The businesses located in Emigration Canyon came through the recent inferno unscathed by the flames, but rumor and public misconception of the damage is doing what the wildfire couldn't: keeping the cash registers quiet."The fire didn't get within three miles of us, but it created a false impression in people's minds," said Curtis Oberhansly, owner of Ruth's Diner and the Santa Fe restaurant.
"People seem to think that the fire burned all the trees and flowers and that we just barely saved our buildings," he said. "That's just not true. Actually, it's beautiful up here. We're having a wonderful fall, and the weather couldn't be nicer."
The parking lot of the two restaurants - the Santa Fe closed for two days during the worst of the fire, but Ruth's remained open - was a turnaround point and site of a police roadblock, but a barricade at the mouth of the canyon announcing the road closure effectively killed business.
Oberhansly said revenues were down 75 percent during the fire and mopping-up operations and about 50 percent following. "It's now just bumping up from there," he said.
The Pinecrest Bed and Breakfast Inn, further up the canyon, was much closer to the main fire and had to close for several days. Since reopening, it has not been business as usual.
"We are open and operating," declared Phil Davis, who owns, with his wife, Donnetta, the historic home-turned-B&B where post-fire business is off about 30 percent.
"I keep getting phone calls from people asking if we will rebuild or if we're open," said Davis. "Well, we don't have to rebuild and yes we are open. Our side of the road is fine; you can hardly tell the fire came through unless you look for it."
This time of year, he said, Pinecrest's business is normally about 70 percent Salt Lakers who come up for anniversaries, birthdays, honeymoons and weekend getaways - the same people who apparently think the inn was damaged by the fire.
Also trying to get his canyon business back to normal is Dave Crompton, owner of Crompton's Roadside Attraction, located about halfway between Ruth's and Pinecrest.
Crompton said his business is off about 50 percent but began to pick up last weekend, giving him hope that the worst is past.
Although no businesses were physically damaged by the fire, Salt Lake real estate developer the Boyer Co. had the most to lose from a public loss of confidence in the canyon as a safe place to build homes.
Lots at Boyer's Emigration Oaks development begin at $60,000 and go up from there. There are three luxury homes completed in the first phase, and half of the 40 lots have been sold.
Whatever the public perception, Dick Moffat, property manager for Emigration Oaks, described the fire as "much ado about nothing" in its impact on the development.
"Where our first 105 lots are (including subsequent phases), there was no fire," said Moffat. "Essentially, it was a grass fire. It burned the grass and left the oak standing."
Moffat admits the fire generated some "negative press" for those considering building a home in the canyon, but he sees a bright side as well.
"It's encouraging that a fire of that magnitude could occur - the worst we'll probably ever have - and not a single home was lost. The capacity was there to control it," said Moffat. "That's very positive."