Meridian Lanes upgrades building, bowling experience

With increased competition around the central part of the Treasure Valley, bowling stalwart Meridian Lanes shut down for more than a week to upgrade.

The ten-day closure is allowing crews to put in a new scoring system - replacing the old program first installed in 1995.

The new SYNC system from vendor Brunswick uses touchpad screens to tie into social media, and adds features like Angry Birds Bowling and photo uploading 

“Everything was designed to make the customer experience that much better.” new Meridian Lanes owner Andy Propst said.  “If you’re hungry and want some nachos, you used to have to leave the bowling area to go to the snack bar. Now you just press a button and we’ll come to you.”

Crews also gave the building a fresh coat of paint, updated flooring and renovated snackbar.

The alley opens back up August 1st.

The 32-lane alley has been open for more than 59 years. It has faced stepped up competition in recent years from 42 lanes at Big Al’s at the Village at Meridian and 24 lanes at Pinz  

Header photo: Courtesy Meridian Lanes

Knitting Factory to expand Boise concert house


The Knitting Factory is set to make a series of improvements that will allow it bump up the number of concert attendees it allows inside.

The venue, located in the 8th Street Marketplace in Downtown Boise, has had a maximum capacity of 999 for years - since it opened as the Big Easy in the late 1990s.  

Now, an additional restroom and changes to emergency exits will allow another 196 people in the building between the first and second floors. The existing 15,157 square foot space will not be expanded, but reconfigured to get the occupancy count up - key for a venue that runs on ticket sales. 

The project will cost about $35,000.


Owyhee events center gets new owner

The event spaces at the Owyhee building are up and running again - with new management and a new name: Agape Event Center at the Historic Owyhee

Bettina Debenham is owner and wedding planner for the venue. She founded Agape Ceremonies and Events in Eagle in 2014, with the addition of the Owyhee space this past March.

She says she's excited about the opportunity.

"We are in a prime location in downtown Boise," Debenham said. "The venue is newly remodeled and beautiful. Thus, being both practical and beautiful we expect this space being filled very frequently with for all of the above events listed above and more."

The Owyhee has three ballroom spaces that can be operated separately, or as one large room.

"We are open for all types of events and venue needs. This includes, but is not limited to, business meetings, lectures, weddings, receptions, dinner parties, holiday parties, tea parties, whatever parties."

Debenham says they offer a full-service environment for clients - including wedding and event planners.

As part of the initial revamp of the Owyhee in 2013, the capacity for the event spaces was expanded from a capacity of 220 to 350 people.

Header photo courtesy  Agape Event Center at the Historic Owyhee


Company fed up with California moving to Treasure Valley

Bob Piazza has spent all of his 74 years living in California - married for 53 of those, and operator of a business for 46.

His roots in the Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco are as deep as those of the nearby grape vines that define surrounding wine country.

California State Senator Mike McGuire visits with Price Pump President Bob Piazza in Sonoma in 2016. Courtesy Price Pump 

California State Senator Mike McGuire visits with Price Pump President Bob Piazza in Sonoma in 2016. Courtesy Price Pump 

But soon, Piazza, his wife and many of his employees will pull up those roots and transplant to the Treasure Valley.

When the dust settles, Price Pump Co. will be a proud part of the Idaho business economy, with a plant in Caldwell and 36 employees who are residents of the Gem State.

Piazza said he decided to leave the sunny days of Sonoma due to growing dissatisfaction with what he calls "irresponsible progressive decisions" across California. From restrictions on water use from private wells to what he sees as a conflict between California's 'sanctuary state' status and Federal Law - he says his company is the latest part of a manufacturing exodus over the last 30 years.

What's more, the cost of wages has been weighing on the company's bottom line.

"It's difficult to attract employees (to Sonoma), particularly from out of state," he said. "They can’t afford to live here. Labor makes up about one-fifth of my sales dollars."

Those high wages can make it harder to be competitive in the market, he said.

This November, Price Pump will move to a new facility in Caldwell.

According to the Idaho Press-Tribune, the company signed a $486,129 deal with the city’s urban renewal agency for about 6 acres of land in the Sky Ranch Business Center. 

And in a surprise to Piazza, half of his California-based employees will come along.

