaho Falls to include a bakery,” said company president Robert Broulim. “We are excited to be returning to the Idaho Falls area. This is an opportunity we have been looking forward to for many years.”

Eric Isom, Ball Ventures’ chief development officer, called Broulim’s an ideal fit for the new Ammon retail center. “We have enjoyed working with such a respected Idaho company and are pleased to be part of bringing them to Sandcreek Commons.”

Sandcreek Commons is a 40-acre development located in Ammon, currently home to Zions Bank and Wendy’s. D.L. Evans Bank is building a branch, and Mountain America Credit Union filed site plans this week to build a location next to Wendy’s. Overall, the plan is for a mixed-use development with retail, restaurant and other uses. For more information, call (208) 523-3794 or visit
A map of the Sandcreek Commons Shopping Center (click to enlarge)

Idaho Falls company sells mermaid tails worldwide

Fin Fun's seven mermaid princesses (from left): Brynn, Zoey, Destiny, Crystal, Jia, Waverlee and Serena
Landlocked Idaho Falls is the last place you might expect to find mermaids, but a local company has turned one young girl’s fascination into a global enterprise.

Fin Fun, a company with its headquarters on Sunnyside Road, is now shipping mermaid tails and suits to 86 countries. The company has grown to 40 people, and has 100 seamstresses spread out across the upper Snake River Valley, from Blackfoot to Rexburg.

“Our market is little girls all over the world,” said Melinda Turner, the company’s marketing director.

It started in 2009, when Karen Browning of St. Anthony got a puzzling request from her granddaughter Emily, to make her a mermaid tail. "Having sewn for over 50 years, I laughed and said, 'I don't know how to make mermaid tails,'" Browning said. "Well, she soon showed me that by ingenuity and working together, we could do it."

Using spandex swimsuit material and rigid material for the fin, Browning applied her sewing skills to the project. "It proved so popular as she and her sister Sarah swam in them that soon her friends were asking where they could get their very own tail," Browning said. She knew she was onto something. She began selling them on eBay and set up a store on Etsy.

Demand took off, so much so that Browning’s sons, Eric and Steve, came back to eastern Idaho to run the company. Forging a relationship with Elevate Fulfillment, a third-party logistics company on Lindsay Boulevard, the company grew.

From a marketing standpoint, Fin Fun offers a great lesson in what the Internet has made possible. Turner has set up a Web site,, that features not only the company’s products but art, photos, videos and a Meet the Mermaidens blog written by Emma Turner, 16, a student at Hillcrest High School. The Facebook page has more than 27,000 likes.

The company also makes shark fins for boys and just this Monday released a merman tail. Turner said the hottest markets of late are Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and the Philippines, where there are classes that teach girls and boys how to swim with the fins.

With 39 grandchildren, Browning has a special place in her heart for young people. “We have been delighted to be a part of making dreams come true for so many little (and bigger) mermaids,” she said. "Even now, after so much growth, we are proud that all of our suits, costumes and monofins are still made here in the USA.”

In addition to offering the best product they can make at an affordable price, Fin Fun donates a generous amount of its profits to children's causes. In 2013, these included Primary Children’s Hospital, Make-A-Wish Foundation, World Association for Children and Parents, Idaho Falls Humanitarian Center, Unicef, Mentors International, CASA, Amazima Ministries, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Operation Smile and Idaho Art Lab.

“We hope to do even more to bless the lives of children,” Browning said.

Here’s a YouTube video:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

American Nuclear Society honors four from Idaho

David Nigg
Four members of the Idaho Section of the American Nuclear Society are being honored this week by the American Nuclear Society at the organization’s winter meeting. The honors are for professional contributions to the organization and to the nuclear profession.

David Nigg, Idaho Falls, was one of five members selected as an ANS Fellow. “Fellow” is the highest membership level within ANS, reserved for senior members who have compiled a professional record of significant contributions in to the advancement of nuclear science, engineering and technology. Nigg is also an INL Fellow and the principal investigator for the laboratory’s Advanced Radiotherapy program. He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from the University of Kansas, a master’s in nuclear engineering from Texas A&M University and a doctorate in engineering sciences from the University of Kansas.

Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Idaho Falls, received the Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement Award for her exceptional contributions to the U. S. Department of Energy’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program and nuclear hybrid energy programs. Prior to joining Idaho National Laboratory, she served as an assistant professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University. She received a Master of Science and doctorate in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan.

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar, Idaho Falls, received the Landis Public /Communication and Education Award. She is an Associate Professor and the Associate Chair in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Health Physics at Idaho State University. She received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in 2003. Her research interests include the nuclear fuel cycle, systems modeling, spent fuel processing, and waste form development. She is the chair of the ANS Public Communication Committee.

Brad Merrill received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the ANS Fusion Energy Division. He is a distinguished engineer in the Nuclear Science & Engineering Experiment Programs Department at INL. He is the technical lead for computer code development for fusion safety. He also works on licensing, fusion safety code development and modifications for computer codes for the ITER International Project. He has a bachelor of science degree in nuclear engineering from Oregon State University.

The Idaho Section of the American Nuclear Society was honored for providing the Best Public Information among the large ANS local sections within the organization.

