Sundance starts — and some Park City businesses brace for their first fest
Places new since 2020 have never experienced the unique opportunities, challenges
Tina’s Bakery opened in the Gateway Center, just off Main Street, in the middle of December, in time for the holiday crowds and, now, for the Sundance Film Festival. It is an Argentinian bakery with a menu that includes foodstuffs and beverages that, it seems, will appeal to the fast-moving festival crowds.
The bakery is located just steps from Sundance’s box office, and the building is usually hopping during the festival as film lovers consider their screening options for the day. Valentina Udabe, one of the owners of the bakery, on Thursday, just hours before the opening of Sundance, described the location as being in the “middle of the storm.” Tina’s Bakery is open longer hours during the opening weekend of Sundance, moving to a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule instead of closing at the usual time of 6 p.m.
“We’re ready for anything,” she said.
Tina’s Bakery is one of the businesses in the Main Street core that has never experienced an in-person Sundance. The pandemic forced the past two festivals online and the event in 2023 is the first since the 2020 edition closed just weeks before the spread of the novel coronavirus became devastating. There has been somewhat of a realignment of businesses and property owners in the Main Street district during the pandemic, meaning there are a number of shops and restaurants that are new to an in-person Sundance.
The festival, which opened Thursday and runs until Jan. 29, is normally an especially lucrative stretch on Park City’s tourism calendar. The lodging, restaurant and transportation industries usually post some of the best numbers of the year, challenged only by the holiday period. Many businesses in the Main Street area and across the community bring on extra staff during Sundance, tinker with their hours of operation and stock up their shelves and kitchens
Even so, Sundance, with its large crowds of film lovers, the media, celebrity gawkers and regular Parkites, could overwhelm businesses in the pre-pandemic era. It seems difficult for a business that had never experienced an in-person Sundance to be fully prepared in all the aspects of its operations without the benefit of internal numbers from previous festivals.
But the businesses new to Sundance with near certainty have attempted to ready themselves as best they can with the understanding that the crowds can challenge even long-established places. Lines are sometimes out the door, customers in restaurants and other businesses may be on tight schedules as they head to a screening or a party and there have been stories for years about the festival crowds mistreating the rank-and-file workers of Park City.
There is also the opportunity to reap the financial rewards. An economic study conducted during the 2020 festival, the most recent in-person event, found Sundance generated $150.4 million in spending. Meals totaled $28.8 million while a category of other spending, covering a wide range of purchases, accounted for $8.3 million. The study did not provide details about the location of the spending, but it is believed much of it is in Park City.
The numbers illustrate the potential for strong sales at new and established businesses across the various sectors over the 11 days of the festival in Park City.
Tina’s Bakery anticipates staffers will work more hours during Sundance than they otherwise would and two or three additional people will be brought on for the festival. Udabe expects coffee and empanadas will sell well during Sundance.
“We’re ready. I can’t wait,” said Udabe, who previously spent 10 years working in Park City restaurants and understands what can occur during Sundance.
Another place in the Main Street area that opened in the time since Sundance in 2020 is Don Goyo, a Mexican restaurant that debuted in December.
One of the owners, Vasil Todorov, said the restaurant will add 10 people to the staff each day during Sundance, a significant increase from the typical 25 per night. The restaurant also brought a well-known chef from Mexico City to Park City for the festival. The festival could assist as Don Goyo attempts to carve out a place in Park City’s competitive restaurant industry.
“Sundance can help us establish this restaurant,” he said.
Valentina Udabe, one of the owners of Tina’s Bakery, on Thursday, just hours before the opening of Sundance, described the location as being in the “middle of the storm.”
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