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Chamber points to optimism among Bishop biz community

March 6, 2012

Residents and visitors have been lined up out the door to try out the offerings at Holy Smoke Texas Style BBQ since it opened March 1. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

As part of its mission to support and boost tourism and retail efforts, the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau has announced ongoing, multifaceted plans which include revitalizing Bishop’s economy, attracting new businesses, being a presence at major seasonal trade shows, upgrading the Bishop Visitors Bureau and even sprucing up vacant storefront windows.
In addition, four new businesses have opened in Bishop this month alone and mainstays such as Bar-B-Que Bill’s, Taco Bell, Paiute Palace Casino and many hotels and motels are investing in facility upgrades and repairs.
“I believe that this is a positive sign that business owners think the economy is going to get better,” said Tawni Thomson, chamber executive director.
At the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, Thomson reported that things are “definitely going well” as evidenced by a 12 percent increase in Chamber membership, participation by 40 businesses in the 2011 Street of Lights, and an increased attendance at Chamber of Commerce mixers, the last of which was held March 3 at the newly relocated Astorga’s Mexican Restaurant, 2206 N. Sierra Hwy.
Dave and Karen Smith, Culvers Plus store owners, have made their vacant storefront window at 156 S. Main St. available for a display representing the area’s abundant recreational offerings. Rachel Anderson, Chamber of Commerce employee, is orchestrating the work-in-progress and has already incorporated a large Trail of the Trout art exhibit piece into the display.
A Laws Railroad Museum display has revitalized the storefront at 269 N. Main St., just north of the movie theater.
The Chamber is working to attract new businesses by offering a newly revamped information packet including pertinent applications, the spending/consumer habit report done by The Retail Coach and local services information. To attract more business Bishop’s way, said Thomson, “We expanded the existing new resident packet to include information for people such as marketing scouts who are considering (homes for) new business and relocating businesses.”
Several new businesses are opening in Bishop this month.
Holy Smoke Texas Style BBQ at 772 N. Main St. still had customers lined up out the door two days after their March 1 grand opening.
“We have doubled our meat order every day but we still run out” before close of business, said Patty Hollon, who co-owns Holy Smoke with husband Steve and children Dustin and Annabelle. The family wanted to “say thank you to the town of Bishop. We feel so honored and blessed. The outcome is surreal,” she said of the response to their Central Texas barbecue recipe.
Reagan’s Sporting Goods at 963 N. Main St. is scheduled to open “before the Blake Jones Fishing Trout Derby,” said owner Reagan Slee, whose store will sell fishing, hunting, camping, shooting and archery goods without “specializing in any one thing, (we) offer a little bit of everything.”
Jerry and Denise Baker, co-owners of Vintage Vogue boutique at 125 W. Line St., will host their grand opening on March 15.
Second Time Around at 124 N. Main St. offers customers fresh merchandise every two days, according to co-owners Eva Gentry and Charmagne Debaptista. The shop features new and gently used merchandise from estate sales with labels such as North Face, Columbia, Carhartt, Christian Dior, Bill Blass, Levi and Wrangler. “We are not a thrift store,” Debaptista said. “We are a high-end second-hand boutique.”
This month, the visitor center offers upgrades to its appearance as well as its services. A new kiosk sign at its east entrance will provide after-hours visitors with a telephone and map display of local businesses and services. These upgrades will assist travelers and residents alike to locate and quickly contact Bishop’s myriad hotels, eateries and other services, by simply entering the desired business’ code as provided on the map.
Bishop’s bounty – and countywide attractions – have been touted at venues with statewide, nationwide and international trade show audiences. The Chamber of Commerce hosted a booth at the L.A. Travel and Adventure Show, which was attended by 28,500 people. Employees and volunteers gave out 6,500 brochures to attract travelers and vacationers. The Chamber was also highly visible at the Central California Sportsmen’s Expo in Bakersfield (see related story at the top of this page).
The Fred Hall Fishing Show, March 7-11, is also big attraction that draws fishermen, hunters and campers and other outdoor-sports enthusiasts. According to Thomson, trade show booths are very pricey at these high-profile events. Thanks to Inyo County funding, Chamber membership funds and partnerships with Whitney Portal Store and others, the city will be represented, keeping tourism, Bishop’s life-blood, flowing.
Future Chamber and Visitors Bureau plans include hosting the April 27 pre-Fishing Opener press reception, which welcomes out of area reporters of seasonal recreational activities. Bishop will celebrate the fishing season opener with a Rainbow Days Trout display in the park. Any fisherman who brings a fish for the icy display tables will be entered into a raffle and be eligible for prizes.
To emphasize the importance of membership, Thomson clarified that, while the visitors bureau is funded in part by the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Bishop, Bishop Chamber of Commerce is itself funded solely by its membership revenues. Therefor, Thomson stressed, “both (services) are very dependent on Chamber membership to keep all of its many programs alive. All businesses ($90 per year), nonprofits ($70 per year) and even individuals ($25 per year) are welcome to join the Chamber.”
For more information on membership or Chamber programs, call (760) 873-8405.

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