The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 25, 2012

New Mexico camp a case study for the Summit




Notes from Cimarron:  When the scouts come to town


Knives, knives, knives

Valerie Kutz runs Cimarron Art Gallery, a popular combination soda fountain, gift shop, coffee bar, and art cooperative near Philmont Scout Ranch. The former drug store’s iconic soda fountain was installed in 1937, a year before the Philmont land was donated to the Boy Scouts of America.

“It’s a good example of something that was here before the Scouts and yet has served I don’t know how many millions of Scouts over the years,” says Tim O’Neill, a local real estate broker.

Kutz and her husband settled in Cimarron 20 years ago after attending the Philmont Scout Ranch Training Center. The area charmed them, and they also sensed a good business opportunity.

They capitalize on the things that boys love, namely, ice cream and “knives, knives, knives,” she says.

Other popular items for sale in Cimarron’s gift shops include sling shots, ponchos, hats, and arts and crafts — small items the Scouts can carry home in a suitcase for mom.

Philmont’s on-site Scout shop, Tooth of Time Traders, does a booming business supplying the Scouts with equipment, clothing and souvenirs. But often the boys are looking for opportunities to “become engaged in the Cimarron experience and take a piece home,” as the village’s comprehensive plan states.

And for that, they will turn to shops like Kutz’s that advertise authentic collectibles from the area, with a dash of local charm.

“The business community will have to build a support around what they are selling at camp,” says local business woman Deb Saunders of the possible retail opportunities near The Summit, which will also have an on-site store.

“Coordinate with the Scouts on what they are selling and what the boys are allowed to have (at Philmont),” she advises.

“I think your town would see people wanting to have an antique store, curio shop or Dairy Queen — businesses that would benefit from the traffic you’re going to see through your village,” says the town’s clerk administrator, Mindy Cahill.

The village’s small grocery store also does extremely well.

And Russell Sundries, a five and dime “everything” store — formerly a Ben Franklin retail chain — supplies groups with last-minute backpacking odds and ends like bandages, razors, and hangers.

“It’s the ‘Oh my gosh I forgot that’ store,” says Cahill.

Saunders warns that the village has seen seasonal, fly-by-night businesses crop up that have tried to fleece the boys.

“You may have some of that,” she says. “How your business leaders choose to deal with it is going to be up to your community. Here, you have to have a business license so you’re paying gross receipts tax and can’t just set up on the side of the road.

“If you give the Scouts a good product for a fair price and you’re not gouging them, they will tell other Scout troops about it.”

For Cimarron, it’s paying off.

In 2008, retail generated nearly $5 million in gross receipts, double what accommodations and food brought in combined. It is consistently their highest-dollar sector.

The town’s share of the taxes on retail sales was about $100,000.

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