I wanted to go through my archives and post some of the stuff I’ve worked on in the past…so eventually I’ll catch up to now and get more of my work out there. This was a travel project I worked on last year focusing on Sandpoint, Idaho. It reminded me that things do indeed change and I hope the economy was just at the low point in the up and down cycle for Sandpoint, just like it has been for so many other resort towns.
Sandpoint, Idaho is a city with two lives. One of a resort town, complete with a winery and a downtown beach on the southwestern shores of Lake Pend d’Oreille. The other of a town struggling to survive, complete with empty storefronts and winter streets with no one on them.
Four years ago I came across the town of Sandpoint while passing through on my way to Spokane, Washington. Idaho Highway 200 takes the traveler on a scenic route through downtown. I stopped and ate dinner at a place that now only exists as an empty restaurant.
I went back later that year and participated in a wine shop tasting, the business is no longer there and in its place there is a high-end art studio.
Those visits cemented Sandpoint in my mind as a chic little town in the Idaho Panhandle, surrounded by water and mountains, that I wanted to visit again.
What has replaced that vision is now a town that has been hit hard by economic times, a town with at least three empty storefronts on every block.
Mat Schiel, a bartender at Mick Duff’s brewery in downtown, said he’s seen many storefronts open and close in the two years he’s been in Sandpoint.
“Two people own all of the buildings in downtown and they don’t seem to care if they’re full or not,” he said. “Rent is expensive.”
A by-pass is currently in the works alongside the rail tracks and Sandpoint’s historic train station that could take the Idaho Highway 200 traveler business away from downtown.
But Sandpoint still maintains a part of its destination-town history.
On the weekends you are almost guaranteed to find music somewhere downtown. Stumble into the Pend d’Oreille winery on a given weekend and you could find a barrel tasting and live music.
Stay at the Best Western Edgewater Resort and book a room with a lakefront view. Step out onto the beach for a seven a.m. sunrise or a walk on city beach.
The Panida Theatre is in the process of being restored to its original glory with the help of some persistent town folk, the Pend d’Oreille winery is still kicking after 16 years, and a slew of lakefront condos were installed within walking distance from city beach.