Saturday, October 29, 2011

In-N-Out Burger -- The Next Olive Garden?

While I appreciate the excitement over the news that Chick-Fil-A and Carl’s Jr. are coming to Idaho Falls, as someone who watched the buildup to Olive Garden I feel compelled to comment that these don’t really compare.

Truly, is there anything that could excite people here to the degree that Olive Garden did in the three to four years before it finally arrived? The announcement was front page news. Once it was over, I felt like I did when the Beatles broke up.

I believe that only one chain restaurant has what it takes to inspire a feeding frenzy of the same magnitude, and that’s In-N-Out Burger. I’ll bet some of you started salivating right now. I rest my case.

Does the Irvine, Calif.-based chain have any plans to put a restaurant here? Who knows? Given my experience with chain restaurants, they never say yes or no until they’re ready to make an announcement. In-N-Out doesn’t franchise. If they do move into Idaho, my guess is they would start in the Boise area, because that’s the way it always seems to work. But I could be wrong.

The company’s practices and recent history suggest that an In-N-Out here is at least possible if not inevitable. They don’t build restaurants more than a day’s drive from one of their distribution centers, and they have one in Draper, Utah. Indeed, after opening in St. George in 2008, eight In-N-Outs subsequently popped up in the Salt Lake Valley.

I know what you’re thinking: “This is just a tease.” You’re right, but we all need some excitement, don't we?

Mmmm ... a mouth-watering Double-Double and fries from In-N-Out Burger.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An interesting link for the media-obsessed

I don't know how many of you listen to Fresh Air, which airs every morning at 10 on KISU, but this was an interesting interview with David Carr, media reporter for the New York Times.


I especially liked how he described the Internet as a "self-cleaning oven" where errors can be revised or clarified much more easily than in errors in print. That's his background as a newspaperman talking, and I know how he feels.

My wife, Karen Juell, one of the best copy editors I've known, coined the slogan, "Error free is up to me." What would the world be like if everyone posting on the Web held that as sacred? Errors are unavoidable (I could tell you about a few doozies of my own), but a casual attitude toward them is something no one with any self-respect should take lightly.

RaboAgriFinance opening office at Snake River Landing

RaboAgriFinance, which provides financial services for agricultural producers and agriculture-related businesses across the United States, has announced it will be opening a new, larger office in Idaho Falls at Snake River Landing sometime between now and the end off the year.

The office will be at 960 Pier View Drive, occupying around 2,600 square feet, with ample parking and accessibility to the public. While waiting for the new office, RaboAgriFinance, a division of Rabobank, is operating at 901 Pier View Drive, Suite 202B.

The company has had an Idaho office in Twin Falls. “We are excited to continue to offer and expand our innovative approach to financial and risk management to this region’s agricultural businesses,” said Nathan Thomsen, the Idaho Falls office's team leader.

Anyone with questions can call Thomsen at 208-733-0044 or look at the company's Web site, http://www.raboag.com/.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A critical milestone? You tell me ...

BizMojo Idaho's pageview count passed the 1,500 mark this morning, which is very good news in my estimation. We started Sept. 5, and even a week ago I was optimistic about hitting 1,000 by Halloween.

One thing mystifies me, however. Looking at the stats from the past 24 hours, I noticed a huge spike at 2 a.m. -- 99 page views. This isn't the first time I've seen a spike at an odd hour, either, so I'd love for someone to explain to me what's happening. Maybe these numbers are skewed or weird, but when it comes to the Internet everybody wants to hear about numbers.

Google Analytics (which I only signed up for last week) show that between Saturday and Tuesday 131 people visited BizMojo Idaho, viewing an average of 1.89 pages and staying for an average of 3:02 minutes. Good or no? You tell me.

Most of our visits are coming from Facebook, where BizMojo Idaho posts show up automatically, but we've managed to forge links with two sites, http://www.city-data.com/forum/idaho/1410667-new-blogs-idaho-falls-development-junkies.html and http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=111280&page=55, and we're getting traffic from them as well.

