The Idyllwild Business Roundtable (IBRT), formed in October 2008, is folding but will continue to promote tourism as a committee under the aegis of the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce. One of IBRT’s most visible achievements, funding two Idyllwild promotional interstate billboards, has also come to an end. IBRT organizers cite a number of reasons including less available money from participating town businesses, Idyllwild Arts’ decision not to continue to participate in the campaign, as well as the loss of discretionary funding from 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone. Another of the projects that IBRT nurtured, the Lemon Lily Festival, will continue with Doug Yagaloff and other key IBRT principals continuing their support.

Key organizer Yagaloff noted a number of reasons for this organization’s demise, including the reinvigoration of the Chamber after a desultory period and voters’ passage in November 2010 of Proposition 26, which raised the bar for voter approval of the formation of Business Improvement Districts (BID), such as one that was being considered for Idyllwild. The IBRT had championed the formation of a BID as a way to professionally promote tourism to Idyllwild, funded by assessments of businesses within the district. “I think people [Idyllwild business owners] saw a glimmer of hope to move us out of the never-ending cycle of needing to have business owner volunteers market this town,” said Yagaloff.

“A BID would have allowed us to market to a larger demographic,” said Bryan Tallent, co-owner of The Spruce Moose and another key IBRT player, referring to capturing some of the foreign tourist market that frequents the desert. “We’ve noticed recently the people spending money in our store are often foreign tourists. Americans, especially day trippers from nearby off-Hill communities, have less disposable income.”

Larry Allen, another key IBRT participant, agreed the BID failure sapped some of the group’s energy. “It took the wind out of everybody’s sails,” he said. “But over the years [that IBRT was strong] I did see incremental improvement — more crowds on weekends and even during the week.”

From IBRT’s beginning, participants chose to operate as an informal and non-dues-paying group. They eschewed organizational structure and stressed a convivial and courteous decision-making process. Each meeting began with an admonition to share ideas in a constructive way with “no negativity.”

“We formed out of a need,” said Yagaloff. “There was a lot of fear in town around the business climate with business owners not knowing how to respond to that fear. We [the initial IBRT organizers] thought business owners might want to dialogue.” And, dialogue is what IBRT focused on — a process of giving business owners a forum in which to talk openly and honestly.

“I do think [in the formative years] we had some of the most honest conversations that business owners here have ever had,” said Tallent. Yagaloff also noted the strong start of the IBRT “There was a lot of power in the beginning,” he remembered. “People had been holding onto ideas.”

But, just as a difficult business climate helped spur formation of the IBRT in 2008, current deteriorating conditions mirror that anxious time. “Now [as in 2008] business owners, having let staff go, are running their shops by themselves,” said Yagaloff. “Now it’s even more challenging. Business owners want to see business get better but have no resources to make it continue.”

Yagaloff worries the winter will test many businesses that are currently just hanging on, and that the current glut of available commercial real estate will grow. As to the success of a tourism committee under the Chamber, Yagaloff said much depends on how supportive the Chamber will be. Yagaloff, Allen and Tallent will all be part of the committee. “I’m going to try to be involved as much as I can,” said Yagaloff.

Mike Lackey, Chamber director, will oversee the incorporation of IBRT into the Chamber. Asked how the Chamber plans to support the IBRT mission, Lackey said, “I’m hoping that we can recruit more volunteers within the Chamber to keep the good work of the IBRT moving forward.”