On Tuesday, July 14, local business owners and interested residents met to consider common challenges facing the Idyllwild business community. Most of the approximately 40 attendees agreed the greatest challenge was to increase promotion of Idyllwild off the Hill in order to attract most visitors and more business. Brendan Collier of Hub Cyclery summed it up succinctly. “Our primary function as business owners is to sell Idyllwild,” he stressed. “Secondary is to sell our wares.”
How to “sell Idyllwild” was the subject of the evening’s discussion. Some, including Brad Rechtfertig of the Grand Idyllwild Lodge, advocated resurrecting the defunct Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber of Commerce name is important for fundraising,” he noted.
But there was no unanimity among attendees for that approach. Several cited the lawsuits that sank the last Chamber — lawsuits that were ultimately dismissed but still required serving directors to pay for lawsuit defense. Phyllis Mueller noted people might be reluctant to serve given that history. “People would be gun shy because of what happened last time,” she said. “If you stand up for a position [such as serving on a board of directors], you can be attacked.”
Mueller also noted the difficulty Idyllwild sole proprietors have in serving on a board, for instance, the time away from their own businesses. “You have got to be willing to spend the time,” said Mueller. “Hand-in-hand hard work is what’s needed,” she noted, for any project or business to succeed. “If you have that, you have a good shot at an organization.”
Mueller explained how time-consuming it has been for her to organize the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and how long it has taken to create organizational project management templates for the ceremony. Her implication was that enthusiasm for promoting Idyllwild requires the hard work and time necessary to do that.
Collier stated he did not favor resurrecting the Chamber of Commerce. “It’s expensive [dues],” he said, “and my question is, ‘What will it do for me?’ We need to love each other, talk more together and visit each other’s shops.”
Some, like Michael Wangler, Sky Island Organics proprietor, noted the international reach of his product line and how promoting his products promotes Idyllwild. “We have a unique combination of nature and art, with wilderness for hiking surrounding us,” he said. “And, we’re dog friendly.”
The idea of a business colloquy, sharing together, is what took hold at the meeting as a next step. “My whole idea of getting together for this meeting was to get us talking,” said Paul White, co-proprietor of The Idyllwild Bake Shop and Brew, and organizer of the July 14 meeting.
White said the nascent collective, The Idyllwild Business Owners Network, now has a social media page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/1864510667107755/. White said the tentative date for the next group meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, at Town Hall.
White posted this on Facebook: “This group is for Idyllwild business owners to quickly, and easily get in touch with one another for discussion of ongoing issues, new ideas, or simple communication. Please also remember this is not for complaining and/or fighting. If you have an idea or issue, please be respectful to the other members of the group. This is to move things in a positive direction to benefit our wonderful town and businesses.”