In a few weeks, BizMojo Idaho will appear in Idaho Falls magazine, complete with a logo and a handsome head shot that I've asked to be Photoshopped to make me look 20 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. I'm still a great believer in the power of print, but I must admit that although I intend to be entertaining and informative my real motive is to bring readers to the blog. There will be a QR tag, and I'm very eager to see how this works. Old fogey that I am, I didn't even know what a QR tag was until a month ago.

I really appreciate the reception this project has gotten so far and look forward to where things go from here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

5 Buck Pizza receives help from E Center

Being on the lookout at all times for new restaurants, chain or homegrown, I had to find out about 5 Buck Pizza when I noticed it at 1585 West Broadway, where The Shoe Box used to be.

I suppose it would be enough to report on a new pizzeria, because I know readers here can’t get enough restaurant news, but there’s much more to the story than that. In addition to Idaho Falls, the Utah-based 5 Buck has locations in Blackfoot, Rexburg and Rigby. For its entry into the region, it received consulting help from the Eastern Idaho Entrepreneurial Center in Rexburg, better known as the E Center.

The E Center, which takes students from BYU-Idaho and sets them up on projects with professional guidance, did a competitive analysis and marketing strategy for company owner Rick Hancock. “We wanted to see what our competition was doing and what we needed to do to improve our customer visits, what products somebody may want to try and how to get our name out there,” Hancock said, in an article in the E Center’s August newsletter.

The team, comprised of a lead intern and several senior-level business students, researched the local competition and compiled best practices for each of the companies, helping 5 Buck recognize its differentiation opportunities and potential market niches. The team identified market opportunities with social media and mobile applications, and performed a price analysis on different strategies.

Being in a hurry, I didn't have a chance to check it out, but I'm sure a diligent BizMojo Idaho reader will after reading this.

Here's a link to 5 Buck Pizza's Web page: http://5buckpizza.com/stores.html

And here's a link to the E Center: http://www.idahoecenter.org/idahoecenter/

Monday, October 24, 2011

Blast Off! for sale; owners plan vacation

On the eve of their 15th year in business, Robert and Deanna Goody are looking for someone to buy Blast Off!, their North Yellowstone fun emporium. It's not a sad story or one involving economic distress.

Said Dena, "When we opened Blast Off! we wanted a business we could operate as a family and as you know our kids pretty much grew up at Blast Off! We are now empty nesters and want to spend some time traveling and having some fun."

The Goodys' children have all moved to Boise, where they are busy with jobs and school. None are interested in moving back to the Idaho Falls area. As for Robert and Dena, they recently celebrated their 25th anniversary and are planning to go to Europe for a week next month ("Our first real vacation in 15 years!")

As a business, Blast Off! is doing very well, she said. "We would like to find a family who has the same passion as we do about having fun. If we sell Blast Off! we will move on to the next chapter. If we don't we will continue to offer AWESOME fun, to the people of this area."

Idaho Falls: Where the rich ride mass transit

I am always interested when Idaho Falls makes some magazine's national listings. Such articles are usually rating the area's quality of life (which, let's admit it, is pretty good for any number of reasons), but this one is way more unique, which is why I'm passing it along.


Ammon Marketplace looking for tenants

If you're wondering what's happening with the dirt being moved at the southeastern corner of Hitt and Sunnyside (where Wendy's already is), it's the site of a development called Ammon Marketplace, a joint venture of Ball Ventures and the Woodbury Corp.

The concept for the development is mixed retail and dining. Total space available is 175,000 square feet, with a minimum of 13,000 square feet. Rental rates are negotiable.

The development is being marketed by Pentad Properties, which has worked locally with such companies as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Wells Fargo, T-Mobile, Family Dollar Stores, Artic Circle Restaurants and Harbor Freight Tools. For a look at their Web site, visit http://www.pentadidaho.com/.

The site of Ammon Marketplace, a development proposed for the southeastern corner of Sunnyside and Hitt Road.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ammon Chick-Fil-A owners plan Dec. 8 opening

Chick-Fil-A of Ammon is looking at a Dec. 8 opening, say the owners Lauren and Nate Mosteller. The restaurant is located in the old Fazoli's, at 3003 S. 25th East.