Established in 1954, ANS is an international professional organization of engineers and scientists devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Its more than 11,000 members represent government, academia, research laboratories, medical facilities and private industry.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Westbank closure puts holiday party space at a premium

The dividing line between the Hotel on the Falls and the Westbank Convention Center. The latter has been closed since late August, when owner Dane Watkins decided to look for someone to lease or buy the business.
If you're wondering why there are barriers and a fence between the Hotel on the Falls and the locked-up Westbank Restaurant and Lounge, they've been erected for liability reasons, said Dane Watkins, owner of the latter property.

With the holiday reception and party season at hand, the Westbank's closure has put space at a premium, and the Shilo Inn is doing business like never before. Anyone thinking about an event between now and the end of the year has only Monday and Tuesday from which to choose, said Bill Gossett of Keefer's Island Restaurant and Catering.

While the Westbank's closure, which happened in late August, has meant more business for his catering company, Gossett said there was enough business for everybody. "We're sad to see them go, but very happy we can accommodate the community," he said.

Watkins said he is looking for someone interested in leasing or buying the business. Signs in the door to the restaurant say "Closed for remodeling," but they're waiting to hear what any potential operator might say needs to be done, he said, adding that he recognizes the site's great location and historical resonance.

The restaurant and lounge, motel and pool (now frozen solid) date back to the early 1960s, when they were built by Ferris Clark, who started on the land with two log buildings in the 1920s. Clark, the grandson of Idaho Falls' first mayor, built the eight-story tower in the mid-1970s and reportedly had plans for a second where the convention center and motel now stand empty. Due to age and declining health he retired in 1980, and died in 1987 at age 79.

After his departure, the hotel went by different names, including Best Western, Red Lion and finally the Hotel on the Falls. Until 2012, the property was owned by Jim and Sharon Bennett and Robert and Sharon Paulus. That year, the hotel was deeded to trusts set up by the families while Watkins bought the convention center and the land on which it sits.

In 2006, an Indian company called Om Shiv Ganesh LLC took over operation of the hotel and convention center. Doing business as Red Lion Hotel on the Falls, the managing partner, Bhupendra Patel, took out a $4.37 million mortgage in 2006. In summer 2008, terms were amended to reduce the unpaid balance to $2.505 million, then, in April 2011 the company got a loan extension allowing it to make interest-only payments for six months. But with the economy at a low, the company's struggles didn't end. In June this year, Idaho Hotel Holdings, the Los Angeles company that now owns the tower, filed a default judgment against Om Shiv Ganesh for more than $3.4 million, claiming they had stopped making payments after December 2012 and failed to pay property taxes for five years.

Brady Kraupp, who runs the hotel for Westerra Realty & Management, the Salt Lake City company managing the receivership, said he's optimistic about the tower's future. "It's in pretty good shape, really," he said. "It's a concrete building. We're hoping to have a new owner after the first of the year, perhaps have some chain come in and buy it. I could be partial, but we still have the best view and the biggest rooms."

Meanwhile they're getting dozens of phone calls every day from people wondering if they can rent a room for a party. Sales manager Tom Williams tells them to call the Shilo.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Togo's opening first eastern Idaho restaurant in Rexburg

Togo's Eateries is opening its first eastern Idaho restaurant in Rexburg at 485 North 2nd East. To celebrate the occasion, it is giving away 1,000 free hot pastrami and turkey avocado sandwiches and giving guests a chance at winning free sandwiches for a year, free product, a catering party and more.

The grand opening will take place Nov. 2. The Togo's team will also host a training fund-raiser for Madison High School Athletics on Tuesday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. There is a $5 suggested cash donation in exchange for a regular sandwich and drink.

"We've been hooked on Togo's since our first bite," said franchisee Debbie Jenkins, who with her husband, Ty, announced plans last spring to open five Togo’s in Rexburg, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Twin Falls. "We sincerely love the food and know the people of Rexburg will love it too."
In all, the restaurant plans seven weeks of giveaways, including:

The hot pastrami or turkey avacado sandwiches will go to the first 1,000 people to sign up at The coupon will be valid Nov. 21-26.

Week 2, free sandwiches for a year will go to every 100th guest.

Togo's Rexburg will be open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Guests can call 208-372-8040 or visit to place an order. Delivery will be available throughout the local community.

Gator Jack's opening in old Winger's location

James Pace amid the remodeling in the old Winger's restaurant, soon to reopen as Gator Jack's.
You might not have noticed, but the old Winger's building on Hitt Road has changed from blue to green. It will soon be the second location of Gator Jack's, a Rigby restaurant operated for seven years by James and Kimberly Pace.

Pace said he hopes to be open by Dec. 1, but admitted it might be more like the middle of the month. The interior of the 3,300-square-foot restaurant is being remodeled to give it a "swampier" motif. Gator Jack's specializes in Cajun food, fried chicken, gator tail, etc.

Originally from California, Pace's experience includes operating a bed and breakfast in Saco, Maine. He came to eastern Idaho in 2004 to attend BYU-Idaho, after which he started Gator Jack's near the North Rigby exit on U.S. Highway 20.

If you want to know more, the Facebook page is as good a place to look as any: