Eagle merchant complains town’s info center is unfair competition
Eagle business owner Jan Rosenthal Townsend is concerned that the Eagle Information Center is peddling more than just information, so Tuesday night she presented those worries to the Eagle Town Board.
“I am hoping to make sense of what the Eagle Information Center is,” said Rosenthal Townsend.
She said that for 15 years she has been involved in the center operation as one of the consignors who offered merchandise for sale at the site. “Our main interest was the PR value,” said Rosenthal Townsend.
But Rosenthal Townsend said earlier this year, she was informed that her consignment deal with the center was being terminated while at the same time, the information center had been transformed into a “stocked gift store.”
“I took exception with the fact that the town of Eagle is competing with its remaining merchants,” said Rosenthal Townsend. “We can’t compete with a million dollar location. We can’t compete with the signage on the highway.”
Rosenthal Townsend argued that the role of the information center should be to promote Eagle business and answer questions about the town. She claimed that is not happening. Rosenthal Townsend presented the board with information from some secret shoppers — individuals she sent to the information center to anonymously interact with the information center staff. One of those shoppers — Tim Barca — said he was shocked by both the misinformation he received and the inventory at the center.
“I really disagree with her concept about how we operate,” responded information center manager Barbara Meese.
Meese said the information center staff routinely sends visitors to Eagle businesses and the decision to change out consignment operators was made because of neglected and slow-moving inventory combined with a directive from the town to cut back the subsidy the town pays to the information center.
“We gave Barbara kind of an impossible challenge, and that was to make the info center a self-sufficient operation,” said town board member Anne McKibbin.
That is the crux of the issue, noted Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney. He said the subsidy paid to the information center was a topic of concern during the 2015 budget hearings so the information center was tasked with bringing in additional revenue.
“If you don’t want it to be subsidized with town money, they are on the right track,” said Stavney.
The board did not discuss the issue in depth and indicated they would take up the debate after further study. In the meantime, town staff will work with the center to improve signs and maps at the site, with the goal of promoting town businesses.