June 1, 2004
Beginning of the Road
By Dane Sorensen
Memorial weekend is the kickoff for the Ely tourist season. The resorts re-open their doors. The stores have freshly restocked their shelves. Summer employees are looking forward to their first pay checks. This 2004 year looks like the start of a very good season. Not just because our old friend, the army worm, is now thankfully an endangered species, but because Ely shows new signs of growth.
Like any other town or city, Ely experiences business cycles of prosperity and recession. There are times of stagnation and times of growth. We are no smarter, nor less resourceful in creating wealth or avoiding downturns.
I would have to say my perception is that the 2003 business year was not one of Ely's better years. The lingering affect of the 9/11 recession cast a long shadow into Ely's main street.
What amazes me is the new form growth takes. As a self-employed person who has had a business of one form or another since 1979, I pride myself at being able to spot an opportunity for profit. Profit pays the bills, sends the kids to college, and puts food on the table. I don't claim to have the magic touch of a Bill Gates or Donald Trump, but I manage to slowly get ahead. Despite an eye for spotting a good business opportunity, I am amazed at some of the new directions our Ely economy is taking.
In the last year we have seen some unique business concepts take off. I never would have imagined a Home Theater business in Ely. Yet we have one and it has spruced up a large building on Sheridan.
In the last week another bright spot has opened called the Ely Surf Shop. Being 1500 miles from the nearest ocean one would think a shop entitled with that name would be lucky to see one person enter it on their first day of business. Instead, I saw it was packed the entire day all the way to closing time.
That same week another new business called Ely Hemp Mercantile opened up to promote things made out of hemp, including clothes that look like they could have come from JC Penny's.
Even Chapman Street has a new store coming that will offer us closet epicureans a chance to buy fine cheeses and other goodies without having to fly to London. If the Mayor ever succeeds in clearing out that monumental eyesore which once was a theater, perhaps Chapman will see as many signs of growth as Sheridan has. The sham restoration of that building needs to be exposed. Little has been done in over 5 years under the current owner. It is merely a cheap and sorry living space for the owner. Like the old Tanner hospital building it seems only fools and dreamers are attracted to it, and dreamers don't accomplish much in the real world. I wish our Mayor well in seeking to get that ugly eyesore hauled away.
Another upcoming innovation is CSI's wireless Internet access that is slated for sometime this summer. Ely has been crying for affordable high speed Internet access. I always thought it a shame that the Ely cable system was not upgraded to offer the Internet when the last cable agreement was negotiated. That is how most of the Range is getting high speed access to the Internet. Now our only hope is with CSI in order for us to catch up to the rest of the Range. There are already a number of businesses profiting from the Internet in Ely. They are not as visible as the Ely Surf Shop, but they are bringing dollars to Ely just as successfully as other businesses on our busy main street.
There are still empty buildings on both Sheridan and Chapman. They are waiting for the next entrepreneur who has the vision and foresight to bring something new that will capture both our imaginations and our dollars. Free enterprise is still the fastest way to improve your living standard. You are not going to do it by working for someone else. As a long time swimmer in the free enterprise pool I can say, "Come on in, the water is fine!" There is always room for another good business idea.
These new businesses join the ranks of older Ely businesses that started earlier, but with the same goal in mind. For those with some historic perspective, just imagine how empty both Sheridan and Chapman would be if all the businesses that started in the last twenty years never opened their doors. Ely would be a ghost town. The fact that Ely is not shows the value of individually owned businesses.
If there is one thing that could make next year even better than this year, it would be seeing a few more courageous and imaginative individuals fill out the few remaining spaces in our business district with new and fresh enterprises.