Park City businesses adapt to Sundance
Park City • Just as the actors, producers and paparazzi started moving onto Main Street for the Sundance Film Festival, Jude Grenney and Curtis Olson prepared to move out.
The co-owners of J Go Gallery, along with their staff, took down the framed artwork and stored the glass cases, clearing the way for a short-term tenant "Variety" magazine to take over. The entertainment crew has turned the space at 408 Main into an elegant celebrity interview lounge for the first five days of the festival.
When Hollywood moves out, J Go will be reassembled, reopening on Jan. 22 with a nice lump of rent money in the bank account.
Grenney and Olson are among several Park City business owners who have found leasing space pays financial dividends at least during the hectic first weekend of the 10-day film festival, which runs through Jan. 26.
"The first weekend is mostly people in the film industry seeing movies, networking and having coffee. They are not spending a lot of time shopping," Grenney said. "The second weekend is more of our clients film lovers and skiers who spend more time shopping."
Grenney and Olson's proof is more than just anecdotal. Last year, the J Go owners decided not to lease the gallery during the film festival as they had done so for many years. "We wanted to compare which one is better."
"Well, we chose to rent again," said Grenney, who wouldn't disclose the dollar amount of the lease. However, she did say "It's a couple months' rent for our time and effort."
Grenney said her staff, which gets hourly pay plus commission, doesn't really enjoy closing down for seven days. "They get extra hours before and a few days after to help move, but that's not much fun."
But it's become a necessity for many in this ski and tourist town. While business booms in the winter, and there's a robust summer clientele, foot traffic slows in fall and spring. Of course, expenses don't stop in those shoulder seasons.
Leasing the space during Sundance "helps stabilize the cash flow," Grenney said.
The story is the same at shops on or near Main Street, the hub of Sundance activities and nightlife.
For example, YouTube has taken over the home-furnishings store Root'D at 596 Main St., giving festivalgoers a place to warm up, listen to live music and view film panels and special screenings. While the owner received a nice rent check, the building also got a facelift. A few days before the festival began, crews were painting the outside of the brown building at 596 Main, changing the trim from yellow to red.
Another well-known national brand, Udi's, which sells gluten-free breads, bagels and other baked goods, has created a pop-up cafÃ© at 501 Restaurant. The gluten-free cafÃ© would will be open through the weekend, said manager Alyssa Marsh, whose parents have owned the restaurant for 17 years. At night, the restaurant plans to host private parties and will be closed to the public.
After the first weekend, "we'll go back to being 501," she said.
Even Sundance gets into the act, leasing space from local entities such as The Shop Yoga Studio, a not-for-profit that operates on donations. Located in a historic building near the Library Center Theatre, the 5,000-square-foot yoga studio is being used for panel discussions, directors' luncheons and other events for the festival and its sponsors.
"The assistance we get from Sundance allows us to keep our doors open," the rest of the year, said The Shop founder David Belz.
While short-term leases seem to work for art galleries, T-shirt shops and other businesses, for others, it's more hassle than help.
"January is my best month, I gross over $100,000," said Lori Harris, owner of Mary Jane's clothing and shoe boutique. "For me, it doesn't make sense."
She said a few years ago, when her shop had both an upstairs and downstairs, she did lease the top floor. Moving inventory in and out of the shop and into storage space took several days' work. She also had to deal with damage left after a wild party. It's a common occurrence, she said, and it makes her glad she doesn't have to rely on leasing.
Hans Fuegi, the chef/owner of Grub Steak, in Prospector Square, has been approached several times about leasing his restaurant at 2093 Sidewinder Dr, in Prospector Square. But he always declines.
"We make the facility available to parties outside of our regular restaurant hours," he said. "But for me to completely shut down during Sundance wouldn't be a good move."
Located just down the street from the Sundance Headquarters in the Marriott Hotel and not far from the Eccles Center Theatre, Grub Steak gets festivalgoers as well as directors and actors "who just want to relax and have a meal without being bothered," Fuegi said.
Locals also know they can slip in for a meal out without enduring the hassles of Main Street.
"We're real careful to be available for our regular customers," Fuegi said. "We have a lot of locals, and I don't feel right telling them 'Sorry I got a better deal.' I don't feel like that's the right thing to do."