Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat

Columbia State Historic Park is almost back to normal after being in an economic funk for the past year or so.

The latest business to reopen in town is the What Cheer Saloon in the City Hotel. It opened about two weeks ago. The City Hotel Restaurant, known for fine dining and festive events, is slated to open by Oct. 1, said Jackie Briggs, who with her husband, Jeff, took over seven separate venues in March.

The town has been especially hurting since June 2009, when a former concessionaire pulled out of those venues - City Hotel, City Hotel restaurant, Fallon Hotel, Fallon Ice Cream Parlor, Jenny Lind restaurant (now Bart's Black Skillet), What Cheer Saloon and Fallon Theater.

The Briggses opened the ice cream parlor in May. It is next to the

Fallon Theater, which is subleased to Sierra Repertory Theatre. The

theater is the only one of the seven venues that remained open by a

special agreement with the state when there was no concessionaire.

The couple opened Bart's Black Skillet in June, and the hotels opened about a month ago.

Jeff and Jackie Briggs are also concessionaires for three cottages

in town that the state renovated for use as vacation rentals. They come

complete with dishes, pots and pans, utensils and bedding. They range

from one bedroom for $135 per night for two people to three bedrooms at

$180 per night for four people.

"This is a first for the park," said Vince Sereno, state parks

sector superintendent. "We wanted to provide another experience for the

public, and the cottages been very well received."

Each one has a large fenced yard. Sereno said families can have a

real small-town experience, use the cottages as vacation headquarters

to a wealth of nearby attractions, and still be close to all of the

amenities in Columbia.

Other new concessions that have opened recently include Thalisha's

Photographic Boutique on Main Street, which replaces another photo

studio a few doors away that closed in 2009, and the Fancy Dry Goods

Store, which reopened this spring.

The old photo studio building is in the midst of a renovation project and eventually will be home to a new concession.

Claudia Carlson and Lisa Taylor, of Columbia, took over the

Columbia Mercantile Store from Paul and Mary Gjerde this summer. The

Gjerdes had operated the concession for 33 years.

Contact Lenore Rutherford at lrutherford@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585.