Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Building a bridge to the 20th century

I talk about simplifying my life and cutting back on expenses, telling myself how easy it would be, but when put to the test I am as big a wimp as anyone.

In July, when my Droid phone was on the fritz (which is to say about a month after the warranty expired), I discovered I had the opportunity to exchange it at the store. I had a choice: a new Samsung smart phone with all the latest apps or a $39 flip phone that would allow me to call and text. In addition to costing less, the flip phone would have saved me $30 a month and marked me as an old school iconoclast. I chose the Samsung, loathing myself as I signed the contract yet feeling helpless to do anything about it.

If I can't do something as simple as trade down on a cell phone, do I have the guts to get my house in order? And if I don't, what does that say about my generation and the future of this country?

I think back to the lifestyle my parents had when I was growing up in the 1960s. We lived in the suburbs, in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom. We had one car. We had one TV, a black-and-white GE set that was in my bedroom the day John Kennedy was killed (I was home sick from school).

My dad, a teacher, carpooled to work three days a week. On the days he drove, my mom stayed home. My mom packed his lunch, as well as my sister's and my own. If my folks had a charge card, it was probably for John Wanamaker or Strawbridge & Clothier, and I would guess the credit limit was with $100. I have no doubt it was paid off in full anytime there might have been a balance at the end of the month.

Although we got the paper, we didn't get Time, Life, Look or Newsweek. I read those at the neighbor's house down the street or at my grandparents'.

We hold those times times up as idyllic, but I wonder how many of us would choose to live that way today? I have considered the notion of dialing my lifestyle and expectations back to 1968 and keeping a diary. It might be an interesting blog, but I'd have to type my posts on my old manual Olympia typewriter and mail them to the 21st century.

Given my smart phone experience, I doubt I have the nerve.

Dave Menser, a teacher who carpooled and brown-bagged his lunch every workday for more than 30 years.

Brothers join I.F. Wells Fargo Private Client office

David and Dale Green have joined the Idaho Falls office of Wells Fargo Private Client Services. The brothers come from Key Investment Services, and have a combined experience of 30-plus years as financial advisers.

They have brought with them their registered sales associate, Lorraine Day, and their financial adviser partner, Melissa Browning.

They can be reached at (208) 533-6112.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What is to become of the small ski hills?

What is to become of "mom-and-pop" ski hills like Kelly Canyon? Everybody is scratching their heads over the owners' decision this year to close the hill on Sunday. I haven't talked to them, but I thought about this while reading a story today in the New York Times on Snow King in Jackson, Wyo. (A link is posted below.)

Once again, we seem to be in the position of losing something we love but don't have enough desire to save. I think about where so many people of my generation, including my wife, learned to ski -- Pine Basin -- and the KIFI Ski School, which sent buses there. Started by men who'd learned to ski in World War II, the ski school gave thousands of kids the opportunity to learn a lifetime sport at very little cost.


Nine or 10 years ago, I'd been to Kelly Canyon with my son, Bill, on a Sunday afternoon after church. I'd noticed on the map that the vertical relief at Kelly was 975 feet. No great shakes compared to Jackson Hole, Sun Valley or even Grand Targhee, right?

Everything is relative. I grew up in Delaware, the second flattest state in the nation (Florida is first), and remember going to the Poconos to ski. Of all the resorts in eastern Pennsylvania, there was one revered above all others: Camelback.

Out of curiosity, the day after our Kelly trip I called Camelback  to ask how tall their mountain is. The answer was 800 feet. Yes, the hill that students from Brandywine High School would ride four-and-a-half hours on a bus to ski is smaller than one a half-hour from my home in Idaho Falls.

The economics of ski resorts today are more about real estate than they are about recreation, which for all its glamor is essentially an expensive add-on. I was interested to see the Times article put Grand Targhee in the same class as Jackson Hole, because I think it occupies a no-man's land between hills like Kelly and the bigger resorts.

It's easy to say we need to put our money where our mouth is if we want to save one of the things that has made living in the West such a great thing. But the day could be coming, and soon.

Jackson, Wyo., with Snow King in the background (Photo
David Swift for The New York Times)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

INL Space Center chief travels to NYC

The Idaho National Laboratory's Dr. Steven D. Howe went to New York City in late October as one of five finalists for the World Technology Awards in the Space category.

The award went to Gwynne Shotwell, president of a company called Space X, but Howe, director of the Center for Space Nuclear Research, wasn't going with inflated expectations. He told KPVI-TV earlier in October that he was honored to be going at all. "(The) co-finalists are pretty big names and have major accomplishments. So I think I'm the runt of the litter on this group," he said.

