Sunday, January 13, 2008

The big winners of 2007

The year 2007 was a good year for the Greater Grand Forks business scene. The swarms of Canadians that have routinely been swamping Grand Forks' commercial districts each weekend have pumped new money into the community. On top of this, several new businesses opened their doors this past year.

Interestingly enough, the big success stories in the 2007 Grand Forks business community were not those of corporate giants like Wal-Mart. That having been said, of course the big-box retailers in town not only held their own, but flourished during the past year. However, I would argue that the big success stories of the year came in the form of a long awaited project that has been viewed as an integral part of this city's economic success and in the form of a homegrown entertainment venue that is giving the "big boys" some serious competition and pumping new life into a part of the community that needed it.

Of the new business in town, the Canad Inn certainly is the hardest to ignore. The 13-story tower on 42nd Street has become a visible landmark for the community and the big parking lots surrounding the complex are routinely near capacity. Discussion went on for years concerning whether or not such a complex would be a success. In the end, the Canad Inn has become a huge success story - not only for the company but for the community as well. The flocks of Canadian shoppers that have been coming to Grand Forks have been helping to fill the hotel's rooms. A drive through the parking lot on any given weekend will show that more than half of the cars bear Canadian license plates. So far, the success of the Canad Inn has not spelled doom for existing hotels in town. In fact, a new 100-room hotel is currently being built not very far south of the Canad complex and Canad itself has apparently not even ruled out a second hotel complex in the metropolitan area.

The state of Greater Grand Forks' movie theaters has been a common complaint on this blog. Many readers have complained about what they see as dirty theaters, poor management, and high prices coupled with Carmike Cinema's local monopoly. For those disgruntled moviegoers, their "savior" arrived this year in the form of local businessman Bob Moore and his new River Cinema 12 located in East Grand Forks' Riverwalk Centre. According to virtually anyone you ask the new movie theater has been a resounding success in its first month of operation. Not only is this theater giving new options to residents; it is also pumping money and vibrancy into our metropolitan area's central business district.

In 2007, the "winners" were not the Holiday Inns or Carmike Cinemas of this community. Instead, the real winners were the homegrown businesses such as the Canad Inn and the River Cinema. Many readers of this blog routinely chastise some of us for focusing too much attention on national chains. I'm happy to say that 2007 saw successes in both chains and locally-owned ventures. Let's hope that healthy mix continues in 2008.

16 comments:

C. Y. said...

We took the granddaughter to Alvin & the Chipmunks on Saturday afternoon at the River Cinema 12. Enjoyed the place so much I was ready to go back on Sunday to see another movie. (I think the last time we went to Midco was to see The Green Mile, so that tells you how much we enjoyed ourselves there.) We went to the 12:15 movie so it wasn't packed but it was very comfortable and clean. The staff was helpful and those tilting seats are great.

Anonymous said...

We will second the motion on River Cinema 12, great movie "Juno" and nice reclining seats (tilting) clean surroundings, could not be better. Congrats to Moore family and Mayor Stauss. greenglass4.

Anonymous said...

Ummmmm.....Exactly, in what way, is Canad a "Homegrown Business"? They're not even from the same country, let alone from the same community. Canadians are spending their newly worth-something money down here on...a Canadian business. They sleep in a Canadian hotel, eat at its Canadian restaurants and shop at big box retailers. How is this good for us? We have been reduced to servants for tourists who clog our streets, act like jerks and then take their business to places that ship the profits out of town. I, for one, am not on the official Grand Forks Canadian Ass Kissing Team that seems to have been formed as of late. Wake up people!

OUWxGuesser said...

Hopefully the anon at 2:17am isn't serving them. Otherwise they'll drive right past to Fargo and spend their $$$ there. I'd rather see it spent here.

Anonymous said...

2:17 Poster:

Your Canadian bashing demonstrates a bigotry and provincialism which, sadly, isn't all that uncommon around here and may be one of the things that holds us back as a community.

C. Y. said...

And there are only Canadians working at the Canad and the other places in GF?

I liked the River Cinema so I suppose I can start the Grand Forks Minnesota Owned Business Ass Kissing Team?????

I bet you check everything you buy and only buy made in the USA?

Quit whining.

Anonymous said...

I recently saw at least one Canadian in Amazing Grains, downtown, which emphasizes locally-grown crops and ingredients. As a co-op, what little profits there are get recycled into the store and members can select a 1-5% discount on all merchandise. The shopper was asking about restrictions on what he brings into Canada and the staff, who are virtually without exception friendly and helpful, unfortunately did not have reliable information to give him. Locally owned businesses may have to increase their efforts to recruit the Canadian shopping dollar and be prepared for information this consumer group is likely to need.

Anonymous said...

This morning I read the Herald article about the new downtown apartments. I'm all for this project, but it is naive at best and delusional at worst to think they are marketing to the "young professional." People in Grand Forks need to wake up to the fact that 25K is not a professional salary. The restriction of 28K for two people living there may help some struggling single parent, but any two adults working for anything more than the new minimum wage will earn more than 28K (combined). Glad to see there are no restrictions on future income, but I worry that it will be hard for many with such modest means to pay the rent and keep these reportedly nice apartments in decent shape. If they do, what money will be left over to spend downtown, which was supposedly a major impetus for building downtown units?

ec99 said...

In large cities low-come housing is called "The Projects." Hope that doesn't happen here.

Anonymous said...

Canad Inn is a chain, based in Canada. Not exactly a mom-and-pop owned family business.

River Cinema is family owned, although not based out of GF (I think it's out of Fosston, and they own a theater in Crookston and Blackduck too).

Anonymous said...

