When shop owners, residents and visitors join together to celebrate the grand opening of Idyllwilds new Village Centre complex on March 5 from 1 to 5 p.m., they will be celebrating more than just another commercial venture.
For some, the Centre represents a finely crafted addition to the center of town. For others it represents the proliferation of fine art in this community that has been named One of the 100 Best Small Art Towns in America. And to still others, it represents nothing less than a dream fulfilled.
The idea for the centre began to incubate a few years ago when Vic and Kate Sirkin and Pete and Suzy Capparelli of Idyllwild Realty bought the parcel of land behind the Tree Monument from the Bank of Hemet.
We had a lot of suggestions from townspeople as to what to put on the property, said Sirkin, such as a parking garage, public restrooms, an RV park, and a miniature golf course.
We would never have sold the property to a fast-food chain or gas station franchise, said Sirkin. We felt we had a moral obligation to do something responsible and good for the community.
Finally Sirkin took pencil in hand and sketched out a rough draft of a new center for downtown Idyllwild. Kate and Suzy and Pete liked the idea, so they hired local designer Robert Priefer to draw up a set of plans. Preifer worked with another local designer, David Lillieholm, to get the plans ready for the county.
For the next two-and-a-half years, Sirkin, Capparelli, Preifer and Lillieholm made innumerable trips to the county building department to finally get the plans approved. I look back on it and wonder how it ever got done, said Sirkin. They thought about building the project themselves, but for various reasons they put the land and the plans on the back burner.
Enter Kevin Underdahl.
Underdahl was a successful Realtor with Re/Max Real Estate in north San Diego County. Before he sold real estate, Underdahl worked for 20 years as a speech pathologist and special education teacher in Vista. He said his daughter, Jennifer, had been surfing the web when she found the Bluebird Inn for sale in a place called Idyllwild. They came up, checked it out, and fell in love with the town.
Underdahl bought the Bluebird Inn and later the Fireside Inn and put his daughter and her husband, Josh Anderson, in charge of running the two inns. Underdahl bought a cabin on the Hill and started coming up on the weekends to visit and work on the inns. We absolutely fell in love with Idyllwild, Underdahl said, the people, the art, and the Idyllwild Bible Church.
Underdahl was looking for a place to retire and for a project to keep him busy and supplement his retirement income. A few queries led him to the Sirkins, the Capparellis and the Village Centre project. After some consideration, Underdahl decided to buy and build.
I stuck to the original plans, except I did a lot of upgrading, Underdahl said, adding that he tends to be meticulous with his projects.
That level of quality is evident throughout the buildings and grounds, with added touches like custom benches, wide walkways, and the centerpiece of the grounds, a large ornate gazebo.
Underdahl said he plans to allow local non-profit organizations to use the gazebo and surrounding drought-friendly Astro Turf for special events.
Before construction was completed, all the shops and galleries had been rented.
The complex features seven fine art galleries including Whitt/Krauss Objects of Fine Art, the Idyllwild Gallery of Fine Art, David Salk's Feats of Clay, Lily Rock Gallery, Everitt's Minerals and Gallery, Circa Now and Two Babes in the Woods Fine Art and Antiques.
In addition to the galleries, Wooley's offers luxurious wool and leather clothing and accessories, and Cabin Fever offers games and puzzles. Idyllwild Realty also houses the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce. The Java Lounge serves espresso and offers free wireless internet access and a free computer station. And Guaranty Bank maintains an ATM next to the Tree Monument.
During the grand opening, there will be complimentary refreshments, live music in the gazebo by Barnaby Finch and Chuck Alvarez, hors d'oeuvres and free raffles for thousands of dollars worth of exquisite art and fine gifts from the shops, galleries and other businesses both in the Centre and throughout Idyllwild.
Many of the local Inns are donating two-night stays to the raffle.
And so the call is out for the grand opening extravanza, when locals and visitors can check out the new place, have a cup of java, and sit in the sun in Idyllwild.
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