Applications are being taken now, and the Mostellers plan to employ 65 people, including a cow mascot. You can apply in the trailer behind the construction site -- Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. -- or online at http://www.snagajob.com.

The Mostellers hope to start interviewing people in early November. The couple moved to Idaho Falls from Georgia earlier this year.

The restaurant's Facebook page address is:

Lauren Mosteller, who is opening the Ammon Chick-Fil-A with her husband, Nate, and the company's mascot.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Peaches moves, focuses on grooming business

Peaches Pets has moved from its longtime location on North Yellowstone to 1585 Hollipark Drive, off Lincoln Road.

Owner Chaz Houpt said they have closed the retail end of the business to focus solely on pet grooming. The move took place Aug. 8, and the name of the business has been changed to Peaches Parlor Grooming.

The new location has 1,500 square feet and a drive-thru drop-off bay. They employ three groomers, and have the capacity to handle about 20 pets a day.

Houpt said they've incorporated a lot of things they've wanted all along -- a regulated water system, a livestock dryer and a cool air cabinet dryers. Pets are bathed on an elevated rack, which is much more effective than a tub. The whole purpose is to get rid of dead undercoat and skin, which makes for a happier and better looking pet, not to mention a lot less shedding around the house.

As for the old location, near Fred and Wayne's Tire, Houpt said they decided to put it up for auction after a few unsuccessful tries at selling it. "We had a lot of people who were interested, but no one could come up with the money," he said.

Here is the video that Web Impakt did for Peaches Web site, http://www.peachesparlor.com/

Friday, October 21, 2011

New developments for downtown Idaho Falls

Idahoan Foods' new headquarters, on Constitution Way, should be finished by mid- to late-November.

Compared to a lot of American cities, Idaho Falls downtown district is looking pretty good.

With the recent additions of 3's Co. Catering and Il Castello and the expansion of Pachanga's, there is a growing variety of places to eat and drink. Two corporations -- Syringa Wireless and Idahoan Foods -- have located or are in the process of locating downtown.

"It's one building and one facade at a time" said Bob Everhart, executive director of the Downtown Development Corp.

DDC is the organization charged with finding new tenants for empty buildings, not to mention helping the owners make their buildings presentable. It is supported by tax money from a business improvement district, and any time there's money involved there's a big possibility that someone will feel left out or shortchanged.

But Everhart said he wants to help find grant money for anyone who wants to improve their property, and pointed to the new facade and sign on Karen's Park Avenue Club as an example of what can be done on a small scale to get big results.

The development of Idahoan's world headquarters, on Constitution Way, has gone slower than expected because of the excavation for underground parking, but Everhart said it is due to be finished by Thanksgiving. When it is, there will be 70 to 75 people commuting downtown five days a week.

A few things can be expected in the next six months. State Rep. Janice McGeachin is converting the old Hub Bar, at the corner of Broadway and Park, into an Irish pub, eyeing an opening in spring 2012. Everhart said he is negotiating with a local resident who hopes to open an old-fashioned bookstore in the space on Broadway next to Dave's Bike Shop.

A few big spaces remain to be filled: the ground floor at the southwest corner of Park and B and the old Inkley's building at Park and A, which has been vacant for a few years. Everhart said he would like to see the old Saving Center property put to some sort of use, but recognizes its size presents challenges with the economy the way it is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two Idaho Falls Drive-in Theaters for Sale

Idaho Falls' Skj-Vu Drive-In is closed for the season, and its owners are looking to sell both it and the Motor-Vu.
Idaho Falls’ two drive-in movie theaters, the Sky-Vu and the Motor-Vu, are for sale.

The company offering the properties, Desert Crest Corp., actually has two deals in the works. One is for the 9.1 acres surrounding the Sky-Vu. Being near the Snake River between Pancheri Drive and Sunnyside Road, one can assume that this land is potentially primo real estate.

Desert Crest is also offering for sale the two theaters. So if you’ve ever thought about running an “Ozoner” -- the term Variety came up with to describe the drive-in after the first one opened in 1933 -- here is your chance. The number is 360-5701.

