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3/30/2003

Dividing line

By Jenn Ooton
The Daily Times-Call

NIWOT — There is a dividing line — Niwot Road — though business owners in Niwot have tried hard not to have one.

The small, unincorporated town’s two commercial districts — the Cottonwood Square shopping center and historic downtown — are separated by only a few yards. However, business turnover in the two areas is vastly different.

And though Niwot business owners have initiated a marketing campaign to create a single shopping area in town, over the course of the last two years, Cottonwood Square has seen shops vacated and replaced over and over. Along the historic Second Avenue, antique shops, a spa, a piano shop, a bookstore and other retail business have remained steady by contrast.

“We’ve tried so hard to make sure there isn’t a dividing line,” said Wise Buys Antiques owner Tim Wise. “People on both ends have tried hard to make sure there isn’t a separation. The two areas serve different people — it’s more service over there.”

“Whereas in this area, people come down and enjoy the shops. There’s a little bit more in the retail direction,” finished Niwot Antiques employee Sandi Carrick.

Some, like Carrick and Wise, believe the historic downtown’s success comes from its reputation as a destination where people can easily park and shop for specialty items.

Cottonwood, by contrast, has far more restaurants and service areas.

Rosebud Coffee Co. owner Amy Yarrow agrees.

“Those areas have the foot traffic for retail,” Yarrow said. “We don’t have the same type of foot traffic.”

In the last eight years that she and her family have owned the Rosebud Coffee Co., businesses all around have changed.

“Whenever you start a business, there’s a chance you won’t make it,” Yarrow said, “and I think some people get tired of (their businesses).

“The travel agency is gone,” Yarrow said. “The gift store is now investment and a construction business. Where the Mexican place is, there was a bistro. I think Cottonwood is a great place for food, but it’s not such a great place for retail.”

The type of businesses that have been tried in the shopping center may have something to do with their success or failure, but the state of the economy may also contribute, according to Tracy Hilker, co-manager of the Niwot Market, located in the Cottonwood shopping area.

“Downtown is set up for the tourist,” he said. “We’re more for the chiropractor, hair-cutting and restaurants. We’re set up to take care of the town’s needs, but we have gone through some tough times. I

think it’s a lot to do with the economy. Even engineers and guys from IBM have come in and asked for temporary work. People don’t eat out when the times get tough.”

Tough economic times have not discouraged some people from putting new service-oriented businesses in the shopping center, however.

The 20 heads Gina McCune trimmed the first day she was open last week are proof that Niwot needed an old-fashioned barber shop.

McCune believes the friendly attitude of Niwot’s citizenry and the desire of its residents to have cheap, no-frills haircuts will be enough for her to succeed.

“It all came together,” she said. “It just doesn’t all happen so easy if it wasn’t meant to be.

“I think everyone downtown has come in to get a haircut,” she said. “The people here do their shopping locally. People have said they were driving to Boulder, to Longmont, to north Longmont for a haircut.”

Where her red-and-white barber’s sign now flies, there recently was a travel agency.

A few doors down, Ajuua Mexican restaurant replaced Daniel’s Tables.

Three business offices in the complex also have new tenants, according to Cottonwood Square owner David Edwards.

“For a small shopping center, the turnover is probably average,” Edwards said. “Some people are moving because they can get a great deal somewhere else. I can’t say it’s due to the economy. We may have had it anyway.”

According to Edwards, the complex has a higher percentage of occupancy than in 2001.

“We have been able to re-lease the area in a relatively fast amount of time,” said Edwards. “There’s huge discounting in rents in Interlocken and even in Gunbarrel. Niwot is a unique little place, and the supply and demand is pretty good.”

Jenn Ooton can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 216, or by e-mail at jooton@times-call.com.