Downtown Durango attracts thousands of tourists each summer who come for its abundant shopping, dining and Old West charm.
The area generates a third of sales-tax revenue in the city, more than any part of the city except south Durango, home to auto dealers and big-box stores.
Downtown also is home to a historic railroad that brings more than 100,000 riders to town each year and serves as part of Durango’s unique iconography.
So, who owns Main?
Commercial real estate downtown is held by a mix of local and out-of-state owners. Some are owned by old Durango families, while others are owned by families in New Mexico or farther-flung states and run by local property managers.
Few Main Avenue properties are owner-occupied, meaning many prominent businesses answer to a landlord.
For whatever reason, the mix seems to work.
“I’m not sure why it works, but our main street works, which we’re very, very fortunate on,” said Jasper Welch, a business consultant and co-owner of DurangoSpace, a downtown meeting facility geared toward entrepreneurs.
The largest property owners in downtown Durango tend to be local.
Jim Jackson, a longtime local resident, owns much of the 500 block of Main Avenue through his company Jackson & Jackson. His holdings include the locations of the General Palmer Hotel, Four Leaves Winery, Nini’s Taqueria and Starbucks, among others.
Jackson was traveling abroad and was not available for comment, a Jackson & Jackson representative said.
Ted Hermesman and his family also own a couple of large Main Avenue properties – the Main Mall at 835 Main Ave., and Northpoint Mall at 1315 Main Ave. – among many others. Hermesman did not return a message seeking comment.
Downtown commercial real estate is not an easy market to enter.
Downtown Durango property is costlier than comparable downtown properties in Albuquerque and Farmington, said John Wells, owner and broker at The Wells Group, a Durango real-estate brokerage.
“Downtown Main Avenue property is expensive compared to other areas,” he said.
Wells is part of a limited-liability company that owns the Old Woolworth Building occupied by Eolus Bar & Dining, Duranglers and Tippy Canoe in the 900 block of Main Avenue. He and his wife, Shanan Campbell Wells, also own 828 Main Ave., home to Shanan’s Sorrel Sky Gallery.
Most of the major property owners on Main Avenue have some connection to Durango, Wells said. Many live here or once did. In some cases, Fort Lewis College alumni buy property to maintain a link to the city.
“They have some passion for Durango,” Wells said. “By buying a property, they reconnect.”
Another common scenario is when the children or grandchildren of the original, local buyer now live elsewhere but keep a Main Avenue property in the family.
While local ownership predominates, properties owned by out-of-towners are interspersed around downtown.
For example, the building at 1150 Main Ave. housing The Lost Dog Bar & Lounge is registered to an owner in Manassas, Va., according to the La Plata County Assessor’s Office.
The home of Fired Up Pizzeria, 741 Main Ave., is registered to an owner in Vista, Calif.
Privately, some Main Avenue tenants complain about out-of-state landlords – or their property managers – for being unresponsive. Yet they’re unwilling to speak publicly for fear of worsening their situations.
Downtown Main Avenue has an almost nonexistent vacancy rate for storefronts. Some apparently vacant spaces in reality are spoken for. For example, a casual dining business is coming to the former CrossFit Durango space at 846 Main Ave, Wells said. The property is owned by Stavroula Limited Partnership of Albuquerque.
An art gallery is coming to 1006 Main Ave., home most recently to Down to Earth, which sold Life is Good T-shirts and related items.
One vacant downtown storefront is the former Taylor-Raymond Jewelers location fronting the Main Mall.
“Right now, downtown doesn’t really have any vacancies,” Wells said. “We have a pretty healthy downtown.”
The tight market can make it tough for business owners to find the right location.
Welch said he looked at about 35 office locations downtown before settling on a location for DurangoSpace at 1221 Main Ave.
The location is locally owned by Gary Robison, who also owns Land Title Guarantee Co. next door. Welch said he appreciates having a local landlord.
“He’s been a great landlord,” Welch said. “Someone like Gary – local ownership, maintains his building, he’s involved in the community.”
Robison said Durango will continue to pull in commercial investment as long as it remains an attractive town in which to live or to visit.
“It’d be hard to identify a more vibrant downtown than what Durango is,” he said.