Opportunity of a Lifetime
in Historic Wallace Idaho

February 2007:

I have now lived in Silverton, two miles from Wallace, for 14 years. While I still agree with what I said below in September 2003, January 2002, and July 2001, I clearly need to update my evaluation of why moving to the Silver Valley, and to Wallace in particular, could be your opportunity of a lifetime.

First, a reality check. The Wallace Renaissance I thought was happening in the summer of 2003 fizzled out, as shown on the Growth Table for the 38 month period from October 2003 through December 2006. By my reckoning, we had a net LOSS of ONE business during this time... however, 64 DOWNTOWN BUSINESSES HAVE OPENED, CLOSED, MOVED OR CHANGED OWNERS DURING THIS SAME PERIOD. This must be some sort of record for towns under a thousand people! We are certainly a high energy town... as we always have been.

Color me strange, but I think this is a GOOD thing! The town is dynamic, thrusting out in new directions, evolving, and anything but stagnant. It is just damn hard to keep a business afloat more than a couple of years here. You have to know what you are doing, offer something people actually need, be in sync with the locals, have sufficient finanacial resources to start out with, maintain good karma at all times, and not give up during your first winter.

While winter is wonderful here (I've been skiing 27 times and it's only mid-February), business is tough in town because it is too easy for people to return to their homes in Spokane, Washington, or Missoula, Montana, after a fun day on Silver Valley slopes and trails. The trick, I believe, will be to get people from far away to think of the Silver Valley, and Wallace in particular, as a winter vacation destination. That is what wallace-id.com is all about, and why I have kept working on this project every day since July 1998.

Of course, in order to become a winter destination, as well as a summer destination, we need to have things for folks to do in town after a day of outdoor recreation. So we need more than tourists; we need a few more new and creative residents and businesses in town. What it takes to survive here hasn't changed in my opinion.

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Silver Valley Real Estate
Silver Valley

November 09, 2012
Let me say a few words about the opportunities you might find in Wallace, both expected and unexpected.
  • One can expect that eventually Wallace will regain some of its former glory, this time as a tourist destination as well as the "Silver Capital of the World." Silver mining is returning to the Silver Valley with gusto as the price of silver and other hardrock elements continues to climb. This renewed activity is adding money to the local economy while safeguarding the environment. Silver Mountain All Season Resort and the Friends of the Coeur d'Alene Trails are working to develop the entire area as a world-class mountain biking destination, with the resort also adding a huge indoor waterpark to complement the outstanding outdoor recreation options in the Silver Valley. This summer, Lookout Pass will add a third chairlift servicing five new north-facing advanced and intermediate runs. Next season, these steep and deep powder runs will drop a thousand feet and attract adventurous skiers and boarders from around the world. So you may expect that the economy in Wallace will only get better. If you want to be part of this certain prosperity, move your business here now while there are still empty buildings in town to rent or buy.
       The median price for the 90 Silver Valley homes sold from October 2006 to March 2007 was $126,750, 5.6% above the median price for the 85 homes sold during the same period the year before. There are still bargains available as a check of current residential listings will reveal. Better hurry.
  • Sometimes the unexpected opportunity is far greater than the one imagined. When I moved here in 1993, I imagined that I would quickly master how to do business and soon have my Silicon Valley lifestyle back, but now in a way cool place. Instead, Marsh Scientific Services failed miserably and I got to experience poverty for the first time in my life. By 1998, I had realized that a) the home business model was not going to work for me, b) I could no longer buy both gasoline and food, and c) I needed to be physically in Wallace every day to meet possible clients. So I started walking from my (paid for) home in Silverton two miles to Wallace every day. Eight years later, I am still walking, and while my wallace-id.com business has not yet evolved past the hobby/obsession stage, I have been able to earn a living by doing hard manual labor as part of Shoshone County's Wildland Urban Interface Fire Mitigation Program. Thus in 15 years, I have gone from making $66K/year managing a team of scientists and consultants to $14K/year leading a crew of sawyers and swampers. However this outdoor work/therapy occupies only eight months out of the year, leaving me four months to ski and tweak my webworks. While I moved here so that I could walk in the woods and ski anytime I wanted, I never imagined that I would end up making my living removing excess fuel from the forests behind peoples' homes. And I certainly never dreamed in graduate school that I would ENJOY doing hard physical labor ten hours/day, under all weather conditions in my 50's. After all, I spent my career as an overweight nerd in a white lab coat. It is interesting that the direct consequences of my lack of business acumen in Wallace are that my weight has gone from 250 to 210 pounds, my blood pressure has gone from 180/110 to 117/65, and most importantly, my attitude has gone from pompous to appreciative. I am in the best physical shape of my life, since thirty anyway, and I hear myself saying "Life is Good" several times a week as I walk beside the repurified South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River between my home and office. Wallace was my opportunity of a lifetime to be healthy and happy in a beautiful place. I am glad that I had enough guts to take the risk in 1993, and that at 45, I was able to predict where my spirit needed to be at 59. The fact that I don't currently have money for a car, home phone or cable TV is ironic, but far from tragic. The question is: are YOU a risk taker with enough self-confidence to handle ANY eventuality? If so, come here and dare to fail. Perhaps you won't succeed at the first thing you try, but you may evolve in unexpected and pleasant ways.

