Pam Boyd

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December 7, 2011
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Good things come in small packages

Most days, In Kahoots owner Mollie Hay runs her business as a one-woman show.

But in fact, the Eagle business woman is in good company. The Small Business Administration of the U.S. government says small businesses make up more than 99.7 percent of all employers in the country. Additionally, small businesses create more than 50 percent of the country's non-farm private gross domestic product.

The impact of the nation's 22.9 million small businesses are felt in every neighborhood in the country because those very businesses are located in every neighborhood in the country. Small businesses employ about 50 percent of all private-sector workers in the U.S.

So, when she comes to work at her shop at 233 Broadway, Hay is a small part of a massive, nationwide economic machine. But closer to home, she is also part of a community network. Because she is in business, Hay helps keep other businesses operating. Because she operates a retail business in Eagle, her customers pay sales tax to the town, which in turn helps provide for public services.

Hay opened In Kahoots three years ago - on Sept. 6, 2008. She actually took over the business and the name from a friend.

"I had shopped at Jill's store, the prior In Kahoots, and we had gotten to know each other pretty well," Hay said. The former owner approached Hay about taking over the business and Hay said the deal just fell into place.

"One day I went into the store to buy a pair of earrings and instead of just buying some earrings, I bought the whole store," she said with a laugh.

While it was her first entry into small business ownership, Hay did have an extensive background in retail. She had worked at Lights on Broadway, the Linen Kist and at the Vail Golf Course Pro Shop since her arrival in the valley back in 1996.

Three years into owning her own business, Hay said working with customers is her favorite part of the job. "I love people. I love to see people happy and to help them find the right thing," she said.

In contrast, Hay said the toughest part of being a small business owner is simply making the numbers work. She has to strike the balance between making sure she has a large enough selection for customers while at the same time keeping inventory under control.

The Christmas season is here, and naturally a clothing boutique such as In Kahoots sees a business bump during the holidays. Hay also experiences a business spike at prom season, one of her favorite times of the year. She has started a prom dress gallery - a wall of photos featuring local girls in their fancy dresses.

"Hopefully years from now, they will come back and see those pictures of themselves from when they were in high school," she said.

That's the type of personal touch that Hay brings to the local retail scene. "I love my Broadway location and I see myself still here in a year and in five years and more. I can see myself here for a long time - when I have gray hair. Not that I am going to have gray hair, I am going to fight that all the way," she said.

By shopping at Hay's store, her customers give their sales tax to Eagle. That's a very important action in a state where sales tax is king.

Local governments in Colorado are very dependent on sales tax and Eagle is no exception. Receipts from the town's 4 percent sales tax are the primary fund source for town operations. That's why it is vital for the community's health for Eagle to have a robust retail environment.

"I remember the first time I went to a town board meeting, I heard (Eagle Town Manger) Willy Powell say, 'if you can, it's better to work and to spend your money where you live,'" said Hay. Today, after three years in business, those are words she lives by.

Last year, a publication from the Business Alliance for Living Economics, the American Independent Business Alliance and Indie Bound began cropping up around town. The flyer features an eye-catching red border across the page and states "Thanks for Shopping at" and the name of the individual store. The flyer then states 10 impacts local shopping has on the local community including the following:

"For every $100 you spend at one of our local business, $68 will stay in the community," notes the flyer. Tracing Hay's spending is a way to illustrate that claim.

As an Eagle resident and business owner, Hay is adamant about supporting other local businesses. Whether that means buying presents at the Nearly Everything Store or getting her teeth cleaned at an Eagle dental office, she makes a conscientious effort to shop locally.

"You care that other businesses succeed, hopefully, along with you," she said. "You want to recommend the other businesses around you. You want to be proud of them."

In that vein, here's a list of businesses that In Kahoots patronizes. Some are business contacts, others are personal contacts and still others are professional contacts. Taken as a whole, the list illustrates the action behind the claim that $100 spent in a local business results in $68 coming back to the community.

Because she operates a business on Broadway, Mollie Hay also does business with these local businesses:

• Insurance - Patty Jackson Hood at Hood Insurance Agency

• Accountant - Donna Fasi

• Attorney - Kleinschmidt and Associates

• Landlords for 233 Broadway - Nancy and Willy Powell

"Mollie has been a great tenant," said Nancy Powell. For 22 years, Powell operated The Strawberry Patch in downtown Eagle and she has first-hand knowledge of the risks and rewards of retail business. She said residents might not really understand the importance of having a strong retail presence in Eagle.

"When business owners pay rent to local owners, they support their landlords' ability to pay their property taxes," said Powell. She noted that in Colorado, business properties pay three times the amount of property taxes that residential properties pay. Powell said the argument for buying locally usually centers on sales tax revenues, and that is the biggest impact. But buying locally also contributes to the property tax rolls.

Like Hay, the Powells are also big supporters of other local businesses. When their building needs maintenance work, they hire local painters or contractors.

"Anything we buy for the building we buy locally," said Powell. "Each time you spend a dollar in Eagle, it helps your community."

Because Hay regularly staffs her own business, if she wants a cup of coffee or a bite of lunch or some other necessity, she's also a regular shopper in downtown Eagle at:

• Yeti's Grind

• Eagle Pharmacy/The Nearly Everything Store

• Red Canyon Cafe - "I am a big salad person and I love Ryan's (owner Ryan Murray) salads," said Hay.

"I can tell you exactly what she orders," said Murray. "She gets the Red Canyon salad but without the lettuce, with just spinach. She also doesn't want the onions and she takes the pesto dressing."

Murray said customers such as Hay are his business bedrock. "My customers are local advocates. I wouldn't be in business without that dedication and loyalty and customer appreciation. It's is all about community," he said.

Hay presents an attractive presence behind the counter at In Kahoots and she is a loyal customer of:

• Bella Spa

• Nails - Mountain Living Body Spa

• Hair - Adagio Salon

Jessica Fisher at Adagio has been styling Hay's hair for three years, since she opened In Kahoots. "I kind of have difficult hair and she does a good job. It's all about trust," said Hay.

As both an Eagle resident and business owner, Hay also centers her family needs in the community:

• Physician - Dr. Ed Dent

• Dentist - Dr. Michael Wing at Eagle Valley Dental.

Hay is such a loyal patient that she recorded a radio commercial for Dr. Wing last summer. "I just wanted to share my story about being Dr. Wing's patient, because going to the dentist can be so unnerving. Finding someone who you can go to and who makes you feel at ease is just priceless.

In Kahoots is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The business phone number is 328-2460.

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The VailDaily Updated Dec 7, 2011 01:19PM Published Dec 7, 2011 01:10PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.