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Burley West Main Street renaissance: Businesses to hold block party Tuesday

BURLEY — It took 12 years of running franchise fast-food restaurants for Blake Ruffing, owner of Burley Burger, to fine-tune his perfect burger joint.

He’s now flung the doors open so the public can enjoy his quintessential burger at 333 W. Main St. He will also participate in a renaissance of West Main Street with two other businesses, H&L Real Estate Company and New York Life, during a block party Tuesday. During the party, the public can tour the buildings.

Burley Burger’s menu, featuring fare aimed at pleasing the locals like the Big and Little Burley and the Big and Little Bobcat, also has fresh salads, wraps with a choice of crispy or grilled chicken and breakfast items like biscuits and gravy and breakfast burritos. They also have sweet potato fries and Burley fries, sourced exclusively from McCain Foods, and milkshakes so thick they can be held upside down, he said.

Ruffing wanted to be loyal to the local french fry maker, so he ordered every product McCain makes.

“I wanted the burgers to represent the town,” said Ruffing, who owns the restaurant with his wife Ginette. “I wanted to start my own brand and this is the perfect place to do it.”

All of the ingredients, including the condiments, are fresh.

Ruffing bought the building in June that formerly housed Main Street Burger and before that a string of similar eateries. It was originally built as an A & W Restaurant with the signature cone-shaped roof.


Burley Burger on Feb. 8 on West Main St. in Burley.

“I was going to tear it down because it would have cost less to do that than renovate it,” Ruffing said.

But, a neighbor lady approached him and said that her husband had proposed to her at the restaurant, and she asked him not to tear the cone down. Another woman came over and reminisced about her first job at age 16 years at the restaurant.

“I could have built another building a lot cheaper,” he said. “I had to spend a lot of extra money to rebuild this one but I decided to keep it rather than doze it down.”

Ruffing has invested nearly $500,000 in the restaurant that will employ 30 people. The amount was double what he originally intended to spend.

He tore the interior down to the exterior walls to keep the roof line intact and rebuilt from there. The 1950s era restaurant contained a few surprises. Inside the office, his son pulled on a key ring and discovered a hidden room behind a bookcase, and there is a large room underneath the dining space.

The downstairs was full of old A&W items like a 1950s root beer vat they used to mix the brew, cash registers, typewriters and the old carhop trays that fit on car windows.

They also found odd items buried in parking lot when it was re-surfaced including tools and pieces of metal.

“It was really odd,” he said.

Ruffing repaired the restaurant’s original benches that were stored downstairs and used wire brushes to strip the finish and give them a new luster. The old awning outside was torn down and a drive-through window installed.

For inside décor he chose to follow the lead of Teresa Loya, owner of H&L Real Estate Company, who renovated a building next door, 321 W. Main St., by using silver corrugated metal on the walls.


Torrie Williams takes a customers order Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, at Burley Burger on West Main St. in Burley.

Loya’s building housing her business and an office space that she rents to New York Life. She purchased the building in May 2017.

“I passed by the building, it was for sale and it was just right,” Loya said. “When you start a brokerage you have to have low overhead to stay viable with the competition. The way I do business is really simple. I don’t need fluff or fanciness.”

Business often gets too complicated, she said. Renovating a building on West Main Street was the perfect choice for her.

“I came in and ripped everything out,” Loya said. “And then I went Pinterest crazy looking for ideas that I liked.”


Associate Realtor Alexis Aldrich works at her desk Feb. 8 at H&L Real Estate Company on West Main St. in Burley.

Loya found a few surprises during renovation too like a garage door hidden in a wall.

She wanted to keep the original brick and block in the building so she went with a rustic theme using a multicolored plank ceiling, silver corrugated metal and concrete floors. She plans to redo the exterior of the building this summer.

“Everyone has put money into this block because we believe in this community,” Cammon Wutzke, agent for New York Life, said.

Loya, who has had her real estate license since 2001 and has been a broker since last year has two agents in the office, Marion Wadsworth and Alexis Aldrich.


Associate Realtor Alexis Aldrich works at her desk Feb. 8 at H&L Real Estate Company on West Main St. in Burley.

“Everyone on this whole street is fantastic,” Ruffing said.


College of Southern Idaho forward Malik Porter lifts up kindergarten student Addalyn Maxfield Friday during the Hoops for Hearts game at Lighthouse Christian School in Twin Falls. The CSI men's basketball team played against students at Lighthouse Christian School as part of a charity fundraiser for the American Heart Association. The school raised more than $10,000 for the AHA. The 15 students who raised the most money were eligible to play in the game against CSI.

Hoops for Hearts raises more than $10,000

'Sense of direction’: College of Southern Idaho student leaders create first-ever strategic plan

TWIN FALLS — For the first time ever, College of Southern Idaho student leaders have a road map for how to improve their classmates’ school experience.

The 16-member Student Senate began creating a strategic plan from scratch this fall. They wrapped up shortly after spring semester began in January.

The organization represents more than 7,000 students taking classes through the college’s main Twin Falls campus, and off-campus centers in Burley, Hailey, Gooding and Jerome. They’re the voice of the student body and make decisions on their behalf.

“I believe that as student senators, we’re the leaders for students,” said student body president Lance Teske, a Twin Falls native and Canyon Ridge High School alumnus. But “we didn’t really have a sense of direction,” he added, and initiatives were stagnant.

