from Deanna Travis
Publisher & Owner
WALL TO WALL
Our second night on the road returning to Montana from spending the winter in Tucson Arizona put us in Idaho Falls, ID. We knew there was a fly tying show going on there and that some of our FAOL folks were involved with the show, but we just weren't able to be there when the folks were tying - only missed it by a couple of hours.
I don't think I had ever been in Idaho Falls before. My husband Trav had and was looking forward to showing me around. One of the places he remembered was Smitty's Pancake & Steak House on the main drag (645 W. Broadway). He had eaten there a couple of times and it was always excellent. Once we were settled in and the cats more or less happy in their digs, we walked a few blocks to Smitty's, except that it had been an extremely slow day and they closed at 5:00 pm instead of 8:00.
We walked around the area and settled on dinner at Applebee's which is one of our favorites. The food and service were just dandy. (We did check out the Red Lion next door to where we stayed - which is known on the west coast for having great food - the only food was being served in the bar and everything was deep fried which overpowered you when you walked in.)
After dinner we walked around the many new hotels in the area - it was really amazing how many big hotels have recently built in Idaho Falls. These were very big and very expensive places and they were literally built next door to each other. Some do have their own restaurants which make sense, keep the customers happy and get them to spend their money in the same place. Good business.
Later back in our room we commented about what it looks like is happening there. We went through a cheap money building boom a couple of years ago, and big hotels were built there. The economy has taken a serious turn for the worse and there are less people out traveling. By the way, I don't know how attendance was at the Tying Show that weekend at the Shilo Inn, but I'll bet the management was delighted with the business. If they were smart they came up with some really good deals on food and lodging for the tiers as well.
So now you have a bunch of pricy hotels with hardly any customers. And the businesses which were already there (like Smitty's) close early because they can't afford to compete, or they are unable to spend the money to stay open as advertised.
We did eat at Smitty's Monday morning on our way out of town. A really nice place, warm, beautifully decorated with real oil paintings, very good service and excellent food. We ate about 8:00 am and there were four other people in the place. What a shame. The place was purchased about 40 years ago by a couple from Washington State (1971).and it took a turn for the legendary. The couple, Leo and Cleo Werner knew succeeding would take more than an investment of time or money. Instead they brought three ingredients that made their restaurant great and solidified its place as one of the pillars of Idaho Falls.
"When Cleo and Leo passed away they left the business to her children and grandchildren who shared her passion for connecting with customers. The family is working hard to maintain the Smitty's legacy in a market where they're fast becoming the little guy. But regardless of what the competition brings to the table, Smitty's will always have love, loyalty and a legacy that give them a serious advantage over the competition." (Excerpt adapted from information obtained from the Complementary Collector's Menu.)
Trav and I sincerely hope that Smitty's is not one more of the victims of a spend till you drop economy which overbuilt hotels in Idaho Falls and loaned money to prospective home owners all over this country which had absolutely no prospect of every making the payments. That sort of thinking and mind set could not have missed the facts on which the American economy has been built - but somehow they thought it would never end, and no one would get caught. Yah right.
In Tucson, where we spent the winter, the two largest, very fancy expensive hotels have filed for bankruptcy. The newspaper said they probably won't actually be foreclosed because "too much money is involved." So a negotiated settlement will be made with 'new' owners and the beat goes on. The small business up the street isn't so fortunate, he does close, people lose jobs and the people holding the paper foreclose. Does that sound fair to you?
For us, we would rather do business with folks who have been part of a community for a while, who have a 'vested interest' in their community. There are about twenty reasonably new hotels in Idaho Falls - most within walking distance of Smitty's. It will be interesting to see how many are still open next year.
If you are in the area, stop in at Smitty's they usually open at 6:00 am and are open until 9:00p.m.
You won't be sorry. ~ LF