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Christmas Competition Between Ketchum and Hailey Part of Coffee Talk
Finding ways to turn Ketchum into a Winter Wonderland at Christmas was a key topic of discussion at the inaugural Coffee Talk.
Monday, June 3, 2024


Christmas is seven months away. But Christmas lights and Christmas cheer were the focal point of the inaugural Coffee Talk instigated by the City of Ketchum this past month with help from The Chamber.

Terri Murphy, who owns the Bellissimo gift store on Sun Valley Road, told those attending the morning gathering open to the public at The Argyros that she has been pondering what Ketchum can do better during the Christmas season to make a splash among visitors.

“I’d like to see stores do better decorating, perhaps staying open later,” she said. “People are spending so much money for their family to come here during the Christmas holidays by the time they purchase lift tickets, lodging, restaurant meals… Hailey looks absolutely gorgeous and Ketchum looks so blank. It’s my feeling we should do what we can to thank these visitors to let them know we appreciate them coming to spend a week to 10 days with us. I want to have them think that Ketchum is a winter wonderland.”

Terry Murphy of Bellisimo stressed the need to show appreciation for visitors who spend their Christmas holidays in Sun Valley.

Coffee Talks were instigated by the City of Ketchum to let business owners and community resident speak their mind about any number of subjects. The next one will be 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 4, at Silver Creek Outfitters in Ketchum.

Ketchum Neil Bradshaw told those assembled at the last one that Ketchum would love to see Ketchum businesses up their game when it comes to Christmas. “But we can’t tell businesses what to do.”

Attendees suggested a variety of ways to incentivize decorations, including offering prize money for the best decorations and sponsorships to help businesses decorate. There could even be a competition between Hailey and Ketchum, suggested Murphy.

Late night shopping with nibbles and sips like those offered at Gallery Walks could help, a few people said, and so could a European-style Christmas market in Ketchum Town Square.

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw liked the idea of improving the Christmas scene around Ketchum but said that the City can’t make businesses do it.

“People need and want experiences,” said Bradshaw.

In addition to chatting about Christmas, business owners attending May’s Coffee Chat noted that the economy has been stagnant lately. The town of McCall had its worst winter for business in 17 years, thanks in part to the slow start to winter, noted Mike McKenna, director of The Chamber. But, he added, the valley is seeing new faces from people who have recently moved to Twin Falls and Boise and are discovering Sun Valley.

“And next year the World Cup ski races should bring people to town from all over the world, creating a whole new market,” he added.

Bradshaw noted that the Bluebird Village is slated to open this fall, providing affordable housing for people on the site of the old City Hall. While they may not shop in every store, they will add energy to downtown Ketchum and Sun valley, he said.

McKenna suggested people think how they might pair several interests together to create the appearance of a full weekend in May and June when not a lot is happening to attract people to the Wood River Valley. For instance, he said, Sun Valley could stage a pickleball tournament at the same time as a major bridge tournament, with concerts and other side events rounding out the weekend or week.

Another topic of conversation, given the construction work on Main Street, involved parking.

Ketchum has good data that shows parking isn’t as bad as people think except for a couple blocks around Atkinsons’ Market, said Bradshaw.

“How do we manage that?” he asked. “Maybe limit parking to an hour? Elsewhere, maybe we can put 15-minute parking outside Thunderpaws so people can pick up dog food without having to carry it.”

City Administrator Jade Riley said the city has a draft parking plan in which a focus group prioritized customer parking.

“Everybody has a story why they need to have parking right outside their business,” he said. “Realtors, for instance, insist they need their cars handy for clients. Moving cars every two hours as some workers do to because of parking limits—that’s part of the problem, that’s what’s taking customer parking away. Yes, we could sell $500 parking permits, but that would take away customer parking.”

Bradshaw said he had just come back from a tour of resort towns in North Idaho and Montana and that all were having the same challenges as Ketchum, including and parking.

“It was suggested that parking stress is a good problem to have because it means people want to be here,” he added.

Bradshaw said the impetus for the Coffee Talks came out of community sessions the City has been holding the past several months to get community feedback about the Main Street Project and other things.

At one time, business people and citizenry had Business After Hours get-togethers as ways to learn about new businesses and endeavors. But those opportunities dwindled after the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber was dissolved to make way for Visit Sun Valley, a marketing tool.

“We’d love to see a more active Chamber representing businesses in Ketchum, more ways of bringing businesses and people together where they can network about issues and learn what’s on people’s minds,” he said. “Having feedback from businesses and citizens really helps us formulate our plans.”

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