Aikens says he’ll help small businesses |

Aikens says he’ll help small businesses

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyRobert Aikens, who is running for Vail Town Council, with his dog, Blu, at his store, Verbatim Booksellers, Thursday in Vail Village.

VAIL – It’s a Thursday morning at Verbatim Booksellers, and Robert Aikens is busy. As the only person working in the store he owns in Vail Village, he’s helping a customer special-order a children’s book. A friend wants to take a look at the Undressed Calendar and, as soon as he has time to pose for a news photographer, two customers visiting from Denver need to be checked out.”This is a prime example of why we need the conference center in the offseason,” he said. “It would bring more people, which would mean more customers, which would mean I could hire more staff.”Aikens said he wants to bring that hands-on small-business knowledge to the council. Economic development, especially for small business, is a key part of his campaign. One of his ideas is creating an economic development committee that would meet with local business owners and managers to explore ways to market themselves and find more business.He also would like to see more established business owners mentor young people who want to start businesses in Vail. “I think the people now who are a little older and have made it, I think it’s up to us now to mentor, give back, help those people,” he said.Aikens’ other big issue is the West Vail fire station. He said he will make the construction of the station a priority.”All you have to do is look at the dead lodgepole pines and see what’s happening there,” he said, saying a fire there could cause loss of life and property, and damage the local economy.’There’s something about Vail’Aikens grew up near Lake George in upstate New York, a resort area. After college, he lived in Killington, Vt., for a few years. He decided he’d try the skiing out West.”You always have these dreams you want to go to Vail, Snowmass, Aspen, Steamboat, all these things you read in SKI Magazine or see in the Warren Miller movies, and one year, Killington was not having one of their better years for snow,” he said.

So he headed out to Colorado in 1988, and, after driving up to the mountains all the time, he figured he’d move up here. He started his own bookstore, called A Reader’s Feast, in Avon in 1989. He sold the store a couple of years later.After leaving Vail, he lived and ran bookstores in Aspen and Laguna Beach, Calif. But he was always pulled back to Vail, first in 1994 for about a year and again permanently in 2000. “What has always made Vail are the people,” he said. “That’s why I stayed here. I tried to leave twice and I came back. But there’s something about Vail.”Aikens bought Verbatim Booksellers in 2003 and moved it from Lionshead to Vail Village. Aikens, who said his favorite type of reading is business books, said he’s attracted to the book industry because he has to figure out what type of books interest people. “(You have) to figure out what people will want, because everyone’s different,” he said.He’s had to be innovative in the way he attracts customers as a small business in Vail, Aikens said. Verbatim had a booth at the Vail Farmers Market this summer, and he brings authors to the valley to sign books and speak to audiences.Nevertheless, he’s had to cut back on staff in the offseason. He’s down to two people, including himself, in the offseason, but his staff balloons to eight during ski season and summer. “The money I would make in the winter and summer don’t necessarily carry me through the rest of the year,” he said.Aikens’ political experience includes serving on the board of directors of the Avon-Beaver Creek Resort Association. Also, in the early ’90s, he campaigned against Colorado’s Amendment 2, which would have prohibited protections for gays enacted by state and local governments. Voters approved the amendment, but the state Supreme Court struck it down.’I get things done’

Aikens said he’s “immensely” in favor of affordable housing in Vail. He said he wants to see Timber Ridge redeveloped into rental affordable housing and condos for sale similar to the Vail Commons project. “We have a great opportunity in redeveloping that area right there,” he said, referring to Timber Ridge. “That definitely need to be redone.”The redevelopment in Vail Village, including the Crossroads complex, gives the area a unique chance to attract more visitors, Aikens said. “That gives the core village of Vail an opportunity to market itself as that quaint, mountain, Bavarian village with fine restaurants and the horse and carriages, the small shops,” he said.The conference center, which he plans to vote in favor of in November’s election, is something he will work to make happen if voters approve it, he said.He’d be a good councilman because he listens to people, he said, even those who don’t share his own view. He’s the kind of person who makes sure things get accomplished, he added. “I get things done,” he said. “If you’re committed to something, you just do it, no excuses.”==================================AT A GLANCERobert Aikens

Age: 45Hometown: Queensbury, N.Y.Lived in Vail since: 1989, moved away in 1991, came back in 1994 for a year, came back in 2000.Neighborhood: Golf Course area.Favorite run: China Bowl and Sun Up Bowl (“I never look at the ski map”)Education: Attended Green Mountain College, University of Vermont.Occupation: Owner, Verbatim Booksellers====================================Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 604, or, Colorado

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