Some people can look at a derelict building, or an empty lot, or a dusty storefront and not have their imagination stirred one bit. Others will stop, stare and start wondering: “What could I do with that?”
The Methow Valley has an abundance of creative thinkers in the second category. I offer as evidence, from headlines in the News last week and this week:
• Hank and Judy Konrad saw the decaying eyesore that was the Blue Spruce Motel and imagined something entrepreneurial, innovative and community-minded for the site. They recognize a need in the community for a mixed-use project that might accommodate a variety of small-scale businesses — new ones, relocating ones, expanding ones.
• Little Star Montessori School, Room One and TwispWorks joined forces, and resources, in a unique partnership to provide much-needed day care for the valley’s children. The child care center will be in what’s called the Tree Cooler Building on the TwispWorks campus — basically a cavernous warehouse that was part of the former U.S. Forest Service facilities on what is now the TwispWorks site.
• Joe Marver, who created Twisp River Suites where it’s unlikely many other people would envisioned a hotel, has had his eye on the fire-damaged Twisp River Pub next door to his establishment. Marver purchased the pub building and has plans for a new eatery and gathering spot to fill the gap left when fire closed the pub.
There are other things in the works — some rumored, others in progress — that we’ll learn about in due time. I suspect that for every underused or neglected business or commercial space in the valley, there’s at least one energetic person thinking about a scheme that will bring it to life.
If only ideas and imagination could make things happen. But it requires much more than that — money, perseverance, expertise, time and determination, for instance, and a heavy dose of practicality to leaven the fantasy. Ask anyone who has started or purchased a small business: thinking about it is the easy part. Then, as always, it will be marketplace forces and managerial skills that determine the future of any startup effort.
A positive community atmosphere doesn’t hurt. People in the Methow Valley support each other’s aspirations and ventures, because we understand that we are linked by an interdependent economy that has had to survive some body blows over the decades. It’s also instructive to remember that establishments we now regard as valley institutions started with no guarantees that they would last. Risk and reward is a challenging equation to balance in a small, largely self-contained economy.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the newest emerging ventures turn out, with confidence that in a few years from now we’ll all be saying, “well, of course, what a great idea!”
So remember, that person gazing through a dirty window at a darkened space may be seeing opportunity where the rest of us see a void. Give them a smile and a good thought.
Speaking of how businesses are born and grow: Zumiez is here. How could you miss it? The fleet of white vans scattered around the valley signals the annual arrival of hundreds of the company’s top sales managers, brought here for training by company founder and Methow Valley benefactor Tom Campion. This year they had to take a longer route from Zumiez’ west side headquarters because the North Cascades Highway isn’t open yet, but here they are nonetheless.
Campion is an entrepreneur who started small and dreamed big. Zumiez is now an international retailer with aggressive goals and an inspiring company culture. How much must it mean to a young store manager that the guy who started the whole thing is having a beer with you in the Barn?
I think the U.S. Supreme Court got it horribly wrong when it decided the corporations are “people.” But it is people who make companies what they are, large or small. It’s a shame that too many of the country’s business leaders have lost sight of that.