Pace takes Durango’s pulse on Main Ave.

Business owners, workers, patrons meet with congressional hopeful

Congressional candidate Sal Pace gives Durango Mayor Christina Rinderle a ride on the back of her bicycle down Main Avenue during a campaign stop Saturday. The ride lasted about half a block as they visited several different businesses. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Congressional candidate Sal Pace gives Durango Mayor Christina Rinderle a ride on the back of her bicycle down Main Avenue during a campaign stop Saturday. The ride lasted about half a block as they visited several different businesses.

What can our government do to help you?

That’s the question state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, was asking Saturday morning as he chatted with patrons and owners of local businesses along Main Avenue.

Durango Mayor Christina Rinderle acted as Pace’s tour guide, introducing Pace to people along the way and even took him for a spin on her signature blue cruiser bike.

“Sal wanted to go around Main Ave., and meet some local business owners to find out about their concerns,” Rinderle said.

Pace is running against U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in his campaign for re-election as representative of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. The tour started at Rinderle’s old stomping grounds, Carver Brewing Co., where Pace and Rinderle chatted with the breakfast crowd. They continued on to Maria’s Bookshop, Southwest Sound and Pine Needle Mountaineering among other businesses.

“Promoting the downtown experience is what Durango’s good at,” said Clint McKnight of Maria’s Bookshop.

Rinderle and McKnight pointed out Local First’s La Plata County coupon book to Pace as an example of what works in promoting local businesses.

“These are just fantastic,” said Rinderle, who mentioned that the coupon books sold out this year.

McKnight agreed, calling the books “a real success story.”

The community is great about understanding these things; the challenge is getting people who don’t know about them to understand, McKnight said.

In addition to the coupon books, McKnight discussed the shop’s hours, which are somewhat late by Durango standards.

Even though McKnight explained that the late hours don’t bring in a huge amount of extra money, the group agreed that the 9 p.m. closing time sets the store apart, giving locals a place to go when they get off work.

“When I came back to Durango after I got my master’s (degree), I actually put in an application here,” said Pace, who bought a copy of Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss before continuing on the tour.

At the Main Mall, Rinderle introduced Pace to Keith Roush, owner of Pine Needle Mountaineering.

“We live and die by the weather,” Roush said of the outdoor business he’s owned for the last 10 years.

Rinderle, Pace and Roush considered the impact of local events and bike races on businesses.

“We support downtown events, but if they’re in front of our store, business drops by half that day,” Roush said.

Events that cause crowds in front of downtown shops make if difficult for customers to park and come in, he said.

Still, Rinderle pointed out, events give businesses on Main Avenue a lot of public exposure.

A major concern for Roush, who hopes to retire in the near future, is the lack of financing banks provide to hopeful business owners. It’s difficult to sell a business because it’s difficult for buyers to get a loan, he said.

“Local banks who were going to do it are saying no, or they want double or triple the collateral,” Roush said of former potential buyers’ efforts to get a loan.

A lack of bipartisanship among the community and government officials also troubled Roush, he told Pace.

“There used to be a willingness of people to work together on things that are important,” he said.

scook@durangoherald.com