Indian Creek Plaza sign

If You Build It, They Will Come

Indian Creek Plaza brings new restaurants to Caldwell

by Lex Nelson

Walking through downtown Caldwell with Keri Smith-Sigman, it’s impossible to get more than 50 feet without being waved down by someone friendly. One man is helping her find the perfect door to top her upcycled desk, another wants to show off his under-construction restaurant, and a third just wants to say hello.

It’s clear after a few blocks that despite Idaho’s skyrocketing population, Caldwell is still a small town where neighbors know each other by name—and that Smith-Sigman, the CEO of Destination Caldwell, has earned a lot of good will in the community for her company’s efforts to revitalize the city’s flagging downtown core. Over the last year, those efforts have born an armload of fruit in the form of new business, many of them centered on local food.

“I’ve got eight businesses coming in 2019, but my recruitment list of active leads is bigger than that. I just don’t have spaces for them,” said Smith-Sigman.

Some spots are already open, like the Caldwell arm of popular Boise-based coffee shop Flying M. On a Monday afternoon in mid-April, the shop’s garage doors were rolled up to let in the spring sunshine and nearly every table was filled. Next door at Grit 2C, the Canyon County branch of Eagle’s Grit American Cuisine, it was the same story: Regulars camped out at tables or clinked glasses at the bar. Those two businesses and others were lured in by the cornerstone of Caldwell’s renaissance: Indian Creek Plaza. It’s less than a year old, but has already become the home base for concerts, movie screenings, beer festivals and Christmas parties—and plaza-facing buildings are renting at a breakneck pace.

One of those belongs to artist Bob Carpenter, whose two-story restaurant space sports massive wooden beams and red-brick walls. In the back section of the restaurant’s bottom floor, which looks out on the plaza, those stone walls are multiple feet thick, and Carpenter told CCN that he hopes his chosen aesthetic will draw in an Italian or Basque eatery.

Nearby is the local-focused yogurt shop The Good Spoon, and Smith-Sigman pointed out where several other restaurants and a candy store are set to go in, including Amano, Caldwell’s first Mexican food “scratch kitchen,” and Chop Shop, a barbeque joint pioneered by CCN founder Kris Ott and Good Burger co-owner Brady Gaschler. Chop Shop’s location is just 50 feet from Indian Creek Plaza, with frontage on its namesake water feature.

Future home of Chop Shop BBQ in Caldwell, Idaho

“With Boise developing at such a rapid pace, Caldwell is the next hot spot,” Ott said. “And after meeting with and discovering how Destination Caldwell plans to develop the area, it was a no-brainer.”

On the other side of the plaza, Smith-Sigman pointed out a miniature vineyard where the city plans to build an arch welcoming tourists to the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, which she sees as an under-referenced feather in Caldwell’s cap.

“People love picture opportunities, and so part of the branding that we’re doing is really trying to tie in our agricultural area with Caldwell, and kind of make sure we’ve got kind of some ownership of it,” she said.

It’s a riff on the same lesson Indian Creek Plaza drove home: If you build it, they will come.

photos by Lex Nelson