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Greg Keller / Idaho Press-Tribune via AP

New West Daily Roundup for June 13, 2016

Today in New West news: Idaho man hopes to reinvent ash-scattering, firm hired in Sports Authority naming rights case, an update on Chipotle, and natural gas prices rise.

It’s a time-honored tradition: scattering a loved one’s ashes after cremation, in a spot of significance to the deceased. And while it can be a beautiful and important ceremony, it can sometimes go south, like in that famous scene from The Big Lebowski. Note: this scene is uncensored and features strong language.

According to the Idaho Statesman, however, one Idaho man says he has a solution to such ash-scattering woes. Scotty Crandlemire, a Meridian resident, founded the company AngelAire after a disastrous experience fulfilling the wishes of a close friend. Just like Walter and the Dude, when Crandlemire went to spread his friend’s ashes, instead of settling over the landscape, they blew back and settled all over his clothes—even his shoes. For Crandlemire, it was something of an epiphany, and led to the development of AngelAire’s flagship product: a lever-operated square urn that allows for more efficient ash-spreading. From the Statesman:

“It was a terrible experience, so I fixed the problem,” he said.

Crandlemire, a pilot with no previous experience in the death care industry, saw his idea form in a dream.

“I woke up, took down the notes and approximately four years from there I got patented and invented the urn,” he said.

The square urn has a fan mechanism that spreads the ashes in a controlled manner. Once the lever is pulled, the ashes spread for about two minutes.

Crandlemire’s invention has been used in about a dozen scattering events. He has turned his idea into a business that he’s now franchising. Its first location opened in Caldwell in April.

AngelAire has several designs of urns to choose from, and the staff can plan an event around the scattering.

“We developed a business plan with the idea of it being a funeral service with the ash scattering as the central focus of our services,” says AngelAire Vice President Jim Thorpe.

Prices range from $500, for a scattering done by AngelAire employees with a video provided, to $1,500 or more for an event.

Patsy Forsberg-Young of Meridian chose AngelAire for a service to scatter the ashes of her husband, Jay L. Young Sr., at their property in Kuna.

“We set it on a hill overlooking the creek,” Forsberg-Young says. “We let the ashes go, and when it was all over, everyone that was there commented to me that it was the most peaceful funeral they had ever been to.”

Forsberg-Young liked the experience so much that she decided to plan cremation for herself. She had originally planned a burial but changed her mind after the AngelAire service.

Over in Colorado, we’ve been following the decline of Sports Authority since they declared bankruptcy in early March. With liquidation underway, and with competitors mostly holding off on obtaining store locations, the company’s fate seems settled. One question has stuck throughout the whole process however: the question of Sports Authority’s naming rights to the Denver Broncos stadium at Mile High. According to the Denver Business Journal, Sports Authority has hired Hilco Streambank, a New York-based firm, to divest themselves of naming rights, preferably through a sale:

The announcement seems to signal that the failing sporting-goods chain intends to at least try to sell off the rights to name the Denver Broncos stadium despite objections from the stadium’s managers that the naming rights can’t be transferred without their approval.

Hilco Streambank says it will also market and sell the sporting-goods chain’s trademarks and brands, its website domain name, patents and customer databases.

Brand names to be offered for sale include Tommy Armour Golf, Alpine Design, Aspire, Bodyfit by Sports Authority and Ram Golf, the company said.

Hilco Streambank’s hiring is subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware that is overseeing Sports Authority’s Chapter 11 case.

Keeping with Colorado companies, it’s been a bad few months for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., whose stocks and favorability have fallen in light of an e. Coli and norovirus outbreak last fall. The latest news is hardly good, according to the Denver Business Journal:

Denver-based Chipotle (NYSE: CMG), which had been ranked No. 1 for the last three years, fell out of the top four in the latest Harris Poll of the country’s favorite restaurant chains.

Taking over the No. 1 spot this year is Moe’s Southwest Grill, which was followed by Taco Bell, Qdoba Mexican Grill (which announced earlier this month it was moving its corporate headquarters from Lakewood to California), and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill. Chipotle finished fifth in the latest poll.

“In Moe’s case, the restaurant’s aggressive expansion and growth, combined with their focus on fresh, likely factored into their equity rise,” said Lisa Recoussine, vice president, client solutions at Nielsen, which owns The Harris Poll, in a statement.

Finally, in energy news, according to the Billings Gazette, natural gas prices are rising, driven in large part by warming weather and power demand for things like air conditioning. Indeed, at two Wyoming trading hubs, prices crested above $2 per million British Thermal Units for the first time since February 2016. The prices are a good sign for gas drillers who have been contending with enormous supply, but according to Richard Hastings of Seaport Global Securities, “there are headwinds that remain in place.” From the Gazette:

Indeed, natural gas producers find themselves in an odd predicament. An exceedingly hot summer could push natural gas prices higher still. But that would come as little help, as utilities would begin to turn-on now shuttered coal units, reducing gas demand.

Henry Hub, the national benchmark, finished the week at $2.32 per mmBTUs. Wyoming Pool and Opal, the two local trading hubs, were at $2.06 and $2.10 per mmBTUs, respectively.

Powder River Basin coal, the most competitive of its peers, begins becoming to displace gas when prices hit $2.75 per mmBTUs.

That is hardly natural gas producers’ only hurdle, however. Storage inventories, which stood at 2,972 billion cubic feet the week of June 3, are still at 32 percent above their five-year average.

The International Energy Agency said this week it anticipates American gas demand will slow in the coming years. Low gas prices have prompted utilities to switch from coal to gas in droves in recent times. But the prospects for additional switching have largely been exhausted, the agency said.

And then there is the weather. The possibility of a La Nina weather effect in parts of the U.S. later this year could produce an abnormally warm winter in parts of the country, hampering demand and once again leading to a buildup in stocks.

“Realistically, there is just very little certainty right now,” said James Williams, president of WTRG Economics.

Analysts agreed there is a path for gas prices to stabilize. But it’s a narrow road, one with favorable weather and modest price increases.

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