"Six months ago when we made this decision I thought we’d only get one to go - and that one is me. We got 18."

Piazza thought the Treasure Valley could sell itself - so he made it easy for employees to check it out.

"I said, 'anyone who wants to go to Idaho - I will pay for you to go up there for three days come back and you tell me if you want to go or not. If you want to go, I will give you a $12,500 moving allowance'."

Twelve employees took him up on the trip offer - but 18 folks are going to make the move. Price Pump will hire another 18 people locally to round out his workforce.

One employee had worked for the company for 46 years, and at 66 will be one of the new Idahoans.

“I’ve had a lot of business people from both Boise and Sonoma tell me we’re making the right call.”
— Bob Piazza, Price Pump President

"He said 'I looked at finances living in California, I can’t afford to live here. At 66 I’m not going to find another house. I'm going to have to sell my house and move… Boise is just as good as any.'"

Another employee lost his house in the 2008 housing crisis, and feels like this is a chance to start over - and with the Boise area's comparatively lower housing cost he will again be able to own a home.

 "It makes sense for me to take these people who know this business up there - helps me move product to my customers without disruption," he said.

One of his business partners is based in Boise which put the area on Price Pump's radar. They looked at other locations - Texas, Reno, Las Vegas.

Ultimately Idaho has what Piazza sees as a business-friendly climate won the business. Lower income and sales taxes help, plus more modest market values for property mean lower overall property tax.

Steve Fultz, Economic Development Director with the City of Caldwell said Price Pump has been offered a number of incentives to relocate - including a 5-year property tax exemption of up to 75% and a job creation grant of up to $200,000. The new Price Pump plant in Caldwell was previously owned by the Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency and was sold at a below market price "in exchange for the private investment and job creation." Price Pump could also qualify for incentives at the state level.

"The City of Caldwell is excited to have Price Pump as a corporate neighbor," Fultz said. "It is a long-standing business with an impeccable reputation in the industry.  The addition of this new business to Caldwell means great job opportunities for our residents with a quality business, and continues to build Caldwell's reputation as an excellent option for locating a manufacturing business."

Piazza is excited about the change of venue.

"Labor laws in California are onerous," Piazza said. "You don’t need a union in the state of California, the state IS your union. Even though it’s a right to work state, it’s really not - whereas Idaho is."

He said the decision has been backed up since it became public.

"I've had a lot of business people from both Boise and Sonoma tell me we're making the right call."

Wells Fargo to close Downtown Boise branch

The small Wells Fargo Bank branch near the Idaho Statehouse will close this summer.

Customers were notified this month of the pending closure - set for July 11th.  The small branch at 505 W. Bannock St. was acquired by Wells Fargo from First Security Bank in 2000.

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"This is not an easy decision or one that we take lightly," Wells Fargo spokesperson Julie Fogerson told BoiseDev. "We continue to evaluate our branch network and base our distribution strategy on customer trends, market factors and economic changes. In the case of our Capitol location, we’ve seen customer traffic decrease over time."

Fogerson said customers can use the Boise Main branch at 9th and Main in the future.

The company will close 300 branches this year - and will continue cutting physical branches as it says customers are moving to more digital means to manage money.  Fogerson could not provide specifics on if any more local branches will close. 

"However, we will continue to keep top of mind the needs of our communities and team members."

She said the number of branches could be down to "approximately 5,000" by the end of 2020. As of the 4th quarter of last year, the bank reported more than 8,300 physical locations.

Members of the BoiseDev Facebook Group found out about this story first. Join the conversation.


Crunch time: Fitness chain revamping old SE Boise gym


A decaying gym building in SE Boise is slated to again host barbells and treadmills as part of the expansion of a national chain in the Treasure Valley.

Crunch Fitness plans to open at the corner of Beacon St. and Division Ave. near ParkCenter Blvd. in coming months - after crews finish work on more than $400,000 worth of construction.

The old indoor swimming pool and spa will be filled in and covered, the exterior will be revamped, skylights will be taken out and a flurry of other cosmetic and structural changes.

A portion of the building's second floor will be removed, shrinking the overall square footage.

The building has hosted a number of gyms on and off over the years, including a 24 Hour Fitness location, Park Center Health and Racquet Club and others.

