A walk down Main Street Minturn

Melanie Wong
Preston UtleyLaurie Ramirez, owner of Details, shovels the sidewalk in front of her store. When visitors walk through Minturn, they can expect to find a small-town atmosphere with local shop keepers willing to help.

Follow the Eagle River south of Dowd Junction and you will happen upon the old mining town of Minturn.

It’s closer in proximity to Vail than Avon, but feels like it is a million miles away. It is quiet, away from the bustle of the resorts and Interstate 70, and it is rustic, a corner of the Vail Valley that still reminds us this area was once home to farmers, miners and railroads.

A walk down Main Street Minturn tells the town’s story, but it takes a bit of poking around, since the stores and homes that line the street are unassuming.

“There are no big glassy facades and store windows, so people think, ‘What could they possibly have?'” said Kathy Morrow, owner of the Yarn Studio in Minturn.

Outsiders will find Minturn intensely local, but welcoming to visitors, she said.

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“It’s a good adventure for visitors who want to venture off the beaten path,” she said.

“Vail and Beaver Creek sprung up off the slopes, but this is a real town. It has sidewalks, streets and alleys.”

The mix of old and new businesses show the town is changing. The older places, like The Turntable Restaurant and the Minturn Saloon, have a disheveled but charming air. Go a little further and you will find the Minturn Country Club, a popular restaurant where diners can cook their own meat. The other side of the street is lined with wooden houses with front yards in varying states of upkeep.

Newer businesses like The Lift coffee house, Alison Plumber Catering and Kirby Cosmos Barbeque and Bar are further down the street, a little less dusty than the older places, but quaint just the same.

“We’re excited about Minturn growing,” said Kirby’s owner Mark Tamberino. “It’s hard to compete with Vail, but we’re the last of the mountain towns in the valley. Hopefully we can preserve the mountain atmosphere, because the valley is losing that touch.”

Antique Accents owner and Minturn resident Rebecca Callender called the town a “diamond in the rough.”

“A lot of people don’t know about it, but it’s authentic, and it’s got charm and character,” she said. “You know your neighbors because they’ve been here for a while. There are a lot of second and third generations living here.”

But as a long-time fixture on Main Street, she has also seen the town change as fewer and fewer visitors come through, Callender said sadly.

In the last few years, the town has become quieter, and the shops around are now empty buildings marked with for-sale signs.

“Before, I was surrounded by art galleries, and there were a lot of shops to go to, but I’ve seen them all close, one by one,” she said.

The growth of businesses in Edwards has drawn many businesses away from Minturn, some residents said.

Longtime Minturn fixtures like Battle Mountain Trading Post owner Bill Reis remembers when the town was bustling. The weekend outdoor market was the place to be, and restaurants used to be packed, he said.

“When the town was in its heyday, it was packed everyday. With so many restaurants in Edwards, everything has moved down there,” he said.

He sees Minturn slowly turning into a second-home community, he said.

The proposed Ginn development, which would bring a private ski resort and golf course to the area just south of the town, might do just that.

Some residents do not like the idea, said Heather Schultz, owner of Holy Toledo clothing store, but she thinks it will be good for the town.

A ski resort would bring in much needed business, as well as upgrades to the towns facilities and streets, she said.

Whether people like it or not, change is coming to Minturn, Reis said.

“I think everything is in transition. Things will change, because this is one of the only places left in the valley for anything to happen,” he said.

– The Turntable

This dive and motel is an institution in Minturn. The place has been around since 1980 and is owned by Minturn native Darla Goodell.

“We serve home-made soul food,” she said. “The place is casual and surprising.”

The restaurant’s retro exterior piques the curiosity. The interior looks like someone couldn’t quite decide what theme to go with, and ended up using every theme.

There is a ’50s room, with Elvis and Marilyn statues, photos from the old Minturn High School and a very puzzling and very large stuffed Mickey Mouse looming over the entrance. Other walls bear train memorabilia, and others have photos of mountain wildlife and landscapes.

But there are some serious eats here, too. The restaurant claims to have the first breakfast burrito, or breakfast boos, in the state, and it also is home to some prize-winning green chili.

Guests will meet an eclectic crowd, too. It draws everyone from local residents to construction workers to international seasonal workers staying at the motel.

If you aren’t looking for Antique Accents, you might miss it.

The little house is nestled between several shops and sits behind a picket fence and garden shrubs. Once inside, the place looks like a cluttered museum ” every corner is filled with western antiques and relics from the old West, from homestead furniture to beaded cowboy vests.

The shop specializes in the “rare, unusual and the best,” said owner Rebecca Callender. Her shop is one of the oldest businesses on the block. In the 18 years the store has been open, plenty of history has come through the doors, she said.

Once she had a Marlon rifle that belonged to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and right now she has two pre-reservation era Indian dolls on display.

The house itself is steeped in history. It was built in 1904 by the Nelsons, who farmed potatoes, lettuce and raised sheep, Callender said. Later, it was rented out and sold a number of times until Callender moved in. She knocked out some walls and converted many of the rooms to what it is today.

“I still get people in here all the time that say, ‘I used to live here,'” she said.

Mark Serlo and Jarrod Morrah had a simple plan for opening their coffee shop.

They wanted to find a casual, inviting place to serve coffee, make some tasty sandwiches and bake homemade breads and pastries.

When the friendly, white building that was formerly another coffee shop, Harry’s Bump and Grind, became available, Serlo and Morrah moved in and opened The Lift.

“The place is comfortable, casual and calm,” said Serlo. “It’s a little different from your cookie-cutter coffee shops you might find elsewhere in the valley.”

