If you ask Tony Prater to tell you something interesting about himself, he’ll say he’s been shot, stabbed and struck by lightning three times. Others will tell you he’s an author, the Basque guy who deadheads flowers downtown, a concert coordinator, or the rabbi who runs an art gallery in the back of a local jewelry shop.
Tony Prater is a Twin Falls original and all of the above.
“I was born here about three hospitals ago, and even though I love to travel, I always come back to Twin,” he said. “There’s a wholesomeness here you really can’t get anywhere else.”
Raised on Main Avenue
Downtown Twin Falls has been woven into the fabric of Tony’s life ever since he can remember. As a child, he’d watch from the wings while his grandmother sang at a nightclub. He frequented local establishments where shopkeepers and business owners like Earl Faulkner and Don Jensen knew him by name. He played among the fur racks of a local dress shop.
Although he’s no longer sneaking into the Orpheum to watch R-rated movies with a 10-cent candy bar in hand, Tony’s connection to his hometown hasn’t relaxed in the slightest.
“That closeness to downtown has never left me,” said Tony. “I still walk up and down the streets every day, checking in with the businesses and looking out for them. I want to help, and I know I can.”
More Than a Mentor
As the CEO of Jensen Jewelers, Tony understands the rewards and hurdles that go hand-in-hand with running a business in Twin Falls, making him a valuable resource to the shops, restaurants, art studios and more that weave through Main Avenue and its surrounding streets. But his influence on the community doesn’t stop at mentorship.
“I’m a fixer,” he said. “If I see a problem, I take care of it, and a lot of that work has come during my time on committees throughout the city.”
Tony’s expansive influence can be spotted in the Jensen Jeweler’s food pantry, regularly delivering truckloads of goods to local schools; in art wraps on parking structures; in the newly installed downtown archway; on the Twin Falls diversity committee; during First Friday and, perhaps most notably, the Twin Falls Tonight concert series.
“We held our first concert more than 20 years ago, in a parking lot on a 90-degree day, with a flatbed trailer for a rowdy band to play on,” Tony said. “There were about 35 people there and we went through all the Diet Coke in my cooler and two beers in my car, so we thought it was a success.”
Today, the concert series hosts close to 10 performances during the summer with anywhere from 1,700 to 2,500 in attendance at any given show. Names like the Blues Brothers and American Idol’s Britnee Kellogg have graced the stage, along with bands traveling through town for surrounding local events like the Hwy 30 Music Fest.
For Tony, every minute he invests into the City of Twin Falls is a heartfelt effort to create a sense of nostalgia and community for generations to come.
“I want my kids and grandkids to have a community like mine to grow up in,” he said. “I like to instill that feeling in other people and I think that’s what I’m most proud of; to get people to want to be involved in their city or in a local charity – that really means something.”
The Heart of the Community
Tony emphasizes that while the Magic Valley’s agricultural economy creates a stable platform for new business to build upon, the real secret to a thriving economy is found in the collaboration between business owners.
“Coming to Twin Falls is a good business decision because not only do you have a strong economy, but you have a strong commitment from the other doors on the block,” said Tony. “Businesspeople here are excited to help other businesspeople.”
By combining personal investments with the work of committees, chambers and the economic development office, Tony is confident that downtown Twin Falls will continue to thrive. To ensure visitors and residents continue to experience the growth of his city, Tony also spearheads the Downtown Twin Falls organization, a one-stop-shop for marketing local businesses and events.
“The center of a city represents the heart of the community and our downtown is still the heart of Twin Falls.”