GUEST COLUMN:
The Avenue Merchants
By Robert Maez

       A new business support organization, the Avenue Merchants, is off and running. Representing Colorado Springs business owners west of 31st Street, the group

started in the fall with a few small-business owners. Our first public effort was a town hall-style meeting that received outstanding community support. The group went on to form a team of city, county, law enforcement and fire and safety representatives that is tackling the redevelopment of the area between Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs. The Avenue Merchants is a non-profit entity addressing all the issues that impact the Westside community and businesses alike. As the owner of the UPS Store and chairperson of the Avenue Merchants, I see our mission as establishing a stronger, more inviting environment through community involvement while helping business owners thrive through business development efforts.
       We have a Board of Directors that helps us set and accomplish our goals. We have one board position left to fill - a member at-large position. Other board members are Mike Crepeau, owner of the Hotel San Ayre, as first chair; Bart Combs, owner of SOLKOA , as second chair; Cary Vogrin, owner of Papa Murphy's, as secretary; and Cyndi Clark, assistant vice president and manager of the Bank at Broadmoor-Westside, as treasurer.
       The Avenue Merchants' recent involvement with the complex homeless issue resulted in a unified community effort to provide help to those in need and to support laws that prevent camping in high-risk, unsafe open areas. We are pushing for an advertising campaign that will help us educate the community on how to best help with the ongoing homeless issue. Our community has demonstrated compassion with regards to the issue, but I would like to see that energy directed to the existing community organizations that can provide the best help now. The community has really come a long way in addressing the homeless issue head on. We can all be proud of that.
       Medical marijuana is another complex issue that will have a profound impact on the community. The Avenue Merchants is forming a panel to develop and publish our opinion with regards to medical marijuana and its impact on the community. The panel will consist of government representatives, law enforcement, and members from the medical, business, and residential communities. The Avenue Merchants want to get enough information to better understand all the issues regarding medical marijuana. The Avenue Merchants will issue a press release with the date, time and location as the details of this panel meeting are finalized.
       The work the Avenue Merchants is involved with is enjoyable because we get an opportunity to meet and team up with outstanding members of our community, who provide amazing insight to the issues we face on a daily basis. We really feel like we can make a big difference in our community and help the business members of our organization thrive. We encourage businesses to join our group and participate with our community and business development effort.
       If business owners are interested in joining the organization as a member or would like to be on the Board of Directors, please contact me at the UPS Store by calling 473-6299 or emailing me at store1146@theupsstore.com.