The volume of cars and tourists has increased since expanding the pilot car weekend hours. 
Photo by Melissa Diaz Hernandez

When Highway 74 reopened after being completely closed, the Idyllwild business community was relieved. However, business was still rough for Idyllwild. At the June 13 community meeting at the Idyllwild School, Caltrans and Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington let the community know that the weekend pilot car hours would be extending. 

Since that decision was made business has improved and some businesses have had record-breaking months. 

“The mountain is already somewhat isolated from the valley and surrounding cities, and the current condition of the roads make it even more,” stated Washington in a phone interview. “That is why we wanted to push for the billboards, social media and advertising campaigns. Idyllwild businesses depend on tourism.”

Julia Ledesma of The HELP Center Thrift Store responded that they had a record-breaking June and that business has increased 25% since the roads opened on the weekends when asked how her business has been impacted. 

“We have seen an increase in business since the pilot car hours have extended on the weekends,” El Buen Cacao owners Jessica Ramirez and Erik Landis commented on the extended road hours. 

“Business has been really good for us,” said Eva Gioeli, co-owner of Idyllwild Gardens. “Although, we have nothing to compare it to because we opened in April. The road situation definitely benefitted us because people are not driving down the hill to Lowes and Home Depot. They are shopping with us.” 

Some local restaurants seem to be benefitting from the extended road hours. Staff at Ferro said that the difference has been noticeable from where they were to where they are now, and that business really picked up Fourth of July weekend. 

Ferro’s sister restaurant, Idyllwild Brewpub is doing extremely well, according to the Ferro staff who commented. 

Tommy’s Kitchen owner Kristen Bachmann has seen a small increase in sales, maybe 5-10%. She commented that the local deals and some of the restaurants being closed during the week have helped her sales. 

The advertising campaign launched by Washington’s office included our very own Mayor Max, who has also been very busy promoting Idyllwild. 

Phyllis Mueller, Mayor Max’s chief of staff, was shocked by how many people attended the Fourth of July parade. Mueller had 2,000 Mayor Max buttons made to hand out at the parade. She was out by the time they were half-way through the route. Mueller estimates that the parade drew 5,000 people to Idyllwild that day, and that the parade had just as many attendees as prior years. 

Mayor Max at the Fourth of July parade where Phyllis Mueller, the mayor’s chief of staff estimated that the turnout was the same as prior years. Photo by Halie Wilson

Washington collaborated with Mayor Max on a media campaign. “We would love you pets to bring your humans up to Idyllwild,” stated Washington in the promotional video. “You’ll have a great time.” 

“Right after the storms, our business had a slump for the first month,” stated Chris Johnston, co-owner of Middle Ridge Winery Tasting Gallery. He thinks that had to do with the fact that the media was basically saying we had fallen off the face of the planet. However, the business rebounded and has been good ever since. 

The storms on February 14, 2019 caused major damage to highways 74 and 243. The work on Highway 74 has made major gains over the last few months, even with the post-February 14 storms. Even though there is not an anticipated date for the reopening of Highway 243, officials are optimistic that Highway 74 will be open with flagging control by Labor Day.