Crunch Fitness entered the market when a franchisee purchased seven existing Idaho Athletic Club locations last year.

Genius move? Einstein's Oilery plans to open on Broadway


Einstein's Oilery has applied to open a location on Broadway Ave. near Highland St. on the current site of a beauty salon.

The application with the City of Boise calls for a new drive-through quick lube spot, which would be the chain's 8th in the Treasure Valley.

The existing Blondie's Hair Salon would be torn down and replaced with a one-story oil change building with basement, if approved.


Boise Spectrum to swap hair-dressing schools

The Boise Spectrum will replace the TONI & GUY hairdressing school -- with another hairdressing school.

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Toni & Guy closed its Boise location after relocating to the Boise Spectrum.

In its place, Boise Barber College will open according to permit filings. BBC is currently located on Cole Rd. near Ustick and would move to the new location after a remodel.

New Vector Church planned for Fairview

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The old Kmart on Fairview is filling up - with a new Christian church planned.  Vector Church plans to do a full build out on a portion of the old discount retailer, with more than $44,000 in improvements planned.

The facility will be complete with a coffee bar to caffeinate parishioners. 

Why Vector (Victor)?

We wanna create a positive impact that spreads both far and wide, and since "vector" means a quantity having direction as well as magnitude... well, WHY NOT?!

Learn more about Vector here.


    New training facility to focus on basketball athletes


    T3 Sport will open a training facility on State St. near Collister this summer.

    Here's how the business describes itself:

    T3 is an innovative training facility coming to the Treasure Valley that focuses on basketball. We will offer a unique synergy of elite training, cutting edge technology, and a culture of excellence, accountability, and encouragement. We believe when you combine elite sport training with a focus on translation to the game the result is a transformed player. Membership packages will be available with a variety of options, to help you build an experience that works best for you.


    Uber to launch 'Eats' app in Boise

    Last week, grocery delivery service Instacart got revved up in Boise.

    Now, Uber Eats is set to launch.

    The food delivery offshoot of the ride-hailing app will go online Tuesday, August 22nd according to a news release from the company. Restaurants will set their own prices and Uber will add a $5.99 charge to the order.

    Uber has had a bumpy year and is currently without a full-time CEO - but continues to expand as competition from Lyft and others increases.

    Uber listed just three "notable" restaurants that will be available in Boise - Flatbread, Mai Thai and Parilla. A spokesperson cofirmed Fanci Freez, Gyro Shack, Barrelhouse and Bombay Grill would also be on the app.

    To use the service, users will have to download the separate Uber Eats app for iOS or Android.

    An Uber rep says the service will be available "downtown as well as Eagle, NorthEnd, Meridian, and parts of Southeast Boise."


    Dance studio, retail under construction in Barber Valley

    Boise's Barber Valley area is seeing a housing boom - but still has a relatively low amount of commercial retail space (save for Lucky 13, a gas station, the new Coffee Mill and a planned Albertsons complex). 

    Many residents have been curious about a pair of buildings going up on Barber Valley Drive near Maryanne Williams Park.

    One of the two structures will be home to Boise Dance Alliance and hopes to be open by August 1st. The dance school and studio is currently located on Apple St. near ParkCenter Blvd.

    The other building is planned for multiple tenants, but no permits for just what might go into those spaces have yet been filed.   Developers describe potential uses for the 6,203 square foot building as "restaurant/office/retail." Construction has not yet started on the second structure. 


    What goes around: First Interstate brand back in Boise

    Courtesy photo

    Courtesy photo

    First Interstate Bank, which in the Boise area became part of Wells Fargo - is about to return to the Treasure Valley.

    The brand survived under license to a separate entity based in Billings, Montana.  The company has grown steadily and purchased Bank of the Cascades late last year.

    Permits filed with the City of Boise show that the brand will be returning to Bank of the Cascades locations - with the first on Overland Rd. in the Overland Park Shopping Center.

    In a twist, the first branch to get First Interstate signage used to carry the brand before the Wells Fargo merger. Wells closed the branch - and it later opened as a Farmers & Merchants branch which became Bank of the Cascades. Got that? First Interstate > Wells Fargo > Farmers & Merchants > Bank of the Cascades > First Interstate.

