The Idyllwild Bunkhouse debuts its new sign. Formerly Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse, the new business is under new owner Raj Panchal, Raj Hospitality Inc. Panchal, originally from India, is in the process of upgrading and remodeling. The inn is open during the process. Panchal is doing the remodeling in stages.
Photo by Marshall Smith

Winter is a time that tests the staying power of local businesses. Spring, summer and the holidays bring tourists who shop, eat and stay at Idyllwild businesses. Then winter comes to test business models and marketing practices.

Sky Island Natural Foods closed recently, citing business fall-off after the holidays. Now, longtime Idyllwild eatery Arriba Mexican Restaurant and CJ’s Fast Food are closed.

Hub Cyclery, once a familiar bicycle sale and repair shop on North Circle, has changed its business model and location and is now in Mountain Center at 28115 Highway 243. Said owner Brendan Collier on his new “Hublog,” “Yep, the business is evolving and we think you’ll like it. Like any evolution it’s born of necessity . . . where the traditional bike retail model just doesn’t work for us anymore.”

Collier wrote that the new Hub, would be just that — a hub to connect bike, rider, trail and culture. “That’s where we come in,” he said. “It will be a hub of activity — a place to learn new skills and connect with other riders, a base camp and a trailhead.” The Hub also will feature a repair shop and other offerings as it unfolds.

Marc Kassouf, owner of the Quiet Creek Inn, closed on his purchase of the Strawberry Creek Inn in December and is in the process of gradual remodeling, upgrades and improvements. Kassouf said the real property is owned by him but the business operations are managed by a separate subsidiary of his, the Stay Idyllwild Group, which “represents and promotes the Quiet Creek Inn, Strawberry Creek Inn and Pride Travel and Aurelian travel agencies.”

Kassouf did not purchase the Strawberry Creek Inn’s sister property, the Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse. That was bought in January by Rajiv (Raj) Panchal, native of Mumbai, India. “My wife, daughter and I came to the U.S. four years ago, initially to the Central Coast,” Santa Maria, where his wife’s family owns several hotels. Panchal said he, too, is in the process of remodeling. “I’m starting by replacing all the showers, two rooms a week for two to three months. I’m still getting ideas from people in town as to what additional things I should be doing.”

Panchal said he is keeping the basic business model — “keeping the scones” — but has changed the name to the Idyllwild Bunkhouse. Previously in India, Panchal was an animator completing over 200 commercials.

Vacant and for rent, the longstanding Idyllwild eatery, Arriba Mexican Restaurant and CJ’s Fast Food, are permanently closed.
Photo by Marshall Smith