The plan — which will be in place for two to three years — is designed to help students feel more plugged in at CSI, for student clubs and organizations to have more resources and support, and for better communication with faculty members and administrators about what students need.

Copies haven’t been distributed or posted online yet, but the Student Senate is working on it so students and community members can view the document. The new plan creates a foundation for future student leaders, too.

“When the next Senate comes in, they’ll modify it, and continue to grow and develop it,” Teske said. Right now, “we’re hitting the reset button every time there’s a new Senate elected.”

CSI’s dean of students Jason Ostrowski and vice president of student services Michelle Schutt weren’t available Friday to comment on the plan.

The plan includes three core themes: students, working with clubs and councils, and building relationships with faculty and administration. A team of student leaders will be devoted to each theme.

Student leaders will streamline the process of creating a club and getting assistance, and will talk with their peers to get feedback about their needs — whether academic or campus life — to pass along to faculty members and administrators.

And “things already offered on campus,” Teske said, “will be clearer and better.”

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Canyon Ridge High School drama department presents “The Spitfire Grill” musical at 7:30 p.m. in the school auditorium, 300 N. College Road W., Twin Falls. Tickets are $10 general admission and $7 for students.


Owner Blake Ruffing serves up an order from the kitchen Feb. 8 at Burley Burger on West Main St. in Burley.

Sean Haffey, Pool Photo via AP 

FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 file photo, fireworks explode after the Olympic flame was lit during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 

Buildings destroyed in Burley arson fire to be demolished, owner said they were not insured

BURLEY — The buildings destroyed in a downtown Burley arson fire will soon be demolished.

Investigators gave owner Brek Piling permission to tear down the buildings, he said.

“We really want to catch these guys, and we are cooperating with the investigations team,” Pilling said.

Pilling said there was no insurance coverage on either destroyed building.

“The buildings were vacant and had no value so there was no insurance coverage on them,” he said.

He had originally intended to tear the buildings down himself, which would have saved money. Now the job will require professionals.

“We went inside and the buildings were really unstable,” Pilling said.

He is in the process of soliciting bids for the job.

“We are asking the public to be patient while we get them demolished,” Pilling said.

The building at 1222 Overland Ave., was set on fire Jan. 29 using rags and paper inside the building. The blaze tore through the upper story of the building and collapsed an interior section of the building.

Fire officials said the adjacent vacant building was destroyed by water.

Across the street, firefighters discovered an undetonated pipe bomb at a new unopened restaurant tucked into the door handle. The bomb’s fuse was lit but had gone out. The two crimes are under investigation as one incident.

All three buildings are owned by Pilling and his partner, Brian Tibbets.

City Administrator Mark Mitton said in an email to the Times-News that city officials were disconnecting the electrical services so the buildings can be demolished.

“Overland Avenue will be closed for two days when the demolition takes place,” Mitton wrote. “Closing Overland is the best way to keep the public safe during the demolition project.”

The state fire marshal is offering up to a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

A fire accelerant was found throughout the building, a state fire marshal investigator said. Samples were sent to a lab for identification. The Cassia County Sheriff’s Office recovered a pickup that was wanted in connection with the crimes, but officials are not releasing any information on who owns the truck or where it was found.

UPDATE: Marketing cooperative to start milk processing with $20M expansion in Jerome

JEROME — A milk marketing cooperative in Jerome has just announced it will bring a $20 million expansion to its plant in Jerome.

Magic Valley Quality Milk Producers was founded more than 20 years ago in Jerome. The cooperative has 30 member farms and supplies raw milk to customers using its hauling company, Magic Valley Quality Milk Transport.

But now, the cooperative is fulfilling a goal it’s had for 12 years by branching out into milk processing, general manager Alan Stutzman said.

“The membership and board of directors recognize that while it is important to maintain the best relationship with its raw milk customers, it is also necessary to expand into the processing of milk in order to continue to be sustainable,” the company said in a statement. “As a result of the investment, MVQMP will be able to market ultra-filtered skim milk, condensed skim milk, and cream.”

The project will take about a year to complete, and will employ at least 15 new employees, Stutzman said. The cooperative currently employs 35 people.

“We’re looking to expand and do our own processing, but still sell to those customers,” he said.

The expansion at 1756 S. Buchanan St. will involve construction of a two-truck bay milk receiving building and bringing new processing equipment with steam, electrical and refrigeration systems. It’ll also include employee offices.

Jerome City Administrator Mike Williams said the expansion will add onto the existing facility in three different directions. It’ll provide more construction jobs and opportunities within the city.

“This project didn’t require an upgrade to infrastructure,” he said.

Although it’s been projected the company will dump 100,000 gallons per day into the city’s wastewater system, Williams said this is still small compared to other industries. The expansion was company-driven, he said.

“We’re happy to see Magic Valley Quality Milk Producers growing in their Jerome location,” Jerome Mayor David Davis said in a statement. “It’s a great compliment to the city as a whole when businesses expand at their current locations. They are a terrific company and we’re grateful for their investment in Jerome.”

The $20 million project was designed by Power Engineers and Dairy Industry Consultants with Petersen Bros. Construction as the general contractor. Advanced Process Technologies Inc. is the primary milk process equipment supplier.