Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another downtown loss, but a bit of good news, too

Postscript April 19, 2010: Listen to a Boise State radio story about Boise Blue and "The Art of Saying Goodbye."

Postscript February 12:
While it doesn't diminish the loss of Boise Blue, I heard some really good news yesterday after I posted this. Another locally owned business - a real fixture in the Think Boise First movement, in fact - will be relocating downtown this summer. The news is not yet widely known, so I won't say which one, but it's a business that knows what it takes to beat the trends toward online shopping and big-box price wars.

I am a strong believer in local businesses and downtown Boise, and although closures like Boise Blue and Macy's give us all pause (especially amid a still-rough economic climate), there are still many people who would prefer to shop, eat, hang out, and even live downtown.

Just a few weeks after Macy's announced it will close its downtown Boise location, I was saddened to read today that Boise Blue Art Supply, a downtown fixture for decades, will be closing soon. The store has been suffering from lack of parking, the congestion wrought by the long Capitol renovation project, and - everyone's favorite bogeyman - online shopping.

I'm not in the market for art supplies very often, but I stopped in a couple of times. Once was to buy a cheap ballpoint pen when I found myself downtown without one. Late for a meeting at the Statehouse, I lay my money on the counter and begged the staff - waiting on another customer - to keep the change so I could get on my way.

Another time, shortly after I moved to Boise, I was captivated by an exhibition of student photography showcased in Boise Blue's windows along Jefferson Street. I went inside to learn more, and the staff kindly gave me the name and phone number of the Boise School District employee who coordinated the project.

That's the kind of community-minded support that artists mentioned in today's Idaho Statesman article by Anna Webb. "It's sad when any business closes, but it's especially sad when it's a business like Boise Blue that's supported the art community for so many years," Cherry Woodbury of the Idaho Watercolor Society said.

And of course, Boise Blue's name (originally derived from an early focus on architectural blueprints) took on a whole new meaning in recent years, as blue became the color most associated with Boise. The store often had a pro-Broncos message on its reader board.

Boise Blue will be missed, and its closure offers yet another reminder that it's good to shop locally, with Boise-based businesses, whenever and however we can.


colleen said...

Idaho needs to start assessing sales taxes on internet sales. This is critical for Idaho businesses. Buy local please!
Boise Blue was a patron of local arts and community with donations to local elementary art awards and the Western Idaho Fair art exhibit awards. There student friendly policy of selling small amounts of supplies to college art students and their student discount saved me more than once. They are an asset to our city and will be missed.

Al and Cheryl said...

Even though I live in North Idaho I have shopped at Boise Blue. It will be a loss. Small local stores that support their communities are fast fading away leaving only homogeneous big box stores that are convenient but lack knowledge and service. With the loss of these small specialty stores if you want to buy something that does not fit into the computerized inventory of the big boxes you are forced to go online. And hope.

Julie Fanselow said...

Good comments. I believe state Rep. Bill Killen has been working ona bill to have Idaho join an interstate compact for taxing Internet sales. I am not sure if he has introduced it or not, or whether it will have to wait until after this election year.

As I've noted in a postscript made just now, I got some good news regarding the downtown business scene yesterday, too. But it doesn't diminish the sadness we all feel when a longtime locally owned business calls "Uncle."

Whitney said...

Julie, if you're referring to Flatbread Community Oven moving to downtown, the cat's out of the bag. There are signs in the storefront on Main Street announcing it. If you're not referring to FCO, well, there are TWO restaurants now moving downtown!

Julie Fanselow said...

Whitney, I knew about that, but I'd forgotten. That is great news, too (but they're keeping the Bown Crossing eatery, too, right)?

This latest news doesn't involve a restaurant. :)