Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Coldwater Creek helped build a community

Posted By on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 1:01 PM

click to enlarge reuter.jpg

Coldwater Creek is going bankrupt. For most people around the country, that’s not a big deal. Coldwater Creek is just a women’s clothing store, which has failed to keep up with the times and consequently seen its sales dwindle — especially with the recession.

But to Sandpoint, Coldwater Creek is foundational to the area’s economy and culture. With over 500 jobs at their corporate headquarters, which often pay well above the county average, the financial impact is hard to miss. It will be a painful hit for a community that is still reeling from the housing crash.

Coldwater Creek is also a major philanthropic force in the community. They are key supporters of the arts, education and economic development — even when it wasn’t directly connected to their interests.

Several years ago, Coldwater Creek’s founder proposed building a U of I campus in Sandpoint. Right after the proposal was announced, Coldwater Creek’s stock cratered, and the plan was put off. The demise of Coldwater Creek also likely puts an end to that dream.

Perhaps most significantly, though, is the impact that Coldwater Creek employees have had on the community, independent of their day jobs. A lot of creative people have been able to afford to live and live well in Sandpoint and the surrounding area because of their jobs with Coldwater Creek. These people are also artists, musicians and patrons of the arts (sometimes all three). Sandpoint’s arts community will suffer from the loss of supporters and even more so as some of the people who make it what it is are forced to move to find good jobs.

All of this adds up to one big sad mess, but it’s worth remembering that there was never any reason why Coldwater Creek had to exist and few companies last forever. I wish the ride had lasted (decades) longer, but I am grateful for the impact it — and the people who work there — have had on the community I love. ♦

John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, is the executive director of Conservation Voters for Idaho. He has been active in protecting Idaho's environment, expanding LGBT rights and the Idaho Republican Party.

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