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EagleVail’s Hygge Life store just got a caffeinated upgrade

The Vail Valley’s most hygge couple opened a quaint cafe in EagleVail. Alexandra Gove and her husband, Koen van Renswoude, owner of the home goods shop Hygge Life, just expanded the store’s footprint to include a cafe. Hygge Life has a grand opening event for the cafe on Saturday, June 15. Guests can stop in to sip on a $1 cup of coffee or munch on a pastry any time of day.

Hygge Life started out of a van, the Hygge Bus, while Gove and van Renswoude traveled Europe in their early days as a couple. Almost 10 years later, they’ve since launched an extensive online store, hosted their own hygge-inspired wedding up at Tigiwon Community House, opened up a brick and mortar shop and now will offer the community a little more of the ultimate meaning behind their brand.

Hygge (pronounced HOO – gah) is the Danish word for cozy, and now there’s a perfect place to experience it without having to leave the mountains.

“Hygge is a verb in Danish,” van Renswoude, who is from Amsterdam, said. “So you can say ‘let’s hygge.’ Now you can practice it here.”

the inside of the hygge life cafe/store in eaglevail
The Hygge Life store opened in August 2017, but the couple is now expanding on their idea by adding a cafe for guests to sit and enjoy a beverage, chat with friends or just read the newspaper.
Dominique Taylor | Special to the Daily

The space has become a welcoming corner of the Hygge Life shop, and it isn’t designed for guests to hold business meetings or sit for hours on their laptop. In fact, the tables are purposely too low for working on a computer, so guests are invited to sit and chat with friends or spend some quiet time reading the newspaper.

“We were recently back in Copenhagen and Amsterdam and you just see that the culture there is so much more present around a cup of coffee,” Gove said. “They sit and chat and just enjoy the time.”

She also noticed on their recent trip overseas that the cafes use candles all day, every day, year-round.

“Even if the sun is glaring into the windows, the candles are still lit,” Gove said. “It really makes for this warm, comfortable atmosphere. And that is what we are going to do here — we are always going to have candles lit, in the summer and the winter. It’s coffee by candlelight.”

They have also created a south-facing patio to complement the cafe. Sheepskin-covered furniture sets the open-air scene, complete with a window into the cafe for ordering.

“We are sprucing up the patio this summer so that will be a really nice place to hang out and have a coffee. Even if you’re just biking though and you want to stop and get a drink, that’s perfect,” Gove said.

Van Renswoude said they will likely apply for a beer and wine license in the future and they are planning on offering events throughout the year.

Coffee drinks and tea will be served, along with fresh pastries from The Rose in Edwards, including their apple tart and shortbread. The cafe also has a kids’ specialty: the babyccino, a cup of steamed milk. Gove and van Renswoude sourced their beans from Huckleberry Roasters out of Denver, which they’ll pair with a rotating variety of some of their favorite European roasts.

“We have people who come in to the shop just to say hello and hang out for a bit. We really like that and we want people to feel like they can do that more often,” said Gove. “Our bigger dream is to have a hotel and a cafe and shop somewhere. That is the distant dream, so this is like another little stepping stone in that direction.”

If you go …

  • What: Hygge Life Cafe Grand Opening party.
  • Where: Hygge Life, EagleVail.
  • When: Saturday, June 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Cost: As little as $1 for a coffee.
  • More information: Visit hyggelife.com/pages/events.

Vail Valley commercial property is in pretty short supply

EAGLE COUNTY — We all know Vail is an economic powerhouse. If you need proof, just look at the retail vacancy rate in town: .45 percent.

That’s right, less than .5 percent of Vail’s retail space was vacant in 2018, according to a report from NAI Mountain Commercial. Vacancies are low in the rest of the valley as well: 2.6 percent for Eagle-Vail, Avon, Beaver Creek and Edwards and 2.2 percent for Eagle and Gypsum.

The rate in Denver was 5.2 percent in 2018.

The Vail vacancy rate is also driving rent increases in town. While commercial rent in the rest of the valley is still lower than the peaks seen in 2007, for the past few years rent in Vail has surpassed that high-water mark from the previous decade.

‘No vacancy’

“There’s virtually no vacancy (in Vail),” NAI Mountain Commercial Vice President and managing broker Erich Schmidt said.

In fact, he said, businesses rarely move out of prime spots in Vail. When that happens, someone new often comes in before anyone can hang a “for rent” sign.

Rental rates for prime space in Vail Village can approach $120 per square foot. In Lionshead Village, prime space can be as high as $65 per square foot.

The story is different in the rest of the valley. While vacancy rates are low, there are spaces lingering on the market.

