As another year begins, a random and completely unscientific survey of Cedaredge businesses suggests two things: sales for Christmas 2017 kept pace with -- and sometimes exceeded -- the 2016 holiday season and prospects for 2018 look bright.
Stacy's on Main is a coffee shop, gift store and restaurant in downtown Cedaredge. Owner Stacy Malmgren feels that Christmas 2017 was definitely busier than 2016, primarily because the shop expanded its breakfast and lunch menus to include soup and sandwiches. Malmgren has owned the shop since 2016; prior to that it operated for nearly two decades as Munson's Main Street Gallery. The shop's location at 260 West Main has always been a community gathering place and Malmgren has continued the traditions of providing friendly service, showcasing local artists and hosting mini-concerts. She hopes to expand those activities in 2018.
Next door at 250 West Main is Starr's Guitars owned and operated by musician and singer/songwriter David Starr. Starr opened his shop in 2001 which makes him one of downtown Cedaredge's veteran merchants. His Christmas sales this year were about the same as 2016. But contrary to town folklore, which presumes his is primarily an internet business, no more than 25 percent of Starr's business is conducted in the online arena where, he notes, competition for customers is fierce. The majority of Starr's sales take place the old-fashioned way: face to face, with a handshake. The success of his well-stocked shop relies on service, atmosphere and providing his customers with a shopping experience that includes the intangible "vibe" which musicians covet. His plans for 2018 call for a multi-year transition from dealing in both electric and acoustic instruments to a greater emphasis on acoustic guitars.
Across the street at 215 West Main Street is 4B's Brewery, a family-owned brew pub that will celebrate its third anniversary in May 2018. Owner Barbara Breitnauer explains that the "B" represents her last name and the "4" refers to her four-person family: herself, her husband, and their two children. Breitnauer and brewery manager Brandy Atencio agree that their in-house 2017 holiday business was similar to last year. However, taking 2017 as a whole, outside sales to restaurants and other venues increased dramatically. As a result of their marketing efforts, 4Bs' beers can now be found on tap in Delta, Montrose and Grand Junction and kegs are increasingly being purchased for weddings and other events. Breitnauer and Atencio have high hopes for continued success in 2018 even though this season's lack of snow may reduce their winter trade from skiers and snowshoe and snowmobile enthusiasts.
Further down Main Street at number 105 is Grand Mesa Impressionz Gallery, an artists' co-op that sells locally-produced arts and crafts. Two dozen area artists show works at the gallery which is staffed by co-op members. Ella Kelly is a board member and exhibitor and she explains that, since the gallery opened its doors in December 2015, sales have increased every Christmas. This promises to be a banner year because, after three years in existence, the gallery is eligible to join with others to try establishing a Colorado Creative District. The state's official creative district designation is a significant milestone for communities seeking recognition as centers of arts and culture -- a recognition that generally results in increased local commerce. Several nearby towns have already established recognized creative districts. Paonia, Hotchkiss, and Crawford banded together to form the North Fork Valley Creative District and Ridgway, Telluride, Carbondale, and Crested Butte have established separate community districts.
One downtown enterprise that could not yet be interviewed for this article is beginning to emerge at the corner of West Main and 2nd Streets. The new Grand Mesa Arts and Events Center (GMAEC) building is undergoing renovation there to create a 175-seat performance venue and backers plan to stage their first event as early as June 2018. Meanwhile GMAEC promotional activities continue with the next fundraising event planned for February. Hopes are high that this newest addition to downtown Cedaredge will have a significant impact on the town's image and economy.
A few blocks from Main Street, at 110 S.E. Frontier Avenue, is Leisure Time Sports. Owner Barb Burnett has operated the eclectic sports shop for 10 years. This year's holiday sales were up from 2016 with business increasing substantially just before Christmas. In addition to sporting goods, Leisure Time also rents and sells contemporary DVD movies. Its recreational inventory includes camping, fishing, and hunting supplies including licenses; cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals; plus firearms and reloading supplies. Burnett anticipates success in 2018 although the current lack of snow has already led to a reduction in winter sports equipment rentals and the specter of long-term drought could negatively impact seasonal fishing and hunting activities. One treat when visiting Burnett's shop is the chance to view the 19-pound, 15-ounce splake trout mounted there. On May 9, 1976, Cedaredge angler Robin Perkins caught the giant fish through the ice on Grand Mesa's Island Lake and established a Colorado state record that still stands.