    Filings are also in for the branches on Eagle Rd. and in Downtown Boise.

    The Appletons and Axiom: what's next for the popular gym chain?

    Are changes afoot at Boise's Axiom Fitness gyms?

    Late Micron Founder Steve Appleton founded Axiom in 2011, after converting several Gold's Gyms he owned.

    The holding company for Axiom, Fitness Holding LLC, is still listed under the ownership of Steve's widow Dalynn Appleton and the Appleton Family Trust.

    But several new entities have been created with the Idaho Secretary of State - Axiom Fairview LLC, Axiom Meridian LLC, Axiom Village LLC and Axiom Parkcenter LLC. Each of those is registered to Shannon Cook of Eagle.

    Fitness Holding LLC  is still listed on Axiom's membership signup page, and is controlled by the Appleton family as of Friday.

    Separately, Parkcenter LLC is listed by the Ada County Assessor as the owner of the land under the Axiom facility on ParkCenter Blvd.  Control of Parkcenter LLC was transferred from Thomas Manschreck to Cook on March 9th, according to the Secretary of State.  The land under the gyms on Fairview and Meridian, as well as The Village, are owned by a variety of development companies.

    Cook is also listed as the owner on Callier Riverwalk, which owns Boise's Riverwalk Apartments - among other businesses.

    BoiseDev reached out to the following people, none of whom replied to messages sent:

    • Chris Appleton, Steve's brother - who is listed as an agent on the holding company
    • Mark Jackson, the attorney for the Appleton Trust
    • Shannon Cook, principal in the newly created entities
    • Annie Ostalosa, VP of operations for Axiom
    • Dale Kajer, VP of sales for Axiom

    Orange Theory Fitness to open in SE Boise



    Orange Theory Fitness will open its second Treasure Valley location in the Southshore Shopping Center at ParkCenter Blvd. and Apple St.

    The fitness studio offers workout classes that use cardio and strength interval training while monitoring participants' heart rates. It franchises locations and opened its first location on Eagle Rd. in Meridian in 2015.

    OTF is slated to open this summer in the former Planet Beach Tanning studio next to Zeppole Baking Company.

    New concourse at Boise Centre opens: see a tour, find out what's ahead

    The second of three phases at Boise's convention center is complete - with the opening of an overhead walkway connecting the original building with a new facility in City Center Plaza. The project began in 2014 and is expected to wrap this summer.

    Phase one: Opened last fall, bringing a new ballroom, and several additional meeting rooms on the fourth floor of a new set of buildings on the east side of the Grove Plaza.

    Phase two: Wrapped up late last week and includes the construction of a semi-circular walkway that helps visitors get from the two buildings - while also connecting to the Grove Hotel and CenturyLink Arena.  The building features escalators from the first floor of the original Boise Centre and to the new fourth-floor Boise Centre East. The concourse also has an outdoor area that over looks The Grove Plaza.

    See the new Boise Centre expansion - with a timelapse from the original building to the new Boise Centre East

    Phase three: Slated to open this July, and will include a new 3,800 square foot junior ballroom in the area formerly housing an underutilized theater in the original building, plus a new second-floor board room, patio and additional office space.

    Also coming: 

    • New, large video screens in the lobby
    • Adjacent to the second-floor patio, a new herb garden will be installed. Produce from it will be used by the Boise Centre's executive chef in some of the catered meals in the building.
    • Seventeen new restroom stalls for women, a few additional for men and the addition of a family restroom.
    • The entire convention center building will be repainted in "warm gray tones" to match the new Boise Centre East architecture.  
    • All the rooms in the existing building will be given numbers, moving away from their current named scheme.
    • New logo signage behind a portion of the outdoor concourse.

    Largest... convention... ever: Mary-Michael Rodgers, Boise Centre Communications Manager says the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists will return to Boise for the second time - bringing a conference of 1,400 people - the largest ever at Boise Centre.  The group previously held its event at Boise Center in years past when it was much smaller.  The conference was originally slated to be held in North Carolina but was moved in the wake of that state's controversial bathroom law, Rodgers said. Participants will stay in thirteen local hotels - and nine hotels in the greater Downtown are already sold out for the June 4-8 event.  This event will be one of about a dozen conferences this year that will use both buildings.