Avon, in particular, has some significant spaces available, including the site of the former Montana’s and Outback restaurants, as well as the space formerly occupied by Office Depot.

Schmidt said those larger spaces will be hard to fill.

“When we get above 2,000 to 2,500 square feet … national retailers aren’t really expanding, and when they are, they’re expanding in metropolitan areas,” Schmidt said.

Smaller spaces are also difficult, due to factors including the changing retail environment, the cost of space and difficulty finding employees.

Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said members of the regional chamber of commerce are telling him that they’re mostly standing pat in the spaces they have now.

Leasing’s picking up

But, Schmidt said, his firm has seen an uptick in leasing interest and activity in the past few weeks.

“Leasing always picks up as we go to spring — especially in a strong ski year,” Schmidt said. “We’ve seen a pickup in activity, especially in Traer Creek Plaza (in Avon), both for retail and office space.”

Interest in Edwards continues to be strong, but Schmidt said there isn’t a lot of space available.

The other side of the retail coin is that UPS has expanded its operation in Gypsum, and now holds about 40,000 square feet of warehouse space near the Eagle County Regional Airport.

Other warehouse and commercial space is also being leased or sold in the western part of the valley.

Those businesses are often looking for space with tall garage doors. Some new building is taking place in those areas, but not a lot, Schmidt said.

The relative lack of available space, as well as the high cost of construction, also seems to be driving prices when a commercial property comes up for sale. Schmidt said another driver is businesses relocating from Denver or the Front Range to the Western Slope.

The biggest of those sales in 2018 was the sale of the West Vail Mall. That sale — for $14 million — closed in the fourth quarter of the year. A pair of sales — of the separately-sold A and B buildings of the Northstar Center in Edwards, also topped $14 million. Another sale, of a roughly 500 square foot retail space in the Lodge at Vail, topped $1 million. That’s about $2,000 per square foot. According to data from Land Title Guarantee Co., 2018’s highest price per square foot for residential property was a unit in Solaris that sold for $3,095 per square foot.

The cost to rent, buy or build, combined with an employee shortage, is crimping potential economic growth in the valley, Romer said.

“It’s a perfect storm of challenges in an economy that’s overall doing pretty well,” he said.

Vail Daily Business editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

New store in The Westin lobby offers unique clothing, gifts in Avon

The goal of White Sage is to offer products that can’t be found in malls or online.

Shopping is a popular pastime in the Vail Valley, and The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon is jumping head first into the market. The resort has opened White Sage, a boutique-style shop in its lobby.

The store focuses primarily on women’s clothes and accessories but also carries smaller gift items.

“Every year, we try and do something new,” said Kristen Pryor, the resort’s general manager. “We’re always looking at our spaces and thinking about what will keep us fresh and updated.”

The store was created to provide a strong, modern experience for visitors.

“As much as people shop online these days, they really like to have something to touch and feel,” Pryor noted. “They also want something to remember their trip by.”

The space that the store is in — located in the hotel’s lobby just behind the library near the front desk — has a storied history itself. The place started as a business center and then was repurposed into an enhancement of kid’s club before ultimately becoming a meeting space.

“It was never really lively or engaging,” Pryor said.

White Sage is located inside the lobby of the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon.

Carol Lundgaard, a mainstay in the valley’s retail industry, runs the store itself. Lundgaard previously served as a retail manager for Allegria for 20 years and created White Sage to be a standalone store. Gaye Steinke, vice president of health and wellness for East West Hospitality, is excited about Lundgaard’s vision.

“The products are basically made to order,” Steinke said. “We’ll negotiate with the vendor and they’ll send the order, and we don’t necessarily get to reorder because (the product) was only made once.”

Pryor shared those sentiments, also noting that Lundgaard has a knack for finding unique products that you can’t find at the mall or online. And they’ll be offered at approachable, reasonable pricing; sweaters costing between $100 and $200, jeans costing about $180, and tops being sold for between $50 and $70.

The process for creating White Sage began in the spring of 2018, the plans were finalized over the summer, construction began in mid-October and the store opened over the holidays after about an eight-week turnaround.

Pryor noted that the store is already seeing success and interests from the guests.

To celebrate the store opening, The Westin is, of course, throwing a party. The event will take place today from 3 to 8 p.m., and will consist of discounts at the store and a Champagne toast.

The grand opening party on Friday will coincide with Maya’s Friday Afternoon Club with live music and specials on food and drink.

The party will also coincide with the resort’s Friday Afternoon Club with food and drink specials, as well as live music from The Laughing Bones from 6 to 9 p.m.

Additionally, the town of Avon will be hosting July in January from 6 to 9 p.m., which will include a fireworks display.

Arts & Entertainment Editor Nate Day can be reached at nday@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2932.