Chapin: Guest service essential
VAIL — Dave Chapin sees Vail’s recent success every day. For Chapin, a partner in Vendetta’s restaurant in Vail Village, the way to keep the town on its successful streak boils down to listening to guests and residents and giving them what they want.
“When you get a substantial amount of citizens talking, you need to listen,” Chapin said.
Chapin has dug into recent community surveys — he referred to it frequently during an interview — to see what residents think about the job the town government is doing, and what they want to see in the months and years to come.
Among those results, residents showed an interest in building a “balanced community” in town, as well as “developing future leadership.”
A balanced community means getting people living year-round in a town where more than 70 percent of all homes are owned by people who vote elsewhere. That means finding a way to create housing options for people from lift operators to new doctors at Colorado Mountain Medical.
“I think we’re going to come on an interesting time again with housing,” Chapin said. Given the activity in the lower end of the housing market in the valley, Chapin said housing needs to receive renewed attention from the council.
Chapin said the council also needs to better focus its attention on listening to second-home owners.
“They pay a lot of bills here,” he said. “I’d like to reach out to second-home owners more.”
As someone who’s in Vail Village nearly every day, Chapin said it’s important for council members to be out and about, talking to both guests and local residents.
“We need to see why people are talking,” he said.
But the town’s top priority needs to be the same as it is for businesses in town — the guest experience.
“Our quality of life is important, but it doesn’t exist without the guest,” Chapin said. That gets back to listening and letting people feel like they’re being listened to.
Chapin believes the town, and its businesses, do a pretty good job of listening now. It’s part of the reason so many people have an enduring love affair with Vail.
Chapin said he often talks to customers in his restaurant and, in the course of a conversation, will ask where those people are from.
“They’re say, ‘Oh, we’re locals,’ and it turns out they’re from Lakewood,” Chapin said. “That’s because we make them feel like locals. That reflects on us and on Vail Resorts.”
Chapin found his own welcome in Vail more than 30 years ago. A native of upstate New York, Chapin came to Vail to join friends who were already here. Still, he said, he’d long known he wanted to end up in the mountains, and went to school to study hospitality and management to help achieve that goal.
In college, Chapin had a professor who had lived in Jackson, Wyo. That professor encouraged Chapin’s dream. He came, worked and never left.
“This mountain community is phenomenal,” Chapin said. “People envy our lifestyle.”
Chapin said he still gets on the mountain as often as he can — “I’m here because of Vail Mountain,” he said. Riding the lifts and getting on the hill, Chapin said you never know who you’re going to meet.
When he travels, Chapin said he almost always wears some kind of Vail gear, something that’s opened doors for new friendships.
At a bar in the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy, a man at the bar pointed to Chapin’s shirt and asked if he was from Vail.
“It turned out he was a World Cup ski racer,” Chapin said. “We had a great time that day.”
That’s the power of the Vail brand, and why maintaining it is so important, Chapin said.
“We need to keep going the way we’re going,” he said. “We need to make an effort to understand the guests, to ask ‘Can I take that picture for you?’ We need to let our locals bring their dogs to the bar.”
“We need to just be ourselves,” he added. That, ultimately, is what leads people to identify with Vail, he said.
“We need to look around — don’t take this for granted,” he said. “When you see the envy on our guests’ faces, it’s because of this. And if there’s a big issue, we’ll figure it out.”
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