Corporation takes over mom-and-pop store
TAHOE CITY – Deana Granger and Melanie Jackson started Treats coffee shop 18 years ago in a cramped ticket booth in the Alpine Meadows parking lot. The shack had no running water, and the pair cooked in the old lodge at the bottom of Dear Park Road before driving food up to the resort.
Over the next two decades Granger and Jackson built a loyal following and created an Alpine Meadows institution with their tasty chocolate chip cookies, hot croissant sandwiches and strong coffee.
The recent decision of Powdr Corp., Alpine Meadows’ parent company, to take over Treats’ concession has upset many of the coffee shop’s customers, as well as Granger and Jackson. As the third concession Powdr Corp. has taken control of in the last five years, and with another set to be absorbed this year, Treats has become a symbol to many Alpine skiers of the disappearance of small businesses as corporations move in. Powdr Corp. says it’s a way to run a more efficient resort and increase profits.
“It will be a huge loss,” said Keith Thomas, a Truckee resident and Alpine Meadows skier for more than 10 years. “It seems to be another move in a direction away from what Alpine is and was for a number of years.”
Granger and Jackson learned last week their three-year contract with the ski resort would not be renewed for the 2004-05 season. By the end of June, Treats will move out of the location it has called home for almost 20 years. Although shocked by the decision, the two women said they always knew it was a possibility. Powdr Corp., which bought Alpine Meadows in 1994, took over the mid-mountain Chalet in 1999 and the Breeze retail store (now Estelle Sports) in 2002.
“I thought there was a 50-50 chance,” said Jackson. “I’ve watched a new group of people take over with new business practices.”
Granger was hoping that Powdr would be dissuaded from taking over Treats because of the amount of money it would cost to bring the 225-square-foot space up to code. Built in 1989 in the resort’s breezeway, the cafe was exempt from new health and handicap codes. Granger says the corporation, which is not buying any of Treats’ equipment, would have to double the size of the space and spend thousands of dollars to bring it up to code.
According to Alpine Meadows General Manager Matt Janney, Powdr has not decided what it will do with the space. The Park City, Utah-based company is looking at creating a restaurant, cafe or possibly a combination of the two.
Janney said bringing outside concessions in-house is a trend at all Powdr resorts, such as Boreal Ridge, Soda Springs and Oregon’s Mount Bachelor. This gives Powdr stronger buying power and the ability to react to changing times without being tied to a contract, as well as enabling the corporation to operate at a higher profit margin since it doesn’t have to pay rent or give a percentage of its profits to a landlord. In addition to Treats, this year Powdr is taking over the cafeteria concession run by Aramark.
“We have the opportunity to operate (concessions) and when we see the market change, we can change right then and there,” Janney said. “This will allow us to be a more efficient operation and hold ticket prices at $39.”
While Breeze and Aramark are large companies, Alpine skiers doubt that Powdr can duplicate the mom-and-pop style business that Granger and Jackson created – a community hangout where parents and kids gather in the mornings to sip coffee or munch on homemade baked goods, listen to music and chat with employees.
“This speaks to the globalization of that resort, which is disturbing,” said Shaun Carrig of Santa Clara, a locker and season pass holder at Alpine for 14 years. “The friendship you find at Treats you just don’t get in an institutional environment like Starbucks or Safeway or McDonald’s.”