Kenny found his groove
February 08, 2012
One Driggs property owner gets pumped about reinvesting locally
Just like beginning a successful exercise routine, Ken Chambers knows that supporting the local businesses needs to be deliberate and continuous in order to strengthen the our economy in Teton Valley. For the last nine months, he did just that. Citizen photo by Jeannette Boner
Though Ken Chambers may often be caught with a pinch of snuff in between his cheek and gum, the local businessman will never be accused of not putting his money where his mouth is.
Fully involved with the remodel of his downtown property in Driggs, Chambers is a founding member of the Teton Valley Business Development Center, an organization that promotes using locals whenever possible. From foundation to finish, Chambers sought to use Teton Valley subcontractors during his remodel and he feels that everybody came out ahead because of it.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got extremely talented people working here, and it was great to be able to work with each of them,” Chambers said this week as the new Dreamchasers facility opened its doors.
As a property owner in downtown Driggs, Chambers developed a relationship with Jay and Lisa Smith-Batchen, but he was not your typical landlord. Chambers valued his tenants to the point that he was willing to make a significant investment to create custom space for them.
“At first, I was just so excited to have the opportunity to work with world-class athletes,” Chambers said. “It was a fabulous opportunity, and Lisa and Jay are just the nicest people you ever want to meet.”
When a new Dreamchasers facility was pitched to Chambers, he signed on immediately. He saddled up his backhoe and started to tear down parts of his property that had been derelict and unoccupied for a long time.
Together with Kim Dalley and George O’Rourke, the demolition got people’s attention. The promise of new construction just off Main Street was exciting during a time of slowed real estate sales in a sluggish economy.
While Chambers was at the helm of the backhoe, he was also sitting at the table with local architectural firms and structural engineers. He worked with Gordon Goodell of Harmony Designs and Jason Letham of L-8 Architects to find a way for his remodel to stand out while also blending in with existing buildings. He went back and forth from the private sector to public city offices, working with Driggs Planning Administrator Doug Self to ensure appeal was a two-way street in downtown Driggs.
From the drawing board to digging the trenches, Chambers acted as the general contractor of the project.
Working will Dalley and O’Rourke, he completed much of the excavation himself, until it was time to pour concrete. Local names like John Strong, Sean Miller, Cory Murdock and Kipp Hill were brought in to put in a foundation, and Chambers said he was impressed at every step in the process.
Working from a well-laid foundation, Chambers brought on Mike Coyle to head up construction with the help of Dalley and O’Rourke. Doug and John Beard worked with the help of Ed Vontz to put a roof on the building, and the structure started to take shape. Jeremy Baler put in the plumbing while Shawn Zuber worked on the electrical aspects of the building. Steve Roth installed all the mechanical aspects like in-floor heating and the boiler that will heat the hot yoga studio to well above 100 degrees. Don Markley did all the plaster work, while Sam Hatch was hired to put the finishing touches on the flooring, and Chambers breathed a sigh of relief that he was able to purchase most of the materials locally.
Chambers had acquired the building in 1988, a time when he was just getting his feet wet understanding the value of reinvesting in property. The property had experienced a facelift four years ago, but much of what stands there today was not even an idea then.
After working the Smith-Batchens to determine what their business needed in order to achieve success, Chambers made the commitment to completely renovate by using a crew of local craftsmen.
“It looked like a pretty good gamble to me,” he said.
Even as this project nears completion, Chambers is looking to possibly co-locate the offices of the Teton Valley Business Development Center with the Teton Valley Chamber of Commerce and other nonprofit organizations that could benefit from increased exposure nearer to Main Street. Chambers says he believes in the people of Teton Valley and his willingness to invest in them is proof.