Biz Buzz, June 26, 2011

It’s hard to part with the visibility that came from being on the corner of Main and Fifth streets and having a busy neighbor like Main St. Cafe. But Bob and Alida Helmer are moving Alida’s Fruits a block west to get twice as much floor space at a cheaper lease rate per square foot.

It’s a trade-off Bob, better known as “Farmer Bob,” believes will pay off.

“We were running out of room,” he said of the 500 Main St. site, where his three-year lease is expiring.

The bulk of the move will occur today and Monday, and Alida’s will open Tuesday at 419 Main St.

The Helmers won’t have a corner, but they will have a parking lot in back and store access from the back, and Bob said his new next-door neighbors at Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. and J.B. Hart Music Co. tell him a significant number of their customers take advantage of that.

In addition to stocking more food items, Alida’s will expand its souvenir and gift items, such as T-shirts and sweatshirts.

“We will be able to carry twice as many of those items,” Bob said.

Kellie McKeehan was two days from closing The Coffee Studio for good on June 17, marking the end of the coffee shop she and co-owner Dawn Sagar opened in 2002 at 2913 F Road, No. 103. But a sale that fell through two months earlier was resuscitated that Wednesday, and a day later Jim and Paula Hawkins, owners of Gelato Junction, 449 Main St., agreed to buy the business.

McKeehan said the two parties nearly had a deal this spring, but her landlord wanted a five-year lease, and Jim and Paula Hawkins wanted two years. When that fell through, McKeehan abandoned hope of selling, but a visit from her landlord June 15 started a whirlwind two days that led to Jim and Paula getting a shorter lease and a much cheaper monthly rate than McKeehan was paying. Business sold.

McKeehan said the two-month delay cost her about $25,000, but she and Sagar will exit without owing anyone anything.

“It feels a little raw and tender,” McKeehan said, “but I’m grateful I’m not left with zero.”

Jim and Paula Hawkins, meanwhile, hope to reopen the shop in early July, but a date isn’t set, and Paula said they are contemplating a new name. What she knows for sure is the coffee shop will add gelato to the menu, and it will continue to provide the Colorado Legacy coffee drinks The Coffee Studio offered.

Since opening Gelato Junction on July 1, 2008, Jim and Paula Hawkins have been looking for a second location, initially eyeing Palisade or Fruita.

“Putting our product out in a few areas was our goal,” Paula said.

The recession and the Downtown Uplift project the past two years made things challenging for their downtown business, much less opening a second one, but Paula said The Coffee Studio acquisition is a good opportunity, and the timing is right.

“We survived the first couple winters ... and we’re ready to open that second store,” she said.

Paula said Gelato Junction gets the base for its gelato and ice cream from Graff Dairy, which is around the corner at 581 29 Road, and she worried about The Coffee Studio’s proximity to Graff Dairy affecting that business if she sells gelato and ice cream. So, Paula spoke to Graff Dairy, and she said they were “cool with it.” Moreover, she won’t sell ice cream at the new location, just gelato.

And that’s fine because “gelato is what I want to be known for,” she said.

The Downtown Uplift project shut down stretches of downtown Main Street to traffic for the first half of the past two years, negatively affecting many of the businesses between First and Seventh streets. Completion of the work on the 400 block immediately revitalized Gelato Junction, as Paula Hawkins said, “About May 1, when our block opened, it was like the light went on.”

Two hotels opened in the past 10 days in Grand Junction: Candlewood Suites, 654 Market St., near 24 Road, on June 17; and Springhill Suites, 236 Main St., on June 19.

The 97-room Candlewood Suites features apartment-style living aimed at extended-stay travelers. Each suite has a desk, stove top, dishwasher, microwave and a full-size refrigerator. The hotel features a 24-hour fitness center, a laundry room, and an outdoor gazebo area where guests can congregate and grill.

The 100-room Springhill Suites has living quarters with desks, a couch and beds, plus a ground-floor fitness center, pool, breakfast area and a bar that also is open to the public.


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