I can never understand the argument against a business that hires local people to work. It's not like their entire budget leaves the area. They hire local people, etc. I don't hear the same things about Cirrus, L&M or other companies. I think some places (walmart,etc)are just the whipping boy for someone that doesn't make enough money and was refused a job at those places.

Anonymous said...

Personally, it doesn't matter to me who owns the businesses as long as we profit in other ways by having them here.

I'm glad the Fosston entrepeneur, for example, has given us all (finally) a decent place to see a film, without sucking our wallets completely dry.

Szymanski's Designated Driver said...

The River Cinema is better than Carmike in every aspect... I'll never go back to that overpriced garbage theater ever again... I'm so glad that guy opened up River Cinema. Hopefully he does well and sticks around for a very long time. And the fact that he'll try to get some of the limited release movies there is superb as well.

Anonymous said...

As an avid moviegoer, I think this needs to be said:

Everyone keeps ranting about how superior the new local theater is than the corporate Carmikes. You may be right, but it certainly does have its flaws. First off, the "theme" of the place is very corny in my mind. Log cabins are great if you're selling sporting good or hunting equipment. But not for a movie theater. Second, the place was obviously very cheaply built. Granted local businesses don't have deep pockets, but those doors going into the theater are rediculous. Thirdly, if you go to a later showing, the place is actually quite dirty. But that's to be expected. IT'S A MOVIE THEATER! Forth, Carmike is digital. Lastly, and probably most important: the seats. They are better than any of the two Carmikes', but a reclining seat is pointless if you have to keep pushing yourself back with your legs the whole time. I felt like I was leaning back in my chair at the kitchen table. Don't get me wrong. I like the new theater, a lot. And I'm glad it's here. But I guarantee That if the River Cinema had been the only theater around for the last 10+ years, you would all be saying how much better "the new" theater in town is (even if it was an overpriced corporate one)

I think the big picture that everyone is missing is the fact that this town went from having 14 screens to 26. Which means more content. The River Cinema is going to have 1 screen dedicated to limited releases all the time, which will be amazing. And love 'em or hate 'em, even Carmike has responed to the new competition by pumping out alternative content. (e.g. "Atonement", "Margot at the Wedding", "The Kite Runner", etc.) So instead of blindly bashing the Carmike theaters, just enjoy the fact the Grand Forks is now a town with 26 screens (maybe more if CanadInn gets a theater) and a town with more options available to us.

Anonymous said...

Digital projection isn't that great. It's good for 3D but Carmike uses 2K projectors which isn't even close to the resolution of film. Riverside Cinemas uses FILM. Yep, good old film with scratches, missing frames, and all the good analog stuff.

Riverside Cinema also had _No Country For Old Men_ when was the last time Carmike had a more independent-type movie? _Grindhouse_ didn't even come to this town when Carmike was the only game. Carmike is going down. It should be for sale in a few months.
--CollegeDropOutStillInCollege

Anonymous said...

Everyone has a right to rant about the River Cinema. It is a great new updated and modern theatre. Anyone can find flaws in everything if you look hard enough, so let’s make a comparison. First off, Carmike does have digital projection but only because they are very cheap, the projectors were given to them free. The digital projectors are only 2K systems with only fair light levels, their old projectors gave off a much brighter picture with some of them being 3K and 4K projectors. The Digital was actually a downgrade in services to the community. Now while the River Cinema is using good old fashion film projectors their pictures are very bright and clear. Now on to the screens. River Cinema has wall to wall and floor to ceiling screens that are viewable from all locations in the auditorium. Carmike screens are five feet off the floor and if your not right in the center of the auditorium the view sucks. Seating at the theaters really can’t be compared, The River Cinema with brand new seats will win hands down, lets hope that they keep them fixed and in good repair. Although while seats at Carmike are still the original seats put in when they built the theater they have done a very bad job of maintaining them. The seats at Carmike have no cushion left in them, have not been cleaned in a very long time if ever, and rip your jackets, pants and shirts if you are not careful when you get up.In the respect of customer service River Cinema wins. At Carmike you have to wait to buy your ticket from a employee that walking all over the theater lobby, wait in another line at the concession stand for a employee that is talking on the phone, conversing with friends that stopped by. You really are made to feel unwelcome when you request service at Carmike by interrupting their conversations. River Cinema service is a lot better. One stop shopping to purchase tickets and concessions. The employees are focused on their patrons and not talking on the phone. Managers at the River Cinema can be found helping customers at the concession stand or on the lobby floor. Carmike managers are usually nowhere to be found and when you request to talk to one they always seem to be on their dinner break.

Carmike also needs to really work on keeping their word. The River Cinema owners announced that they would be opening and kept their word by having the door open in less than a year with a facility that they should be proud of. Carmike has been promising to update and modernize its theater since 2004. That year they announced that they would install new stadium seating in a effort to keep the Canad Inn from being build with a theater. As soon as the theater was dropped from the hotel plans so was the Carmike improvement. Then in 2006 Carmike announced that they again would be installing the stadium seating and the digital projection. Now they have the free projectors and higher prices with no stadium seating. Now that they have some real competition they are again promising to put in the stadium seating, game rooms, party rooms and additional screens to match the services of the River Cinema. To date no changes have been made at Carmike that could be considered an improvement.

Carmike currently offers to sell discount tickets but you need to be a large business in order to afford them or buy enough tickets to last you the entire year at one time. River Cinema also offers discounts but just by coming in with your cell phone and their movie line programmed in it. Carmike also offers free tickets on the radio but many times they restrict the movie so that you can’t use them or just tell you that the tickets from the radio are no good.
When talking about the theaters in town, each individual will make up their own mind on where to go. But based on actions, service, comfort, and just general enjoyment, people I’ve talked with seem to agree that Carmike is in real trouble.