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The only constant thing in life is change

SUN Columnist

As of May 1, 2014, the Chamber of Commerce will no longer manage the Visitor Center.

Questions abound about the existence of the Chamber, how our visitors will be served and informed, where the Visitor Center will be located. This column will answer some of these questions.

When Bob Hand, former Chamber manager, considered a new location for the Chamber, then located in a little log cabin in Town Park, he envisioned a larger facility in which we could take care of our visitors, thereby benefitting both our businesses and community.

Since those days, many communities now separate the Chamber from the Visitor Center, putting the center under the marketing or tourism jurisdiction of the community. The Pagosa Springs Town Council has made the decision to try this new arrangement in our community as well.

The Chamber of Commerce has always tried to make the Visitor Center an extension of the marketing of Pagosa Springs, since people are looking for things to do. Our diplomats delight in engaging people to experience Pagosa. If just passing through — before you leave — have lunch or a coffee break or stretch your legs by walking around downtown. Who knows when one encounter might transition into someone relocating to our community months or years later? Thousands of phone calls with questions you can’t even imagine are answered every year. The management of these duties will now fall to another entity.

First off, the Chamber of Commerce is not going out of business. We own the building we are currently in. We will not stop promoting our businesses, but will work even harder to promote them, and in some new and creative ways. When the Chamber first became frustrated with the consistent reduction of funding for the Visitor Center portion of the facility, we also began to look at ways to run separately from the Visitor Center because we could no longer continue to pick up some of that financial burden. We have always thought that the two organizations had a great symbiotic relationship that worked to the benefit of our community and our businesses. However, with this new direction, I can assure you we are working on new programs for our business community.

We believe the events we produce are a positive influence, attracting tourism to our community. If we could make them more profitable for the Chamber, that would be an even bigger bonus. However, we produce these events not only to help raise funds for our organization, but to help drive revenue to our businesses. We will be evaluating the events to see if we can continue to run all of them. We certainly see the positive impact of the events, in particular the Car Show, the Arts and Crafts Festival and ColorFest. How do we continue to grow these events to increase profitability for the whole community?

Is the Chamber going to stay where we are? While we own the building, if we don’t need all the space, is this the best location for us? There have been no decisions on the part of the town and the TTC as to where a Visitor Center would be located under the new management. There is a possibility they could rent all or part of the space back from the Chamber, or they could rent a new facility. While the present location is centrally located and inviting as a Visitor Center, there may be other options in town.

Plans continue to have the Visitor Center manned by volunteers and staff. Who better to tell our visitors about our community than our volunteers? We believe that the technology the TTC proposes — and to which money is being shifted — should be used as an enhancement to the center. No one wants our loved and well-trained volunteers to be replaced. There is almost nothing in business more important than the personal touch. We look for technology that enhances our business and helps us grow.

As our community looks for ways to better communicate and reduce duplication of efforts, the Chamber will lead this charge. While we wait to see a business plan emerge for the new Visitor Center facility, the Chamber will move forward with our own plans. Right or wrong, the decision has been made for us not to continue to run the Visitor Center. What we do with the decision is important and how we execute the plans are critical. We are very appreciative of the support of the community and all the positive comments we have received about our having run the Visitor Center. We have worked hard to produce a quality experience and represent our businesses well.

It will be a new era, and changes are inevitable. But one thing is sure: We will continue to support our business community and be even more focused on creating a stronger Pagosa.

ColorFest congratulations

ColorFest weekend was a huge success. We had record numbers at all our events and were pleased to see so many people from out of town. There sure were a lot of “colorful” people running around on Saturday and congratulations to ACVAP for creating another successful event. What a perfect relationship for this colorful weekend.

We want to congratulate the restaurants that participated in the Passport to Pagosa Wine & Food Festival. The voting was so close — and I do mean close! The restaurants that participated put much effort into decorations, carrying out the Calypso ColorFest theme and providing exceptional food. We had a tie for the Best Decorated booth between The Back Room Wine Bar and The View. For the Most Flavorful category, Farrago Market Cafe won with their scrumptious “Tokyo Joe.” Alley House and The View tied for second with lamb pops, and the pork tenderloin respectively. The Most Original award was bestowed to The View for their Tuna Tower. The Back Room was a hair’s breadth behind with their octopus. The Best Sweet was awarded to The View for their 50/50 crème brulée with Alley House a super close second for their baklava. The People’s Choice award went to The View for their various food efforts with the Back Room Wine Bar and Alley House also receiving awards. We also want to thank Pagosa Brewing, JJ’s Chillin and Grillin (and they haven’t even been open for two weeks!), First Crush Olive Oil Tasting Room and Jitterz Ice Cream and Caffeine Lounge for their participation. We know this is a very busy weekend for our restaurants, so we appreciate the efforts taken to make this event successful.

