Business owners find a special brand of magic in Teton Valley
Illustration by Meghan Hanson
Throughout the years, various Jackson Hole business owners have sent feelers over Teton Pass to test the trade waters of Teton Basin. Typically, these enterprises serve as Idaho-side adjuncts of stores or restaurants whose primary base of operations remains in Wyoming.
Here we highlight a pair of local businesses with Jackson roots whose owners have committed fully to doing business here, bringing important services to the quiet side of the Tetons. In both cases, the owners have found an intense passion for place among valley residents—one that is hard to resist and has them investing in the thriving spirit of innovation they’ve found in Teton Valley.
Business with Social Benefits
Imagine strolling through the doors of a cozy house-turned-business handily located in the center of Driggs a block away from the main intersection in downtown. You’re greeted by name. Printer and copy machines hum in the background while the owner, Becky Strout, armed with a soft Southern accent and kind demeanor, effortlessly juggles working with a mother and daughter trying to operate the digital photo printer, a customer loaded down with boxes for FedEx, and a visitor who has just come by to shoot the breeze. Art supplies line the shelves, and posters announcing local events hang on the back walls ready for delivery.
In 2006, when Becky’s husband, architect Roger Strout, opened a Driggs branch of his Jackson-based firm, Strout Architects, the couple discovered a void in architectural print services. Voilà! Peak Printing was born.
But as the economy weakened and the need for reproducing blueprints declined with the construction slowdown, the Strouts were unsure if they could maintain the business. Determined to do what she could to make it successful, Becky committed to driving from Jackson to Driggs to work in the store a few days a week. The result has been a lot more than she bargained for—she not only has sustained the business, she has tapped into a community and social scene that she’s thrilled to be a part of. She even lives part-time above their shop now.
“I thought I’d be always going back to Jackson after work,” Strout says. “But we’re finding we’re getting much more engaged in this community than we would have ever thought.” Even her husband frequently commutes over the pass after work to enjoy Teton Valley’s social offerings, such as the music nights at Alpine Wines in Driggs.
Strout’s involvement extends beyond the social sphere. She’s an active member of the Downtown Driggs Community Association, and says she has found herself “blown away” by the level of involvement and genuine interest from town officials.
“I just don’t think that would happen in Jackson,” she says.
Strout admits that prior to making the move to Driggs, she regarded Teton Valley as a bedroom community, a place where people bided their time until managing to relocate to Jackson Hole. But instead, she has found a distinct community, one containing a collective (and contagious) energy of enthusiasm, creativity, and optimism.
“There are outstandingly creative people in all sorts of unexpected pockets in the valley,” Strout says. “I think people are choosing this low-key, laidback lifestyle, but they’ve got high-powered ideas and they’re happy to use local businesses. It’s got a huge economic effect.”
Strout is a creative person herself; she comes from a family of artists and is a graphic designer by training. Her favorite part of Peak Printing is working with customers on projects.
“I don’t love copying a one-hundred-page book,” she says. “But I love problem solving. Thinking of creative solutions to help people’s businesses—that’s my favorite.”
Another favorite is working with locals on family scrapbooks. “There is such a rich tradition of documenting ancestry here,” she says. “It’s fun to get a sense of the history of the valley.”
Strout looks forward to continuing to expand the business and its offerings, including more graphic design and architectural design services, as well as crafts like bookmaking and paper projects such as embossing and intricate design cutting. She says people in Jackson often ask her when she’s going to sell the business and get back to the east side of the pass.
“I’m not!” she says, laughing. “I love it! I’m investing in it. I’ve got new equipment; [the business] is going to grow!”
Creating a Velo Culture
Scott Fitzgerald has been a well-known fixture in Teton Valley for several years. He served as mayor of Victor, worked as a driving force behind the creation of the popular Victor Bike Park, and has advocated for winter snow bike access on public lands. But it wasn’t until this past year that his shop, Fitzgerald’s Bicycles, peddled its way over the pass to its new location in Victor. The business had been running in Jackson for ten years.
A Teton Valley resident since 2004, Fitzgerald was finally free of the Teton Pass commute, leaving him more time to spend with his wife Jannine and young son Braden. But quality of life wasn’t the only reason for the relocation. It was just as much about making a sound business decision.
A small-town bike shop in snow country that deals only in bicycles is a rarity. Fitzgerald explains that by being based in Jackson, where rents are exponentially higher, the store struggled during the winter months when sales slowed. Expanding to skis and snowboards was the obvious choice, but he wasn’t interested.
After months of searching for the right space in Victor, Fitzgerald found a property large enough to accommodate the shop’s inventory and desired repair space; a place just off Highway 33 with easy access to the Victor-Driggs Pathway trailhead. And so, rather than signing his name to another lease, he made a down payment on a mortgage.
“We feel we can serve all our customers better now because we have long-term stability,” Fitzgerald says. “I’m not sure how much longer we could have kept it as just a bike shop [in Jackson]. The [sales and service] volume is lower … but the lower cost of doing business in Teton Valley makes up for it.”
That cost advantage is why he thinks other business owners might find it worthwhile to investigate a similar move.
“Get in while you can,” Fitzgerald says. “Teton Valley has been slower to recover than Jackson, but [the communities] are joined at the hip. It will get better. The beauty, the amenities, the lifestyle in Teton Valley—there are a lot of reasons to get in now. There’s a commitment by the community to invest and improve in their downtowns. That, in combination with the trails system, is going to make it a coveted place to be.”
For Fitzgerald, the best part of moving the business has been the appreciation displayed by valley residents; he says the enthusiastic welcome has been “really inspiring.” Perhaps it’s because the community recognizes that Fitzgerald’s Bicycles provides Teton Valley with a rich nexus for a velo culture.
Fitzgerald is just as fired up about his community as he is about bikes, and combining the two is one of his major goals. He is involved in local trail planning efforts; the Wydaho Rendezvous Mountain Bike Festival; and Victor Velo, the nonprofit responsible for the city’s bike park and cyclo-cross race series. And this past summer he launched an offshoot business called The BikeTender, offering guide and support services to local and visiting cyclists. Next fall they plan to add a “Harvest and Handlebars” event, a bike tour visiting organic and bio-dynamic farms in the valley.
“It will be similar to a wine-country experience,” Fitzgerald says; “a big farm lunch with fresh food, then time to meet the farmers.”
He would also like to create multi-day snow biking tours that include snow camping. “We want to sell experiences, not just products. We want to give people a reason to visit Teton Valley, then stay here.”
Finally, in part to combat the inevitable winter slowdown, Fitzgerald’s has launched the new Nine Bar. Both Fitzgerald and Jannine, the visionary behind the full-service espresso bar, hope it will become a hub not just for cyclists, but for a broad cross-section of valley residents and visitors.
Fitzgerald’s belief about what a bike shop should be helps explain the cult-like following his shop has developed over the years: “When you go to a town for the first time, you go to the bike shop and the brew pub to get a feel for the place,” he says.
Fitzgerald’s facility in Jackson sat next to Snake River Brewing, and—as “luck” would have it—not one, but two brewpubs are conveniently located just up the street from Fitzgerald’s Bicycles in Victor.