Manitou downtown at full retail capacity

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Colorado Springs, eat your heart out.

Little Manitou Springs, the small town to the west of the big city, has NO retail or restaurant vacancies in its downtown. Colorado Springs, on the other hand, has a wealth of dark windows even on premier Tejon Street.

So what makes Manitou different? Some would blame its location, right smack in the middle of the tourist attractions like Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds. But Manitou has always been there, and it's not always been so lucky.

Others might point to the trend of "stay-cations" as benefiting Manitou. But it would seem like Colorado Springs might equally benefit from that trend.

Here's one thing that does set the two cities apart: Manitou has invested in itself. Manitou taxpayers agreed to pay for improvements to downtown. Those upgrades led private investors — such as Chuck Murphy, who revamped the old Spa Building in the center of town — to want to join the fun. And then the businesses, seeing the opportunity, showed up.

Is there a lesson here?

Manitou Springs Downtown Enjoys Full Merchant Occupancy

The 2011 Summer season kicks off in high style with new and expanded shops and restaurants for locals and tourists.

Manitou Springs, CO, June 8, 2011-Though Manitou Springs has always been a popular seasonal destination, locals and visitors alike can now look forward to a summer filled with more—-more shops, dining options, entertainment and natural beauty. The downtown district of Manitou is at full retail occupancy, with new stores and restaurants opening their doors for business. “The time, money and effort we’ve all put into Manitou’s infrastructure and downtown revitalization is really bearing fruit,” said Clint Hensley, President of the Business Improvement District and owner of The Poppyseed and The Trippin’ Troll. “It’s vibrant, diverse and an exciting place in which to live, shop and play!”

Recently, the newly-consolidated Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Bureau and Office of Economic Development adopted the name “iManitou” in which to operate. “We thought that with all the progress Manitou Springs is making in promoting tourism and the business climate in town, that we needed a name that captured that spirit,” said Dave Symonds, President of iManitou. “It is our hope that iManitou will be able to build on the success the Business Improvement District has had in keeping vacancies nearly non-existent.” Among the newest endeavors are GreenSoul, Wish, Naturally’s Market and Café and the Quacker Gift Shop.

GreenSoul is a locally-owned retail shop that specializes in environmentally-friendly, local and socially responsible products. “We love the rich diversity of residents, businesses and activities that Manitou Springs offers and are very happy to be a part of this community,” said Kristen Lee, owner of GreenSoul. Angela Guido, owner of Wish, chose Manitou Springs as the location for her new business because it was the “perfect place, not only for me, but for Manitou. I think Manitou needed Wish as well. I really studied the stores, so I could offer items that weren’t available anywhere else,” she says. “This way, as businesses we can all work together instead of competing against each other.”

Ronda Burke, owner of Naturally’s Market and Café, is an example of the Manitou approach to doing business. “We wanted to create an environment that would allow our customers the opportunity to treat themselves naturally and holistically to the highest quality homemade, organic food in a comfortable, enjoyable atmosphere.” Other well-known Manitou stores have responded to the economy in an innovative fashion. Black Cat Books and safron of Manitou Springs recently merged spaces in the Black Cat store, creating a unique shopping experience where fashion and literature collide, with delightful results. The Stagecoach Inn recently built a deck on their front lawn in order to expand outside dining options for their patrons.

The owners of the Quacker Gift Shop, Jennifer Brown and Steve Kudron, looked all over the state before deciding on Manitou Springs as the ideal location for their second store. “We explored Estes Park, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs and Old Colorado City. What we found in Manitou was a year ‘round economy, reasonable rents and a welcoming atmosphere.” Founded in 2006, the Quacker Gift Shop is America’s pre-eminent store in which to find rubber duckies of all styles and sizes.

Manitou Springs has its roots as a health resort and an artists’ colony and boasts a diverse population; support for the culinary, holistic, visual, literary and performing arts; and a colorful history. Lauded as one of the coolest small towns in the country by Budget Travel magazine, Manitou lives up to its reputation with cool shopping/dining options, inviting art galleries and live entertainment venues.

About the Business Improvement District It is the purpose of the Central Manitou Springs Business Improvement District to be a strong collaboration of business, government and community. Merchants in the district work together to insure a long-term goal of a clean, safe, vibrant visitor destination area reflective of its historic heritage that is attractive and welcoming to both visitors and residents, and contributes to the economic prosperity of Manitou Springs. For more information, call Susan Wolbrueck at 685-2475 or email her at susan@caferace.com. ###

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