Business owners cry out for help
December 8, 2007
Hiring and staffing has always been an issue for businesses in a seasonal resort town like Park City.
"We’ve always seen this problem in Park City," said Tom Anderson, business consultant for Park City Workforce Services. "There are not enough employees to hire locally."
In light of the recent controversies surrounding affordable housing in Park City and the intrusion of large franchises to this small, fancy resort town, the long time local business owners are starting to cry out for help.
"Help Wanted" signs dot Main Street in almost every other locally owned business’ shop window in one of the most popular tourist hubs in town. Owners and hiring managers said they have had to keep on their toes to make sure they hire in time for the busy ski and tourist season. But some say they’re having a difficult time keeping up with the competition.
"With the big franchise stores moving in, it’s really hard for the small businesses to compete with the big chain stores," said Julianne Rosen-Carone, owner and manager of Rocky Mountain Christmas on Main, who has had a "Help Wanted" sign posted outside her store for months now. "The [big franchises] don’t take our customers away, but they do take our employees away."
Rosen-Corene is losing one of her long-term employees, Gia Scipione, to Bed Bath and Beyond at the Redstone Towne Center. Scipione said, while she has enjoyed the environment and camaraderie at her current workplace, Bed Bath and Beyond is offering better pay and benefits.
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Anderson said that’s the catch if small locally owned business owners want to keep their employees.
"A couple of key factors include offering good benefits, health insurance, [and] better wages, of course," Anderson said. "Flexible schedules are a very important thing. Anything they can do. That way, they can help their businesses run smoother and help their employees stay longer."
Mary Black, owner and manager of Hilda clothing store on Main Street for 19 years, said she has been able to keep loyal, long-term employees who stay with her because she tries to be a good boss and offers a great working environment.
"I am successful at keeping employees because I try to offer an enjoyable employment experience," Black said. Black said locally owned businesses might have an easier time hiring and retaining their employees if they treat them with respect and offer flexible hours.
But even other businesses claiming to offer enjoyable working environments are having difficulties hiring and keeping a full-time staff.
One long-term locally owned business, Backscratcher Tees, a T-shirt and souvenir shop on Main Street, keeps a "Help Wanted" sign posted in the shop’s windows throughout the year.
Shaunna Hansen, a four-year employee at Backscratcher, said she loves her job. However, the hardest part about keeping employees for her boss, she says, is that many job-seekers do not speak English or can only work seasonally.
"The biggest problem is the non-English speaking applicants. But we take all applications," Hansen said. "We’re always looking to hire in the winter. We usually hire kids in high school, but [they] eventually leave. When the season kicks in, it’s crazy, so we try to have three people in here in the winter."
Liza Simpson, manager of Java Cow and Cows Ice Cream on Main Street and soon-to-be city council member, said while hiring has been a difficult feat for her, the new owners, Ken and Marcie Davis, have created a well-devised strategy to hire well before the ski season begins. They mostly rely on CCUSA, she said, an international student service that pairs foreign college students with seasonal jobs in the United States, including resort towns like Park City. But the Davis’ also offer affordable housing for their employees at Prospector Square, where they recently purchased some apartments. She said this is a big reason they are able to keep their employees coming back every year.
"We do our hiring from referrals from housing," Simpson explained. "Last year was horrible, because the international students didn’t have housing [and] couldn’t work for us."
Simpson said because these international students have an affordable place to stay when they come to work for the winter season, they continue to come back and refer their friends.
Kathy Pederson, owner of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Dolly’s Bookstore on Main, agrees that affordable housing should be made available in Park City. She said hiring can always be a terror when there is a shortage of applicants before tourist season begins. She said, while she relies on Craig’s List a lot – a popular job and classifieds site for the X-generation – she hates to chance it every year.
"It’s gotten hard," Pederson said. "Everyone’s just going to have to deal with it. You want to give the best customer service possible, but you have to make do. We need more affordable housing. That’s definitely huge in order to maintain growth."
Dave Schaffner of the Flat Rabbet Gallery and Framing shop on Main Street said he’s had a "Help Wanted" sign posted up for as long as he can remember and would love to hire someone full time, since he’s usually a one-man show at his store during business hours.
"It’s there permanently," Schaffner said of his "Help Wanted" sign. "I can pretty much handle everything that comes my way, but [having a new full-time employee], that would be just too much of a luxury to ask."
Schaffner had a lot to say about the enjoyment he finds in his job and said he is sure a new employee would be excited and interested to learn about the origins of poster art and art, in general.
"It’s a fun, interesting gallery," he said. "Most of it is vintage, but we also have contemporary art."
Rosen-Carone said she loves working on Main Street and tries to work with other merchants to make it an enjoyable place for tourists and locals. She said she works with Sharron Latimer, owner of the Christmas on Main Street store, to make sure the two similar shops don’t carry the same merchandise. She said she hopes she can maintain the uniqueness of her store and the other authentic, locally owned shops on Main Street that make it what it is, without causing friction or unneeded competition.
Until then, Rosen-Carone says she will be looking for another part-time employee, wherever he or she might be, in a highly educated and competitive town like Park City.
"As a business owner, you can only work so many hours before you crash and burn," she said. "Obviously, the ski season will get busier."
Anderson said Park City Workforce Services offers local business merchants and larger franchises information and assistance in hiring new employees in the area for free. As a previous business owner himself, Anderson said he knows it can be tough.
"It’s a struggle," he said. "I feel for them because every time a new business comes in, you have a demand for 50 employees in the store it’s hard for stores to come in and hire enough people."
For more information about Park City Workforce Services, call 649-8451 or visit http://www.jobs.utah.gov.