Study Looks At What Pine-Strawberry Business Owners Want

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Max Foster/Roundup

While the P-S area has a good helping of shops, local business owners say there is an opportunity for more stores and services geared toward locals, according to a recent survey.

The Pine-Strawberry business community needs to work together to define a clear identity for the area and attract new businesses that offer more for the locals, according to the results of a new independent survey by a Pine resident.

While the economy is clearly still the No. 1 threat to local businesses, overcoming obstacles related to water, weather and finding good help weigh heavily on the minds of 15 business owners surveyed by Ernie Borgoyne, an independent consultant and chairman of the Pine Creek Canyon Domestic Water Improvement District.

Several weeks ago, Borgoyne began surveying every P-S business owner that would talk to him hoping to put a pulse on the current business community and discover how owners would like to see the area grow, if at all.

Of the 145 businesses identified in the area, Borgoyne has so far spoken in depth with 15 owners — or 10 percent.

While some of the comments from owners are what he expected, i.e., the economy and weather are routine factors for success, other comments pointed to unexplored business opportunities.

More amenities for locals ranked highest on the list of businesses not currently offered in Pine and Strawberry.

While the Ponderosa Market offers a good selection of groceries, more convenience stores are needed along with a full service gas station, bank, and clothing store, Borgoyne found.

P-S owners would also like to see increased affordable housing, which would attract more workers, a public restroom available for tourists and a conference center.

Second on their wish list are high-end amenities, including upscale restaurants, boutiques and specialty shops.

The area could also do a better job with hours. Of all the restaurants in the area, only a few are open on Monday and Tuesday. This problem is exasperated during the winter months when there are fewer visitors and thus fewer hours.

There is a huge opportunity for a business to expand their hours and capture a number of visitors who travel on Mondays and Tuesdays, Borgoyne said.

While locals make up roughly 50 percent of their customer base, tourists and part-time residents take up the other half, owners told Borgoyne.

Catering to the needs of these tourists could greatly benefit the area, he concluded.

Borgoyne said he found it surprising that a large chunk of “tourists” are actually Payson residents. Seven of the 15 business owners surveyed said they regularly receive customers from Payson while four owners said they received none.

If an ASU campus was built in Payson, owners expect an influx of new residents and customers.

Nearly all those surveyed said they would like to see more full-time residents; however, the area would need more services to support them and the growth would need to be controlled to keep the character of the “hamlet” town.

Creation of a synergy among organizations, including the historical society, business community and real estate agents would greatly benefit the community as it grows into a distinct mountain getaway.

In the past, it has been difficult to organize the community because “too many egos among community organizations,” some owners told Borgoyne.

Because the area lacks a clear identity, Pine and Strawberry remain Arizona’s best-kept secrets, he said.

Surveyed business owners said while this adds to the area’s quaint feel, the area needs to develop a distinctive theme that attracts more tourists. Some owners said the area is hurting economically evident by a number of vacant and un-maintained buildings.

Filling those businesses would encourage more visitors to stop instead of driving through town. With more visitors comes increased traffic. Several owners said it is important to consider future traffic needs and creating a safe place for visitors to walk.

Borgoyne said while some people may disagree with these preliminary results, he encourages comments.

“I am hoping to get some feedback,” he said.

Borgoyne obtained survey results by asking each owner 15 open-ended questions.

Borgoyne, an independent consultant with more than 30 years engineering experience, is associated with Ceptara, a company dedicated to helping organizations and individuals achieve higher performance through personal and organizational improvements.

For more information on the report or services offered by Borgoyne, call (602) 571-7983.

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