Just before the holiday break, Downtown Colorado, Inc. began its newest program: Tiny Towns. The Tiny Towns program convenes town leadership from communities with less than 1,000 population to provide resources and empower Colorado's tiniest towns towards success.
There are 210 Tiny Towns in Colorado. While 53% of Colorado’s towns have less than 1,000 people, only 1.4% of Colorado’s residents live in Tiny Towns.
The Tiny Towns in DCI’s first cohort convene monthly to brainstorm, network, and create solutions to the problems Colorado's Tiny Towns are facing alongside DCI's expertise and advising. The group of 9 Tiny Towns founding this new program includes Hinsdale County, Hugo, Kiowa County, New Raymer, Red Cliff, Saguache, San Luis, Victor, and Yampa.
Issues the Tiny Towns are Facing
Tiny Towns face challenges that are often unique and distinct from those of a typical town. In the first meeting, we discussed the challenges that Airbnbs can present in Tiny Towns. As Airbnbs become more prevalent in a community, they may take away business from local hotels and other places to stay. A benefit of Airbnbs, however, is that they bring more visitors to the town, in turn providing more foot traffic and economic stimulation for local businesses and storefronts.
Another issue the Tiny Towns are seeing is the challenge small businesses face when trying to open and maintain a storefront, especially in vacant spaces that already exist within the town. Storefronts can be very expensive to pay for and upkeep, especially if the business wants to move into a vacant space already within the town. If that space is run down, it may be up to the business itself to renovate the space in order to move in. Especially in smaller towns, this price can be highly significant for local businesses.
The legalization of marijuana has also made a major impact on small towns. Those who have legalized recreational dispensaries have seen a significant increase in revenue, up to about $5,000 monthly in taxes. These same towns have seen no additional crime as a result of selling marijuana in the towns. While selling marijuana is a great source of revenue in many small towns, it has been outlawed by local governments in other small towns, making it impossible for these towns to see the same benefits as those who have legalized selling marijuana in their towns.
Attracting the Right Storefront Businesses for Tiny Towns
Most Tiny Towns are learning which storefront businesses are right for a Tiny Town and how to attract these businesses. We heard from many Tiny Towns who highlighted businesses that are thriving in their small communities.
San Luis: R+R Market
R&R Market is the oldest continuously operated business in the State of Colorado, dating from its establishment in 1857 in the town of San Luis. The ground floor is the market and the upstairs includes rental units which were once part of a hotel. R&R Market still operates as a general store with groceries, hardware and other merchandise. It is owned and operated by Felix and Claudia Romero, who are descendants of the original owners and are now in their 70s. The Romero’s have 5 full time employees and support area farmers by selling local produce and meats. The site has received much state and national attention, including a 2017 feature article in the New York Times that highlighted the challenge of family business transitions in a struggling rural economy. In some ways there may be no more historic site in Colorado than the R&R market in San Luis.
Find more information about R&R Market here: http://coloradopreservation.org/2019-list-colorados-most-endangered-places/r-and-r-market/
Victor: Victor Trading Co. & Manufacturing Works
The unique storefront business found in Victor is a historic broom shop! For over 30 years, Victor Trading Co. & Manufacturing Works has dedicated themselves to keeping old-world craftsmanship and techniques alive. Using equipment and skills dating back to the 19th century, they manufacture history. From the finest handmade brooms, tinware and letterpress printing, to candles, handcrafted glass, jewelry and more, the Victor Trading Co. & Manufacturing Works imparts passion and craftsmanship in everything they do. That’s why many period film and television productions have reached out to them to provide accurate and authentic items for their movie sets. Browse around the site or better yet, visit their 1900 storefront in the historic gold mining town of Victor, Colorado and enjoy your trip back in time.
Find more information about Victor Trading Co. & Manufacturing Works here: https://victortradingco.com/
Yampa: Bearpaw Bakery
Bearpaw Bakery is a new bakery in Yampa, CO that's been recently renovated. The menu includes cinnamon rolls, scones, muffins, and features Steamboat Coffee Roasters coffee. The bakery focuses on highlighting the town’s history and becoming an integral community gathering place for the people of Yampa.
Find more information about Bearpaw Bakery here: https://www.facebook.com/BearpawBakeryYampa
Thank you, Tiny Towns!
Our first meeting of the Tiny Towns was a roaring success! We are so excited to have 9 fabulous towns involved in the Tiny Towns effort so far. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the Tiny Towns cohort, please reach out to Morgan Pierce at email@example.com.