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March 28, 2013
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Vail shoppers: 'They know quality'

VAIL, Colorado - The very heart of Vail's target market is in town this week, and they seem ready to spend.

One of the windows in Ron Byrne's Vail Village real estate office looks out over Bridge Street. Byrne said he's seen a lot of people this week, and many of those people are carrying shopping bags.

"It's a buying crowd this year," Byrne said.

Most of that buying is being done in the shops in the resort villages. But some buying is being done in homes and offices, too.

Byrne, who's primary business in high-end real estate in Vail and Beaver Creek, said his company will hold open houses virtually every day during the highest of the high seasons. Those efforts, along with a lot of marketing, can bring some significant offers on property.

"These are very well qualified buyers," Byrne said. And those buyers act when they see what they want. Byrne's company recently put a Forest Road home under contract for $13.5 million.

But those big sales don't happen every day.

Taz Akkad runs Lamina, a jewelry store in Vail Village. Akkad said this is a good time to be in his business. On the other hand, he said, no merchant is ever sure when a customer who wants a big-ticket item will walk through the door.

"That's why we stay open in the off season," Akkad said. "We could make a sale in May."

Akkad's store has a case filled with items from a ring that looks like the diamonds are floating in liquid and a ring that can turn into a bracelet. He calls it the "Oh my God" case.

Even in Vail, there are weeks when a couple of those items will leave the store, then weeks when nothing does.

There are cases like Akkad's "holy cow" collection in Karats, a longtime Vail Village jewelry store. There, Kaitlin McNany said when people see those items and don't say "holy cow," she knows she has a prospective buyer.

"People come in and if they see something and like it, they'll buy it," McNany said.

Masters Gallery owner Rayla Kundolf said that's because people shopping for just about anything know what they want.

"It's a more sophisticated customer," Kundolf said. "Whether it's film, or great food or art, they like quality."

Clients like that are "what Vail's all about," Kundolf said. While Kundolf said sophisticated clients aren't necessarily big spenders, she added that they're willing to buy when they see what they like.

Rob DeLuca and his wife, Barb, came to Vail in 1977. Their store, Currents, has been in the same Bridge Street location since 1985. Rob DeLuca agreed that this is one of the weeks where his store and the bulk of Vail's visitors are a good match.

"I wish we had more weeks like this during the season," he said. "We're very thankful for this week."

DeLuca said business this year has been better than any since before the national economic slump hit in 2008, but said seasons earlier in the last decade may have been better.

DeLuca agreed with Kundolf's belief that Vail shoppers are more accustomed to seeing remarkable items.

"If you look at the rates people are paying, and the distances they travel, that's a pretty significant outlay," DeLuca said. "These are people who travel and shop in a lot of luxury markets, so they're conditioned to a certain level of quality."

The secret, if there is one, is to have items that appeal to those tastes. And, Kundolf said, that discerning eye often runs in families.

"One year there might be someone who will buy something, and the next year we'll sell something to his uncle, and the next year to his son or grandson," Kundolf said.

Those return customers are what makes Vail's destination crowds tick, and those crowds are in Vail now.

"It's just a good time to be in business, in Vail," Kundolf said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 28, 2013 11:25PM Published Mar 28, 2013 09:04PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.