Not far from Leisure Time Sports is one of Cedaredge's most enduring businesses, Big John's Lumber. The site at 200 SW 2nd Street has been a lumberyard since 1904. General manager Susan Kunkel has been with Big John's for 39 years and she feels that December 2017 was a strong month. This winter's warm and dry weather has been good for construction in general plus new housing starts are on the rise. Big John's has a loyal contractor base and the store's retail hardware and lumber sales are steadily increasing. Every day Kunkel sees familiar shoppers and also new faces as more people relocate to the area. New people tell her that the first two things they want to see in a new place are the hardware and grocery stores and they are pleased that Cedaredge has both. With building materials in high demand, Kunkel anticipates that 2018 will bring increased prosperity.
Another business that regularly sees new faces is Cedaredge Tire & Auto at 1220 South Grand Mesa Drive. After a slow start, business picked up toward the end of 2017 when sales out-paced the 2016 holiday season. Owner Cassandra Kelton usually sees a hectic rush for tires when the first snows arrive. But this year, as dry weather continues, the shop's volume has remained even and steady without the sudden spike of customers reacting to a big snowstorm. Kelton has owned the business for 21 years. The outlook for 2018 seems positive and Kelton is happy to report that she has been around long enough to witness an important change in consumer habits, namely that residents no longer feel compelled to drive out of town and are choosing instead to shop locally.
Bert Sibley is a real estate agent with RE/MAX Mountain West at 975 South Grand Mesa Drive. While stressing that his observations are generalizations, he feels that both 2016 and 2017 have been good years for real estate. Currently prices are up, sales volume is up, and inventory is down so a correctly priced property tends to sell quickly on the local market. Sibley anticipates that current trends will continue which means good prospects for sellers in 2018. And he has observed that, when buyers shopping at certain price ranges can't find the house they are seeking, they sometimes purchase a lot and build -- a decision that is good for real estate as well as benefiting other sectors of the economy.
At 16199 Happy Hollow Road, on a bluff overlooking the town of Cedaredge, is Stoney Mesa Winery. Since 1990, Bret Neal, owner and wine-maker, has followed in his family's footsteps and has thereby earned the distinction of operating Colorado's first-ever second-generation winery. Comparing Christmas 2016 to the 2017 holiday season, Stoney Mesa has seen a slight increase in sales. And, taking all of 2017 into account, this year's wine club sales have doubled thanks to Neal's ability -- beginning in February -- to ship wine out-of-state. His oldest vineyard, which is visible from his tasting room, has been in service for 28 years. In all, Stoney Mesa operates four vineyards -- two in Delta County and two in Mesa County -- plus two tasting rooms, one at the Happy Hollow site and the other in Grand Junction. All wine is produced at the Happy Hollow site and Neal also processes grapes from other growers. Regarding prospects for 2018, Neal hopes to continue expanding his wine club and supplying wine to additional area restaurants. He's also watching the weather because unseasonable temperatures, unanticipated frost, or a severe lack of moisture can have significant impacts on his future harvests.
The election results are in at the local, state and national level, and as expected, Democrats are doing well in state and national races. Colorado has elected Jared Polis as governor; nationally the Republicans appear to retain control of the Senate while Democrats now control the House of Representative.
With a ballot full of local and state measures, voter turnout in Delta County topped 71%, with 15,889 ballots cast. Statewide, voter turnout was just over 52%.
Of the three Delta County residents seeking state offices, Matt Soper won over Thea Chase in State Representative Dist. 54; Mike Mason lost to Julie McCluskie in State Representative Dist. 61; and Olen Lund lost to Kerry Donovan in State Senate Dist. 5.
Locally, in the City of Delta voters rejected a .5% sales tax increase to fund recreation, as well as recreational marijuana sales. The sale of medical marijuana and cultivation/manufacturing facilities was approved by a slim margin. Delta voters also gave the city the green light to move forward with selling or trading the Cottonwood and Riverbend Park, and to sell the old Municipal Light and Power Building.