Biz around the Hole: 2018 in review

January 4, 2019 GMT

It isn’t always easy to do business in Jackson Hole. From employee shortages and tight housing to high rents and housing mitigation rules, owners hop from one challenge to the next. In 2018 a number of businesses signed off, but more were invented or reinvented themselves. Here are some of the highlights:

Old but new on Town Square

Jackson Drug, absent from the Town Square scene since 2001, returned, as Jessica and Nikki Gill breathed new life into a business started by their great-grandfather Bruce Porter a century ago. The old soda fountain is back in operation, but the place has also been turned into a full restaurant.

Baxter Properties, owner of The Wort Hotel, took over the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and spiffed the place up. The famous sign with the cowboy on a bucking bronc disappeared briefly for repairs and came back with a new shine and spin. The bar’s new owners also signaled a renewed commitment to music by upgrading the stage and sound system and hiring musician Justin Smith as talent buyer.

Roadhouse Pub and Eatery opened across the square from the Cowboy, on Broadway. The brewery and restaurant, part of the Fine Dining Restaurant Group family, fills the space that once housed Town Square Tavern and, before that, the Rancher.

Just off Town Square in Gaslight Alley, John Frechette and Christian Burch opened Mursell’s Sweet Shop, successor to the pottery and chocolate shop that had been there from about 1980 until Mursell McLaughlin’s death.

Farewell to ...

... Sweetwater, a restaurant that operated for 41 years. ... Raindance Indian Arts, which closed its doors after 34 years. ... Lift, a restaurant at the base of Snow King Mountain that will now become offices and condos. ... Elevated Grounds, a West Bank coffee shop. ... Lotus Vibes, a yoga and health studio. ... The restaurants Lotus Organic, El Tequila and Bon Appe Thai. ... Silverado, a Western wear shop. ... Local Butcher. ... Ski Barre. ... and MacPhail’s, which operated in the former Taco Bell space on West Broadway and once ranked No. 10 on TripAdvisor’s list of 10 best burgers in the country.

Say hello to ...

... Stillwest Brewery and Grill and Brewhouse Coffee, opened by Don and Chaney Hankins on East Snow King Avenue. ... Womenfolk, a consignment operation that went from pop-up to full shop at 140 E. Broadway. ... 307 Jackson, a home accessories, art and gift shop in the Wort Cabin on South Glenwood. ... Western Range Clothing, on Broadway near the Bootlegger. ... Belle Cose at Home at 115 E. Broadway, former home to Willow Creek Home Furnishings. ... A Federal Express shipping center on Broadway, where Lotus Vibes used to be... First Republic Bank at the Broadway spot where El Tequila used to operate. ... Pearl Street Salon and Spa, next door to Pearl Street Bagels... and South Park Electrical and Mechanical Supply on South Park Drive.

Restaurant roundabout

As restaurants closed others will be taking their place. They include Suda, a Japanese restaurant in the former Lotus Organic space on North Cache; Momo Shack in Bon Appe Thai’s old space on Pearl Avenue; Baap, where Ocean City once operated on Broadway; The Phoenix and the Dragon, at 145 N. Glenwood, home to several eateries in the past. In Teton Village, RPK 3 Kitchen opened to replace Nick Wilson’s. And in downtown Jackson, Persephone Bakery will move into the Coe Cabin, former home of Sweetwater.

A change of names

Vom Fass, the Crabtree Corner store selling oil, vinegar, spirits and spices, became Spirits and Spice as owner Kim Weiss broke off from the German Vom Fass chain. ... Financial pros Cody Lockhart and Chad Driewer ended a long relationship with Wells Fargo Advisors and became Wind River Capital Management. ... Jennifer Prugh Visosky rebranded her business as Frame Design Co. after more than 15 years as Grace Home Design.

A change of hands

Aramark, owner of Togwotee Mountain Lodge and Togwotee Adventures, bought Sands Whitewater and Scenic River Trips. ... The owners of The Bird — Ted Hansen and Will Nowack — bought Plaza Liquors and Eleanor’s. ... Ron’s Towing is still called that, although its namesake Ron Reaves sold the business to Rick Hunt and Pat Cunningham. The two buyers opened an adjunct business, a car concierge service called Jackson Hole Auto Club.

Cash for entrepreneurs

Startups rarely find it easy to raise money to launch or expand. In 2018 new grant programs and the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter made it easier for a bunch of Jackson businesses.

Two were among the first beneficiaries of grant programs created by the Wyoming Business Council to give entrepreneurs a leg up as part of the state’s efforts to strengthen and diversify the economy.

Noso Patches, which makes press-on patches to repair puffy coats, backpacks and clothing and gear, was among the first businesses to win Kickstart: Wyoming grants. The Jackson business started by Kelli Jones was awarded $50,000, the highest amount possible.

Square One Systems Design, a Jackson-based robotics firm, was one of four companies in the state to win the first SBIR Phase I and II Matching Program grants.

On Kickstarter (not to be confused with Kickstart), Give’r raised more than $147,000 to launch a pullover it calls the Ol’ Faithful.

Among the Jackson businesses with successful Kickstarter campaigns were Truckette Hat Co., which makes trucker hats with a wide space in the back to accommodate messy buns; Joan of Sparc, a personal development site for women that will launch this year; and the Phoenix and the Dragon, an Asian eatery that will transition from pop-up to brick and mortar.

Silicon Couloir’s annual Pitch Day brought small cash prizes, along with invaluable exposure, to Beauty Scripts, an app that launches next week; Iksplor, a line merino wool’s kids clothing that’s coming soon, and Nitrome Biosciences, which is working on a drug to slow or halt Parkinson’s disease.

Beyond the Tetons

Stio, an apparel company born in Jackson, announced plans to open a retail store in Park City, Utah. ... Kate’s Real Food, a Victor, Idaho, company whose line of energy bars began with Kate Schade’s Tram Bar, said it will build a factory in Pennsylvania. ... Wyoming Whiskey, which is made in Kirby but was started by Jacksonites, announced a partnership with Edrington, an international spirits company headquartered in Scotland. ... Melvin Brewing opened a brewpub in downtown San Diego.