Anyone who has been to a drive-in knows it’s as much about the experience as it is about the movie. I have two distinct memories from my childhood: Watching Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller in some feature whose name escapes me (I know, I know, how could I?) in my pajamas with my best bud at the time, Mike Kelly, and our moms. And seeing “True Grit” (the first one, with John Wayne and Glen Campbell) with my father in 1969.

There were a lot more drive-ins then than there are now. In 1958, the United States had close to 4,000 drive-in movie theaters, said Jennifer Sherer Janisch, who operates the Web site www.drive-ins.com. Today, that number is less than 400.

Two things brought about their demise in the ’70s and ’80s -- rising land values and the advent of VCRs, DVDs and the Internet. That trend slowed down in the ’90s, and although she recognizes drive-ins will never be the mass market phenomenon they were in the Eisenhower era, Sherer said she’s hopeful about the future.

“In the last several years we've seen drive-in expansion, drive-in re-openings, and even brand new drive-ins,” she said. “Aside from the unique atmosphere and the fact that it's so affordable, people want good, clean fun, and drive-ins have it."

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Danger of Overpricing Your Home

This is lifted from my friend Chris Pelkota Lee's blog, http://www.if-realestate.blogspot.com/
Thinking of Selling? It's a tough market out there still for local sellers. Still, homes are still selling, and everything will sell for the right price, right? If you just said "no," consider this extreme example: even that 3,000 square-foot fixer-upper house across the street with a three-car garage will find the right buyer quickly if it's priced at only $20,000.

I'm not saying every home should be priced so drastically. That's silly. But this article from Trulia.com points out a few reasons why as a seller it's so important to get your pricing right from the get-go, particularly in a tough market with more competition and limited buyers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ferrell's downtown I.F. building for sale

After 52 years at its Broadway and Park Avenue location, Ferrell's is looking for a smaller place to do business.

"We've got three floors and we only use one of them," said owner Brant Tueller, who has been with the store since 1963. At present, Ferrell's sells only men's clothes, but there was a time not so long ago they had women's apparel, western clothes and everything you needed to be a Boy Scout or Scout leader.

"We used to be a full department store," said Tueller. "(Now) we just take what Wal-Mart leaves us. You can't compete with a company that makes more money than a lot of third world countries."

Sixty-eight years old and ready to retire, Tueller said he can sell the business easily enough. Ferrell's has loyal customers and stocks quality products. It's the 14,000-square-foot building, which he owns, that could take some time, he said. "Real estate is so soft now. The economy is the biggest problem right now. I've been through a lot of bad economies, and this is really serious."

If they do manage to relocate, he anticipates it will be somewhere other than downtown Idaho Falls, which is better suited to smaller, more specialized retail. Ferrell's started in 1950 in the building that now houses Destinations Inn. In 1959, the business moved in when J.C. Penney moved across Broadway. But both Penney's and the Bon Marche moved out in the '80s, and other department stores like Block's went away then, too.

"It's been a good business," Tueller said. "I've raised six children here."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Men's Wearhouse opens in Ammon

I consider it good news when any empty storefront (who hasn't seen plenty of those in the last two years?) gets a new tenant, so I was encouraged this week to see Men's Wearhouse has moved into the Ammon Town Center where Hollywood Video used to be.

The Texas-based chain has been around since 1973, when it was George Zimmer. It operates under the names Men's Wearhouse, K&G Superstores (an off-price retail chain featuring discontinued items) and Twin Hill Corporate apparel.

The chain runs television and radio commercials featuring Zimmer, and the oft-repeated slogan, "You're going to like the way you look; I guarantee it." According to Business Week, Men's Wearhouse targets the common man, with "the neatly displayed clothes in Zimmer's stores [being] designed to cater to the unpretentious guy who wants to do as little as possible to maintain his wardrobe."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Carl's Jr. opening two I.F. locations

Today's scoop comes in answer to my co-worker Cyndi, who asked yesterday what's going into the old Schlotsky's Deli on 17th Street, in the Grand Teton Mall parking lot.

