Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat

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


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


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.

Complimentary copies of the Requests for Proposal will be available

online at http://www.parks.ca.gov/concessions. Hard copies may be

purchased at $25 each by contacting Harwell at 536-2917 or


Further information may also be had by contacting Teresa Montijo,

California State Parks Concessions Program Manager, at 916-653-4574 or


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.

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