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A passion for fashion

Connie Steiert

Gorsuch Ltd. is a name many buyers throughout the world know today and not just skiers.Gorsuch customers live all over the United States and around the globe, and this landmark Vail store’s European-style clothing and elegant gifts and furnishings have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times Magazine, Victoria and American Airlines’ American Way magazine.It’s an inspiring success story especially since Gorsuch’s founders, Dave and Renie Gorsuch, were once struggling to keep their heads above water and their fledgling ski shop alive.Today, they can hold their heads up with justifiable pride as the business continues to flourish. Equally satisfying, however, Gorsuch Ltd. has become a family business, one that has drawn four generations of Gorsuches closer together.Owner Dave Gorsuch is modest about his phenomenal success in retail. &quotI’ve always said we are winter farmers. The snow makes us all look very intelligent.&quotAnd, granted, weak snow years don’t help. But the Gorsuch success story goes far beyond Mother Nature.In 1962, Dave Gorsuch was just a junior at Western State College in Gunnison when he first decided to take a shot at the retail business. But he and wife Renie were both Olympians as well, having ski raced in the 1960 Olympics, and they figured they knew enough about ski equipment and ski clothing to make a career of selling it.Besides, Gorsuch had been tuning and fixing skis for friends for free in the couple’s apartment until he accidentally broke one of Renie’s favorite possessions in the process. Renie declared it was time he charged for his work elsewhere.Their first store opened that year in Gunnison. It was a modest affair: a 400-square-foot space in an old, vacant filling station that they decorated with salvaged barn wood and burlap from the local mattress company. They filled the store with Head skis, Roffie sweaters and Bogner ski clothing. The store also had an area wereGorsuch could work on skis for customers.The store proved successful enough that the couple soon opened asecond store on Main Street, with a roomy 1,500 square feet, and the addition of John Meyer casual clothes popular with the college set in the inventory.At the time, Renie was teaching first grade at a school in Gunnison, and Dave was still ski racing for Western State. They were both training to make the 1964 Olympic ski team.The year 1962 was a fortuitous time to be in Gunnison. Crested Butte ski area had just opened (the same year as Vail), and Dave soon secured a job as mountain manager for the new resort. By 1964 he and Renie had opened a small store in fledgling Crested Butte, too.&quotWe were trying to make a niche for ourselves,&quot explains Dave Gorsuch. But the capital the couple had to invest in the stores was always too limited. &quotIt was all done on a shoestring budget.&quotJust when they wondered whether they were going to sink financially, a chance meeting with Vail Clock Tower owner John McBride in 1966 opened a whole new world of opportunities for the Gorsuches.McBride had a ski shop, Sport House Vail, in the basement of the Clock Tower and was interested in selling it to the Gorsuches. Within two weeks of the offer, the Gorsuches had found a buyer for their stores in Gunnison and moved to Vail in May of 1966. With a down payment on the purchase, the Sport House Vail became Gorsuch Ltd., and the rest is history.The store has changed dramatically over the years. No longer just a little basement ski shop, the Gorsuches now own the Clock Tower building and have expanded to the street level and the stories above.More impressive is the way the store’s merchandise has grown, evolved and been embraced by buyers who come from all over the world and by those who shop through the Gorsuch catalog, which debuted in 1976.Although Gorsuch still offers ski equipment and Bogner ski clothing, it also carries everything from designer clothing and footwear to unique gifts and home furnishings. The men’s and women’s clothing departments have a wonderful selection of alpine casual wear andelegant evening wear. There are chic jackets from Italy and sweaters from Norway, velvet flocked taffeta skirts and Donegal wool pants, as well as clogs from Bavaria and sleek Zurich loafers and pumps. If you are looking for that special gift, try a piece of Austrian Pottery, hand-etched Tyrolean stag champagne glasses, or a gold, pav daisy diamond bracelet. For the home, there are Tudor lamps, handsome wing chairs and English Tavern Tables.Dave Gorsuch explains that Gorsuch Ltd. carries &quotwhatever we think the market has a need for.&quotToday there are eight Gorsuch stores in Beaver Creek, Aspen, Keystone and, of course, the flagship Vail Village store. There have also been Gorsuch stores in Lionshead, Copper Mountain and Winter Park at various times.&quotWe’ve been all over not quite, but almost,&quot Gorsuch says.He attributes much of the business’s success to Renie’s business and buying acumen. &quotMy wife’s got great taste,&quot he says.The Gorsuches have been traversing the European market since 1972 in an effort to find superb and unusual merchandise customers can’t find elsewhere. Today Renie continues with her European buying trips with the help of her sisters, Judy, who lives in New York, and Mary, who manages the Beaver Creek store.&quotIt’s part of our passion,&quot says Gorsuch. &quotWe always have a pretty good pulse on what’s going on in Europe, and we’ve tried to imitate that.&quotBut Renie and Dave are not the only family members to help make Gorsuch grow and flourish. Their three sons John, Jeff and Davie are an integral part of the business as well. Jeff lives in Aspen and manages the stores there, and John and Jeff both do a lot of the buying for the store. And, Dave Gorsuch says, the business has 80 friendly, dedicated employees at the eight stores who are key to the business’s success.Over the years the Gorsuch family has not only become an integral part of the Vail retail community, but the Vail Valley community at large. Both Dave and Renie helped establish Vail Mountain School in its present East Vail location, and they regularly support the Vail Valley Foundation, Bravo! the Vail Valley Medical Center and the Steadman Hawkins Foundation. Renie has served on the medical center’s board for 12 years, and was recently awarded the Golden Bear award, and Dave has served on the Ski Club Vail board for years as well.&quotWe’re just happy to be a part of Vail,&quot Dave Gorsuch says. &quotIt’s our life. Settling in and living here, we’d like to continue to help make Vail the best it can be.&quot


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