TWIN FALLS — Historic downtown Twin Falls will soon be home to a technology company that develops loyalty programs for retailers across the U.S.
A former bank building at the south corner of Shoshone Street and Main Avenue has been largely empty since Wells Fargo closed its downtown branch in September 2017. However, the building’s new owners — several longtime Magic Valley residents — could bring the structure back to its former glory as a place of business.
KickBack Points LLC, a loyalty technology development company that employs 85 people in Twin Falls between three offices, hopes to move all of those employees into a portion of the former bank by Aug. 1.
“Our intent is to stay downtown and grow downtown and get more people down there,” KickBack Points CEO and partner Pat Lewis said Wednesday. “There’s no place in Twin Falls that has more character than old town. I believe in it.”
But before he moves his employees into the glass-fronted portion of the building this year, he wants to bring the building’s interior back to its historic integrity.
Lewis is also one of the partners who now owns the property at 102 Main Ave. S. The others are Gerald Martens and Todd Blass — longtime Magic Valley movers and shakers who have lately been involved in several developments in northwest Twin Falls. Blass is the president and owner of TitleFact Inc. and Martens the former president of EHM Engineers.
“I’ve looked at that (building) for some time,” Blass said during a phone interview. “I hope I didn’t buy it for sentimental purposes. It was important to me growing up in this area that the building remain in kind of a local ownership.”
Blass was born and raised in Filer, and Lewis in Twin Falls. They fondly remember going downtown as children to bank and shop with their mothers.
In Lewis’ opinion, downtown is better than he’s ever known it. In the past couple of years, the Urban Renewal Agency completed a major street renovation on Main Avenue — and the city remodeled an old building for a new City Hall. These revitalization projects have brought the downtown back together, Lewis said.
Preserving the past
KickBack Points had previously announced plans to move its Twin Falls employees into a new five-story building proposed to take place of the former Idaho Youth Ranch. Lewis still intends to use a portion of that building for his administrative and sales staff when it’s completed in a year or so. The two buildings will allow him to nearly double his employee base over time.
He recognizes that some residents were upset by the news the former Idaho Department Store building would be torn down and be replaced by what some are calling “the tower.” Unfortunately, the historic building just isn’t stable enough for future tenants, he said.
“Progress is gonna happen,” Lewis said. “That doesn’t mean that you can’t respect the past and pay homage to it.”
At the bank building, Lewis intends to remodel the interior and try to bring it back to more historical conditions, showing exposed brick and original flooring.
The large stone bank was completed around 1910 as Twin Falls Bank & Trust Co. The bank added a corner clock in 1917 and made other additions in 1956 and 1978 — including connecting the stone structure to the former five-and-dime store next door. That building is the glass-fronted portion seen today that will be home on two floors to KickBack Points employees.
First Security Bank of Idaho acquired the Twin Falls Bank & Trust in 1990, and it became Wells Fargo after a 2001 merger, according to Times-News archives. Wells Fargo closed the branch in 2017, moved its eight employees, and built a drive-through ATM on Second Avenue South.
Doing more downtown
The connected bank buildings have a combined 58,000 square foot of leasable space, Blass said. The 18,000 square-foot basement will become a storage facility, and the portion above-grade is already about halfway leased. Some of it has been continuously occupied even after Wells Fargo closed, with tenants Stephan Kvanvig Stone & Trainer and United Way of the Magic Valley.
The rest of the building will probably become home to more professional offices, Blass said.
“Right now I’m just trying to get a good handle on what the demand might be,” he said. “It could be anything. Nothing surprises me anymore.”
The main level of the stone building would require significant remodel if a tenant didn’t choose the entire space, he said.
In the meantime, Blass and partners have already demolished the drive-through portion in the back to make room for parking that will be used by the tenants and their customers.
Lewis plans to move about 16 employees to the second floor in the next month, and the rest are scheduled to be consolidated in that location by Aug. 1.
“We just keep outgrowing our space,” he said.
KickBack Points was started in 2000 as a company to handle the loyalty program for Oasis Stop ‘N Go convenience stores. But it quickly spun off as its own venture, now employing 85 people in Twin Falls and 36 in its office on the East Coast. It also hires other people around the country who work from their homes.
Many of the employees are young software developers, and Lewis enjoys the dichotomy of new technology infusing into a historic place. These days, in larger cities, Lewis said, downtowns are becoming the “cool and hip place to be” — particularly among younger workers.
“We trend towards a younger workforce,” he said. “It’ll be good for my business as well as far as attracting and retaining employees.”
The building partners are excited to be a part of whatever comes next for Main Avenue.
“Everyone has the same goal and thoughts in mind in revitalizing the downtown corridor,” Blass said.