Two words: Carl's Jr. I have no idea how many people here in Idaho Falls will be transported into the realm of delight at this news, but I'm reasonably sure there are at least a few fans out there. In which case, here's something that ought to make them twice as happy. Carl's Jr. is not only putting in a location on 17th Street, but also at the intersection of North Holmes and Yellowstone Avenue, where the Sinclair station used to be.

A building permit has been issued for the 17th Street restaurant, said Brad Cramer, city of Idaho Falls assistant planning director. Because of the limited size of the North Holmes lot, some variances will have to be obtained before work can begin there, he said.

Kelly Grieve, spokeswoman for CKR Enterprises, said they don't have a date set for the opening, but confirmed that two would be opening in Idaho Falls in 2011 or early 2012.

Carl's Jr. has 11 locations in Idaho, most of them in the Boise area, the nearest one in Twin Falls. Its corporate office is located in Carpenteria, Calif. The chain dates back to 1941, when Carl N. Karcher and his wife, Margaret, borrowed $311 on their Plymouth and added their $15 in savings to buy a hot dog cart. His first day in business, he took in $14.75.

In less than five years, they opened their first Carl's Drive-In Barbecue. Karcher died in 2007, at the age of 90. Today, there are more than 1,200 Carl's Jr. restaurants, most in the West and Southwest.

Monday, October 3, 2011

RE/MAX agents join Keller Williams East Idaho

Here's a new development in the local real estate market. Chris Pelkota Lee and several of her colleagues have left RE/MAX Homestead Realty to join Keller Williams Realty, which was Win Star Realty until September 2010.

Lee reports the merger occurred when the local RE/MAX office owners decided not to renew their franchise, opting instead to join the Keller Williams East Idaho office. They have stayed in the RE/MAX building, at 3525 Merlin, and the Keller Williams agents have moved in from their old offices on nearby Elk Creek Drive. A new Web site has been set up, http://www.kwreastidaho.yourkwoffice.com/

"Most of the RE/MAX folks have stayed through the merger, although a new smaller RE/MAX office has opened with a new owner," Lee said.

Chris is one of the more communicative real estate agents I've met, and does a great job of posting interesting links on her Facebook business page, http://www.facebook.com/?ref=hp#!/IFListings. I'm sure she'd like it if you liked her.

First Monday in October

I'm happy to report that in its first month, BizMojo Idaho received nearly 600 pageviews. At least I think I'm happy to report that. Maybe that's an abysmal number I ought to keep to myself. But having embarked on this with no idea of what to expect, I'll take what I can get.

The big winner for the month -- 73 pageviews -- was the news on Chick-Fil-A, which plans to open Nov. 17. Given my Shoptalk experience during the golden age of "When is Olive Garden coming?" I am not surprised by this. Tied for second place was the post about 3's Co. Catering opening its location on downtown.

The stats indicate our visits are coming almost exclusively from Facebook, which is not surprising. Like everyone, we're still trying to figure out how to make Facebook work more effectively for us. We launched BizMojo Idaho the same month that Facebook did its big makeover, the source of much online caterwauling. I'm not sure what sort of effect this had.

I have my own opinions about the effectiveness of pay-per-click advertising, having spent $25 on Facebook (thankfully, no more) to advertise a gig my band, Happyville, was playing at Vino Rosso and seeing no discernable results. I've got plenty of experience with advertising, and can tell you about the two slam-dunks I've engineered, one of which was online, the other on the radio.

I suppose a link to Twitter is next, although I remain unsold on its uses for anything other than celebrity gossip or Middle Eastern street demonstrations.

The number of followers seems to have hit a plateau, but I've been told that's all right, that pageviews is what I want to watch. We haven't received any comments other than two welcome back messages and a couple of likes on Facebook (heartwarming, especially the one from my sister, Marty, in Virginia).

All told, I'm hoping to build on what's been done. I will soon be writing up the new restaurant downtown, Il Castello, where I had lunch Friday (it was good). There will be much, much more to follow.