Several concessions are up for bid in Columbia State Historic Park as the state catches up on renewing its contracts.
According to state law, businesses must go up for bid when contracts run out even if the current concessionaires are doing well and want to continue. The state has had a backlog for several years, said Calaveras Sector Superintendent Vince Sereno, and has been working on a month-to-month basis with concessionaires whose contracts are up.
“We are working hard to catch up,” said Peggy Harwell, Calaveras Sector Concessions Specialist for the State of California, based in Columbia.
A pre-proposal meeting was held Nov. 1 for a five-year contract with an option to extend an additional five years for the Pioneer Emporium, an historic-style specialty retail concession.
David and Maryann Brown’s contract on that building expires on Jan. 31, and they don’t plan to try for a new contract, Sereno said. They also operate the Towle & Leavitt concession in the park.
Harwell said two people expressed strong interest in the concession, one from Walnut Creek and one from Columbia.
Public input is being sought regarding three more retail concessions at a meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 23 at Eagle Cotage, 11195 Washington St., Columbia, Harwell said.
They are Conrad’s Garage on Parrotts Ferry Road, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows building at State Street and Parrotts Ferry Road and the Heynemann Building at 22760 Main St., which now houses Brown’s Coffee House.
Two of the concessions’ contracts have expired and have been operating on a month-to-month tenancy. The Conrad’s Garage building is being renovated.
Kim Kuyl, owner of Columbia Candle and Soap Works, has her business in the Odd Fellows Building now. She originally operated out of the Conrad’s Garage building, starting in 1995, until it closed for remodeling several years ago.
“I am just going with the flow,” she said. “I’ve been working on a month-to-month basis for a long time now, and I don’t know whether they will actually go out to bid this time. We’ve had pre-bid meetings before.”
She said she just wants to stay in business, and will go for whichever building seems appropriate at the time.
Potential concessionaires are not required to attend pre-bid meetings, but the meetings offer a lot of information, including reviews of the bid process and materials, as well as tours of the businesses.
The Nov. 23 meeting is to solicit public input and ideas prior to completion of the Requests for Proposals (bids) for the operation of the three separate retail concessions within the park.
Columbia State Historic Park has the largest collection of Gold Rush-era structures in California. Through concessions, much of the town’s business district has been re-created, offering historic-style stores, saloons, restaurants and hotels.
Recent visitor attendance reports indicate the park attracts an average of 497,000 visitors each year.