September 2003:

Wallace has evolved in several positive ways since the summer of 2001. Using the 88 businesses shown on the May 2001 clickable town map as a baseline, a dramatic gain in downtown shops and services can be shown for the period from August 2002 through September 2003. Unfortunately, this period was preceded by a dramatic loss in downtown shops and services from May 2001 to July 2002. Taken together, I am calling the effect a Wallace Renaissance.
While the net growth was only 3 businesses, 46 businesses opened, moved, or closed between May 2001 and September 2003. This in a town of 960 people! Wallace is truly a town in flux, in motion with a high energy and positive outlook, but experiencing a high business failure rate due to the challenge of the situation. As I said before, you have to be "tough" to survive in business here. And with our county unemployment rate hitting 16.1% in August, don't expect to move here for the scenery and find a job...
However, a 72-mile long paved bike path now runs through town, beside the river under the freeway, connecting the mountains of Mullan to the prairie at Plummer. In its first summer of operation, the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes has attracted many new visitors to our area. Furthermore, the two ski areas, a dozen interstate miles away east and west, are expanding. More skier-visits to town can therefore be expected in the years to come. Wallace is poised to assume a role as a major four-season outdoor recreation destination... we just need a few more mountain-loving residents with creative vision, useful skills and adequate resources to make people say

"Wallace Rocks"
once more! Could you be such a catalytic individual?
click to enlarge downtown Wallace

Summer 2001:

Wallace's population in the last census was 960... down 50 from a decade ago ... a far cry from when it was 4000 fifty years ago. With the closure of the 110-year-old Sunshine Mine this spring, unemployment has risen to 13.7% in Shoshone county (population 13,771, down 160 in the last decade). Repossessions are on the rise and home prices are plummeting. It is a buyers' market as the communities in the beautiful Silver Valley struggle to survive. The people who choose to remain are tough, independent and open to new ideas. It is a society in flux.

As the culture changes from mining and timbering to historical and recreational tourism, opportunities abound for entrepreneurial people who have the resources and determination to pursue their dream of freedom in a four season recreation paradise. Think about it: in a town of 960 intrepid souls there are three museums, a mine tour, a melodrama, a 110 year old haunted hotel, a dozen gift and jewelry shops, five festivals per year, clean alleys, and a community spirit that shines brighter than any place you ever lived!

Many people have moved to Wallace in the last decade because of the scenic beauty and outdoor recreation, only to fail and move on. We joke that Harvard Business School should give an advanced degree to anyone who can move here, start a business and survive more than two years. Many of my friends who moved here after being successful business owners in California and elsewhere have gone into bankruptcy, endured that hardship, learned new tricks and are glad that they did not give up. Wallace is the best place in the world to live, but only if you are smart, talented and adaptable.

    Do you have what it takes to live in paradise? Take this test and see.
  • Is your source of income independent of your physical location?
  • Do you have a skill or talent that is unique and would be in demand anywhere you live?
  • Are you above average in intelligence, creativity and perseverance?
  • Do you like living in a small community where everyone knows you?
  • Are you a free spirit who needs adventure and new experiences in order to be happy?
  • Are you fanatic about skiing deep powder, fishing wild rivers, hiking to deserted alpine lakes, or other outdoor activities that are just not available near your current home?
  • Are you a "challenge junkie" -- someone who is excited by difficult and risky enterprises?
  • Do you have the financial and spiritual resources to survive an initial failure or two?

    If you answered YES to several of these questions, then here are some of the things that Wallace can offer you:
  • A dozen empty brick buildings to choose from; all conforming to strict historical standards and priced to sell, lease or rent way below anything you might imagine.
  • Affordable real estate: Elegant Victorian homes priced below $150K; fixer-upers under $10K.
  • Clean air and year-round mountain streams through town.
  • Temperate four season mountain climate.
  • A unique rural yet convenient location. Interstate 90 is built ABOVE the town, with a new Rails-To-Trails bike path beside the river beneath it. Two Ski and Recreation Areas are just a dozen Interstate miles away in each direction. Spokane, Washington and Missoula, Montana, are a couple of hours away; Seattle and Boston are further on down the road.

In summary, Wallace is a fascinating mixture of historical charm and new ideas, surrounded by spectacular scenery and mountain recreation, nestled under a coast-to-coast interstate, in a county where there are only 5 people per square mile!
Greg Marsh, Ph.D.
wallace-id.com weblord

Winter 2002:
The above thoughts, written six months ago, are a distillation of my personal experiences since moving to Wallace in January of 1993. I was a scientist for 17 years, but I got to a point in my life where I had done everything of interest to me in chemistry, and wanted to change my life's focus. I decided to move to a small village halfway between two ski areas where every skill I had was of absolutely no value to anyone. I did this on purpose: I am indeed a "challenge junkie" and I figured that such a move would force me to learn new skills! That was certainly the case... I can honestly say that for me, earning a living in Wallace has been twice as difficult as earning a Ph.D. in chemistry. That only took four years. However, in spite of the difficulties I've encountered, I honestly believe that moving to Wallace was the best life move I ever made. As my webworks show, I love it here!

I am being candid in this postscript because I received an email during the summer from a Silver Valley expatriate who thought I was being a "jerk" when I said that "intelligence" is a prerequisite for moving here. I would simply point out to her and others who might think I'm being an intellectual snob that "intelligence" comes in lots of flavors, and that I have learned the hard way that "street smarts" are far more important to survival in Wallace than "book learnin'." Whatever you call the practice of making consistently good decisions, you will need it to start and maintain a business here. But if you do have what it takes, you could get in on the ground floor of the next Aspen! ... Actually, I only want to "half-Aspenize" Wallace; the quality of life here is almost perfect as it is, we just need a few more "new locals" shopping in our stores to improve the economy for everyone.

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Interested in hearing more about Wallace business possibilities from someone who is more "on top of the situation?"
Contact Vince Rinaldi at the
Silver Valley Economic Development Corporation
703 Cedar Street
(800) 523-7889
(208) 752-5511
fax machine: (208) 556-2351
cell phone: (208) 691-3301
Silver Valley Economic Development


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Greg Marsh, Ph.D.
Marsh Scientific Services

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last update on Friday, February 20, 2009