Changes in travel options, the loss of a mainstay in Flagstaff and openings of new options in the city highlighted the year in business news. Here's a look at 10 of the most popular and impactful stories from 2018.
SEARS CLOSES FLAGSTAFF LOCATION
On Aug. 23, it was announced that the Sears Holding Corporation would be closing its Flagstaff mall location, along with 45 other of its Sears and Kmart stores across the U.S. An spokesperson for the company said the company was strengthening their capital position and focusing on their best stores, of which Flagstaff was not one of.
After a week of clearance sales, the Flagstaff Sears closed, along with the north entrance of the mall that it housed. Many local employees had little time to look elsewhere for jobs. The 66,098-square-foot lot remains empty, with no plans for what’s to come next public at this time. Sears had owned the land since 1978 and opened as an anchor business when the rest of the mall opened in 1980.
BELLEMONT PAPER FACTORY CLOSURE
In September, it was announced that an Essity paper products plant in Bellemont will be shutting its doors in the summer of 2019, leading to the loss of as many as 116 jobs. The factory has been in Bellemont since 2001. Amy Bellcourt, the vice president of communications at Essity, said the decision was purely a financial one. The factory represented one of the last paper product manufacturers in the Flagstaff area, which once had as many as five.
FUTURE AFTER PROP 418 FAILS
Flagstaff business owners had mixed reactions after 55 percent of voters decided to uphold the minimum wage increase by voting no on Prop 418 in November. In a survey conducted by the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, 24 businesses said that they would be laying off employees.
Some restaurant owners said they were considering not giving tip money to servers when the full $15.50 wage takes effect. Altitudes Bar and Grill debated between that and not having servers at all, but instead having customers come up to the bar to get their food when it is ready.
MINIMUM WAGE VIOLATIONS
The Office of Labor Standards was established to enforce the minimum wage law and investigate complaints after the passage of Proposition 414, which first increased Flagstaff’s minimum wage.
In the first six months, the office received 17 complaints, five of which required a further investigation from the office. There were four complaints against hotels and three against restaurants. Two hotel owners claimed they were unaware Flagstaff’s minimum wage had increased to $10.50 in 2017, and continued to pay minimum wage workers $10 per hour like the rest of the state.
The OLS is yet to reach an agreement to compensate minimum wage workers who were not paid for their time at a haunted house on Fourth Street during Halloween 2017. Local charities that were promised profits from the sales also did not receive anything.
AIRPORT EXPANDS OPTIONS
In August, the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport reported that they would begin twice-daily flights to Denver starting March 31, 2019. The United Airlines partnership will allow visitors from Denver to be able to come straight to Flagstaff, as opposed to being re-routed through Phoenix. In October, the airport announced that it would be expanding its seasonal route to Dallas-Ft. Worth to also become a twice-daily route. The American Airlines flights to Dallas will begin April 2, 2019.
POSSIBLE AMTRAK CHANGES
Amtrak announced this spring that it planned on changing its Southwest Chief route, which runs through Flagstaff. The trains on the route, which travel from Los Angeles to Chicago, would not run between Albuquerque and Dodge City. Instead, buses would run between the New Mexico and Kansas destinations.
If this were to take affect, it could drastically reduce the amount of people that take the Southwest Chief route. Therefore, Flagstaff could see far fewer people coming into the city via the train. In May, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans sent a letter to the CEO of Amtrak explaining the negative impact this would have on Flagstaff. While nothing has been passed yet, changes to the Southwest Chief route could still take place in the future.
MUSEUM CLUB RETURNS
A year ago, The Museum Club was resurrected after a brief shutdown and reopened under new management. Dru Douthit took over the Route 66 Flagstaff icon, renting the building from the Zanzucchi family. To the relief of many dedicated "zoo club" members, Douthit kept the look of the honky tonk bar the same, leaving the 1930s-era animal heads and decorations intact, and rehired many of the country music bar’s regular servers.
A SECOND DUTCH BROS.
Dutch Bros. Coffee will be opening a new store which will be located at the intersection of Fourth Street and Route 66 and is planned to open in the spring of 2019. The new location will mean nearly doubling their 45-employee workforce. It also may mean some traffic congestion relief for its original Flagstaff location in Aspen Place at the Sawmill.
In November, the real estate company that owns Aspen Place was forced to reconfigure the Dutch Bros. drive-thru to better handle the long lines which had begun to stretch past the neighboring Wildflower Bread Company, about 150 feet away.
NATIONAL ICE CREAM DAY
On National Ice Cream Day July 15, owners of some local ice cream parlors described their daily sale totals. According to Donna Menneke, the owner of the Dairy Queen on Milton Road, her location sells about 500 ice cream cones a day, and uses about 200 pounds of Oreos per week to make treats into Flagstaff’s most popular flavor, Oreo Cookie ice cream. Coldstone Creamery on Milton makes its own ice cream and about 75 waffle bowls daily. The Sweet Shoppe Candy Store building in historic downtown Flagstaff near Heritage Square is more than 100 years old and was originally a mercantile. The space was a fly-fishing store when owner Jennifer Rolley took over in 2011.
Lia Leaf brings new tea experience to Flagstaff
Christine Snyder had trouble finding teas in the U.S. that weren’t full of chemical flavorings and high sugar content. After working at Gore for five years, Snyder was able to turn her dreams into reality when she opened Lia Leaf Tea House at Aspen Place in February. Lia Leaf’s blends are all made in-house using real ingredients.