On Saturday, the Bands, Brews Blowout was another great party! Congratulations go to Pagosa Brewing for sweeping both the People’s Choice and the Brewer’s Choice awards. We had 14 breweries from New Mexico and various parts of Colorado. The three bands that played really rocked the tent and a good time was had by all. Due to the moisture in the park, the balloons were not able to glow.

Many thanks also go to our visiting hot air balloon pilots. We had 21 balloons launch from the downtown area on Saturday morning. I’ve seen some stunning photos of the balloons and hope we will see some of these pictures submitted for a future calendar shot. Obviously, Sunday’s launch did not happen due to weather. But the balloonists were thrilled to be in Pagosa. Might there be a possibility of resurrecting the WinterFest Balloon Rally?

This seasonal event does not take place without the participation of many businesses; we could not produce this event on our own. Many thanks to the lodging association for all they contribute. The restaurants are rock stars. Our sponsors for all the various activities and parts of the weekend are invaluable, including The Choke Cherry Tree and Selph’s Propane for the balloon rally and Citizens Bank for the beer at the wine festival. We are very grateful for the support and it was certainly a busy weekend. ColorFest weekend was an apropos celebration as the colors now begin to turn to their fall shades.

Business After Hours 

Don’t forget to sign up for the 2014 Business After Hours receptions on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the Chamber. While some of the rules are changing, for this next signup, interested hosts will need to come to the Chamber to register for a requested month in 2014. The months when we do not host a Business After Hours are January (because of the annual Chamber meeting) and September (because of ColorFest). And, in 2014, May is being reserved by the Chamber and non-profit agencies as a thank you to the businesses and volunteers in the community.

The registration process begins at 8 a.m. After this initial signup, if a month is available, you can reserve it. You can actually reserve a month in 2015. You can also be placed on the waiting list for a particular month in 2014 or for any open month. The important part is to be at the Chamber at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1. We look forward to some positive changes to our already popular Business After Hours receptions and in ways that we can better promote your business.

Membership 

Don’t forget there are events this weekend, including the Fall Rummage Sale, the Archuleta Seniors Oktoberfest and the Devil Mountain Ultra race. There will also be a ribbon cutting at Cobalt Mortgage at 818 Rosita St. Come welcome a new business to our community.

Our new members this week include Marconi’s Italian Restaurant. Located on the west end of town just west of North Pagosa Boulevard, Marconi’s offers delicious Italian food including pizza, pasta and specialty items. They also cater. Mark Barber invites you to come and enjoy their wine list or their “Marcorita.” Marconi’s is an inviting atmosphere where good friends can enjoy good food.

Not quite open yet, but putting on the finishing touches to a pretty extensive renovation project, is the San Juan Trading Post located at 635 San Juan St. This is a traditional-style, family operated trading post. They buy/sell/trade or pawn a variety of items, but specialize in guns, ammo, sporting goods, rugs, jewelry, and used saddles and tack. They also buy gold, silver, coins, bullion and jewelry. They offer immediate cash purchases on items of value including tools, guns, jewelry, ATVs, trailers, RVs and motorcycles as well as immediate cash loans on pawn or most collateral items. For more information, contact Ryan, Tom or Ellen Beavers at 731-PAWN (7296) or stop by the store.

We also welcome back renewing members this week: the Pagosa Area Association of Realtors, Exit Realty Advantage Pagosa; Lindy Moore with Galles Properties; Pam Barsanti with Jim Smith Realty; the Hillside Inn; Main Street Cottage; Happy Trails Lady’s Boutique; The Tile Store; Cornerstone Accounting Services; the Cassio Group; Renner’s Mini-Storage; the Taylor Ranch; DSP Pizzeria; and Mud Shaver Car Wash. St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church and the San Juan Historical Society are the non-profit agencies renewing this week, and we thank Lisa Scott for her associate membership.

Look to attend the Business Expo to be held on Oct. 16 at the Pagosa Center for the Arts. Reservations for the Expo can be made online or vendor space can be reserved at the Chamber. Look for more information about this important upcoming event in upcoming columns.

This story was posted on September 26, 2013.