The coffee shop and sandwich house is hip, but unpretentious, a breath of fresh air in an old mining town. The place has many nooks and crannies to hole up with a book and a latte, or to meet up with a friend for sandwiches. You can make your order and then watch your food be made in the open kitchen. When the trays of pastries come out oven, sitting in plain sight, you might just have to add to your order.

Another thing that makes the Lift unique is the crowd it draws.

“It’s more of a local crowd, not as many tourists,” said Morrah.

Not that visitors don’t happen upon the Lift, too.

“I love it,” said Boulder resident Kat Stephenson. “There’s free Internet and a great atmosphere. It’s a really open place, so you can see the town right out the window.”

There’s something sleek and stylish about Kirby’s decor ” the shiny wooden bar that forms the core of the restaurant, the red retro cruiser bike displayed inside and the chair-lift porch swing outside.

But the food and the atmosphere are nothing more than down-home. Local bands play twice a week, and the menu features South Carolina-style barbecue, and tasty fixins’ like macaroni and cheese and banana pudding.

The space used to be JB’s BBQ until owners Mark and Emily Tamberino bought and expanded the place, but they still use JB’s original barbecue recipes.

“There are more locals here than anywhere else. There are nights that the entire bar is filled with locals,” said bartender Clay Bidwell with pride.

In fact, said Mark Tamberino, there are nights the “bar is full, but the parking lot is empty,” since many local residents will just walk over.

Minturn resident Woody Woodruff is a regular. Popping in for the salmon house salad or some pulled pork to go is incredibly convenient, considering he lives behind the restaurant.

“I like it because it’s a very ‘Cheers’ sort of place where everyone knows your name,” he said. “Also, the barbecue is great. It’s juicy, and the sauce is spicy, but not too hot.”

Where else can you buy both designer jeans and hot pink, one-piece ski suits? Look no further than Holy Toledo, a clothing consignment store owned by Heather and Eric Schultz.

The shop sells overstock and leftovers that come in from boutiques in Aspen and Vail, as well as some used items from around the valley. That makes for a varied mix of clothing. Leather cowboy jackets? Silk robes printed with red dragons? They’ve got it.

The wooden building with an impressive steeple was the Minturn Presbyterian Church until the Schultzes bought it six years ago, pews and all.

“We just loved this building,” Heather Schultz said.

The store is on Main Street and Toledo Street, and while the Schultzes remodeled the inside, they kept the outside of the building looking like a church ” hence the name Holy Toledo.

You can’t stop staring as you pass the Battle Mountain Trading Post.

The storefront is cluttered with a mish-mash of bright items. There’s a green canoe, several wooden ducks, an old telescope pointed toward the sky, and an old yellow truck adorned with various signs and a rusty chandelier, its bed piled high with a towering stack of antlers.

“It’s an art project I’ve been working on,” said owner Bill Reis of the truck. “I pile 200 to 300 pounds of antlers on it each year.”

Inside, there is plenty to look at, too. Real specializes in “one-of-a-kind collectibles,” which means anything from antique jukeboxes to stuffed polar bears.

The Post is one of the oldest establishments in town. It was the town gas station before Reis moved in 30 years ago. Now, the shop is almost a museum of sorts, and it has an international client base.

– Minturn Cellars

A tasting room and cellar by the river makes this boutique winery a charming detour from Main Street Minturn. Located just off Highway 24 on the way into Minturn, the winery features chardonnay, Riesling, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, meritage, cabernet franc and Viognier. Owners Bruce and Taffy McLaughlin are Colorado wine entrepreneurs, running both Pikes Peak Winery in Colorado Springs and Wines of Colorado in Cascade. The Minturn Cellars is open in the summer and early fall.

Approaching the town, Chili Willy’s is one of the first things you see, with bright lights glaring down from the quaint building perched on the corner where Main Street meets Highway 24. A license plate collection and country-living paraphernalia add character to the joint. The menu is Tex-Mex, featuring homemade tortilla chips, jalapeno cornbread and famous fajitas. And the bar opens before the restaurant, so margaritas are the recommended appetizers to any meal.

No, it doesn’t sit on a golf course and membership is not required. This is a steakhouse with a sense of humor ” a grill-it-yourself sense of humor. Pick a piece of meat or fish from the “butcher case” and take it over to the grill where you can season it and cook it yourself. Some pointers written on the wall can help amateur cooks get their steaks just right. While the name of the place implies pretentiousness, the Minturn Country Club offers dinner with a smile and just a little bit of manners.

Jim “Pope” Popeck owns the only bike shop in Minturn. Besides being the last oasis for cyclists headed toward Leadville, the shop also specializes in high-end, custom-fit bikes. You would never be able to tell, though. The shop is unpretentious. Instead of coffee, they’ve got beers, and instead of racks of accessories, they have an old-fashioned wood stove.

“There’s no attitude here,” Popeck said.

And yes, it’s a real saloon, complete with wooden façade, dark interior and wagon-wheel chandeliers.

Here you’ll find Minturn regulars having drinks and munching on chips. The Saloon is popular with skiers and snowboarders fresh off the Minturn Mile, a backcountry route that ends in Minturn.

The building dates back to 1901 and has always housed some kind of restaurant or bar.

You may have to duck your head to avoid the knit shawls hanging from the ceiling, or watch your feet to keep from trampling the two little pooches that welcome visitors.

Kathy Morrow’s store has every kind of yarn, needle and knitting instruction imaginable. It offers classes, and also is the hotspot for the valley’s knitting community, which is a bit bigger than you might think.

“People, especially younger women, just rediscovered it a few years ago. Now it’s hot,” said Morrow, who opened the shop after a professional singing career.

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