Howe has been director of the center since 2005. Before that, he part of the Thermonuclear Applications group of the Applied Physics Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His research interests include antiproton physics and applications, nuclear rocket propulsion, hyper-velocity aerodynamics and thermodynamics, and non-equilibrium X-ray emission. He also writes fiction. His novella "Wrench and Claw" appeared in Analog Magazine and his novel "Honor Bound Honor Born" is about the possible development of the first commercial base on the Moon.

Howe has appeared on numerous television programs about space and rocketry. He holds five patents involving the storage and application of anti-protons, and he is the co-founder of Hbar Technologies.

If you would like to view his presentation at the World Technology Awards, this is the link:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pocatello the dirtiest?

I heard on the Today Show this morning that Pocatello had been rated "the dirtiest city in America." Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda were yukking it up, reporting the name as "Pocatello, Indiana" (which ought to tell you a lot).

Though I've lived in Idaho Falls for nearly 30 years, I'm partial enough to Pocatello to have taken umbrage at this. Turns out the rating comes for a site called www.alice.com, and the numbers were based on the amount of money spent on cleaning products such as Tide, Lysol, Cascade, etc.

Knoxville, Tenn., came in first with a grand total of $66.95. Pocatello came in last with a measly $9.88.

It doesn't take an M.B.A. to spot the hole in this. The only numbers registering in such a survey are the brand name products being scanned at the supermarket, with the information going straight to the national database that keeps track of every Slim Jim and roll of toilet paper you buy.

But Pocatello, dirty? This is the home of Don Aslett, who has made a fortune selling cleaning products and telling people how to keep their homes clean. I tried to reach Aslett on Thursday but couldn't (no surprise), but I managed to speak to Jared Sampson, a customer service rep at Don Aslett's Cleaning Center.

"That's absolutely ridiculous," he said. Upon reflection, we both decided the number might have been skewed for any number of reasons.  "Everyone I know around here does not buy name brand cleaning products," he said.

Pure Wood moving to 17th Street

If you're looking for unfinished furniture, Pure Wood is a store in Idaho Falls you want to visit, but if you're looking for Pure Wood the business has moved.

After 11 years on Skyline Drive, owners Gary and Barbara Gautier have moved back to 17th Street, where they started in the late '90s. They are hopeful that the new location in the Teton Plaza, 2135 E. 17th St., will serve them and their customers better.

The Gautiers stock solidly made furniture made of alder, birch, maple, cherry and pine -- chairs, dresserass, desks, bookcases, tables, cabinets and bedroom sets. They also carry a full selection of wood finishes and stains. Most importantly, if you've never done anything like this before, they have the expertise and knowledge to help you get the job done right.

Their Web address is: http://www.purewoodunfinishedfurniture.com/

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Coffee shop opens in Mountain View Hospital

The world of coffee suits Jen Brooks, who is now managing Higher Grounds, the new coffee shop in Mountain View Hospital.

The coffee shop opened to hospital employees Oct. 24 and to the public on Monday. Brooks, who worked at The Villa Coffeehouse in downtown Idaho Falls for three years, heard about the opportunity over the summer and jumped at the chance to be running her own shop.

Higher Grounds serves locally roasted coffee by Steve and Harry’s, muffins from Perkins, and cupcakes from Love at First Bite. They plan to be serving soup and paninis from Bella Vita in Snake River Landing. Customers are welcome to get what they like and enjoy it in the hospital lobby.

Brooks said she is excited by the reception Higher Grounds has gotten. Mochas are selling particularly well.

“We’ve hooked most of the employees, because we’re here and our prices are lower than Starbuck’s and Java,” she said.

Jen Brooks, manager of the Higher Ground coffee shop in Mountain View Hospital

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Developer lines up Domino's, Subway for retail center

Compared to a few years ago, business construction in Ammon has slowed to a crawl, but to hear Dean Mortimer talk one would think the sun is beginning to shine again.

Mortimer’s company, Comfort Construction, is building an 11,000-square-foot retail strip center at 3379 E. 17th Street, next door to Ace Hardware. His other company, Command Properties, has three tenants lined up for it: Domino’s Pizza, Subway and Salon Suites.

“What gave us the confidence to move forward was good solid tenants,” Mortimer said. He added that he’s seen quality retail space filling up in the past 12 months. The project is slated to be finished in May 2012.

Domino’s will own its own part of the building, while Subway will lease. Salon Suites, another one of Mortimer’s companies, leases beauty salon and massage therapy spaces to contractors who want to operate on their own.

Pointing to the Idaho Falls Labor Market Area’s September unemployment rate of 7 percent -- 2 percent below the statewide average -- Mortimer said he is optimistic about the local economy.

“The businesses we have are somewhat recession-proof,” he said. “We have the Idaho National Lab, Melaleuca’s a strong employer and agricultural prices are doing really well. Compared to some other places, we have a diversified economy.”

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."