Don’t tell the town of Palisade that there’s a recession going on. While sales tax fell elsewhere in the county, it rose eight percent in the first quarter of 2009 in Palisade. “A lot of it is the hotel,” admits Tim Sarmo, Palisade town administrator. The hotel is the Wine Country Inn, which opened about a year ago in Palisade and offers guests a boutique hotel experience in a vineyard setting.
“We’ve had to work very hard for our business, it’s certainly not been a slam-dunk,” says owner Jean Talley. Opening a destination hotel while the national economy took a nosedive has brought unique challenges, but the Tallys responded with creative solutions that offer great value for the dollars spent.
“We’ve had regulars who have stayed with us many times, and we’ve not yet been open a yet,” says Tally. “That’s quite an accolade to our staff.”
The hotel also does its civic duty to the town of Palisade, encouraging its guests to tour the wineries and orchards, explore the town and get the most out of their Palisade experience.
“We work pretty hard at sending people out to eat,” says Tally. The hotel works equally hard at sending its guests out to explore the vineyards, orchards and small-town charm of Palisade.
When guests venture downtown in Palisade, they’ll find it a bit more welcoming, with the new town plaza ready to offer wanderers a place to sit down, enjoy the sunshine and admire the views. The town will be encouraging residents and guests to party on the plaza this Thursday evening, June 11, to the sounds of a 50s rock band in celebration of the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Music Festival, which starts on June 12.
Like the Peach Festival and Winefest, the bluegrass festival will be at Riverbend Park, and will be a three-day celebration of American music. Advance tickets to the festival, which will feature bluegrass, blues, Celtic and folk by some of the most exciting musicians around, are still available online at http://www.palisademusic.org, and may also be available at the gate.
“We’re an event-town,” says Melinda Eastham, owner of Mumzel’s Crumpets, Cups and Cones in downtown Palisade, who adds that there’s a welcome spirit of cooperation between the town merchants, the festival coordinators and the surrounding agricultural businesses. “It’s a cooperative thing here, and that’s what we need.”
Bruce Jensen owns both the Packing Shed, which is more of a down home diner serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on W. Eighth Street in Palisade, and the Century House, which is attached to the diner, but is a dinner restaurant serving a traditional steakhouse menu. Like other business owners, he appreciates the support he’s received from the Chamber of Commerce, the town of Palisade and other local businesses.
As Palisade continues to grow as an event and destination town, more businesses have begun to offer agri-tours as a way for to connect with consumers. Not only do the vineyards open their tasting rooms and production areas to visitors, other businesses also welcome visitors to learn about growing peaches, raising alpacas or even brewing beer. American Spirit Shuttle has been offering winery tours in Palisade for 10 years and has recently added agricultural tours on request, as well as the brand new “Brewillery Tour.” “It’s really for people who like shiny tanks and like to learn how things are made,” says Bonnie Richards, the owner of American Spirit Shuttle. The tour starts at the Palisade Brewery, where everyone is fed lunch before learning about making beer. From there, tourists go to the winemaking facility for Debeque Canyon Winery before ending their tour with a tasting at Peach Street Distillers.
At Suncrest Orchard Alpacas, visitors don’t need a designated driver, but they might want to remember to bring their camera for a shot with a cute and cuddly alpaca. Cindy and Mike McDermott have been raising alpacas for three years, and have recently expanded their business with the purchase of a fiber mill to process alpaca fiber and turn it into yarn. They not only process their own, but accept fiber from other alpaca breeders across Colorado and the western states.
Although there are two newer subdivisions west of town in different stages of completion, neither one is a large subdivision with hundreds of homes. Palisade Vineyards will have 19 homes when it is built out, and Wine Valley Estates will have 30 homes upon completion. When shopping for real estate in Palisade or East Orchard Mesa, buyers may have to look and wait for the right property to come on the market, particularly if they’re looking for acreage.
“It’s been incredible, we’re pretty busy,” says Cindy. “The chamber of commerce in Palisade has been amazingly supportive.”
The town of Palisade is pursuing a new Civic Center, with a proposal to transform the old Palisade High School into a multi-purpose campus that would be home to a mini recreational center, city administration, police and fire departments, the library, municipal courts and possible spaces for lease.
The town has already scheduled public meetings to get the input of residents and will have several more before plans are finalized, but the goal of the project is to ensure that their facilities, particularly for the fire and police station, are adequate.
“We’re way undersized. We have some fire equipment parked inside, some outside,” he explains. “We’re looking to expand and provide some reasonable accommodations for our crews. Our fire dept is volunteer and the current accommodation are inadequate.” No one in Palisade seems to be sitting around and waiting for the economy to improve; they’re too busy jumping at opportunities and welcoming visitors.