Eagle Valley: In the lack of luxury | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley: In the lack of luxury

Pam Boyd and Katie Drucker
Eagle Valley Enterprise
Eagle Valley, CO COlorado
Dominique Taylor/Eagle Valley EnterpriseBrian Nguyen, left, paints client Judy Porino's toe nails during her pedicure as other clients get foot massages and other beauty treatments Tuesday at Star Nails in Eagle.

EAGLE, Colorado – According to the national news Americans are eschewing luxuries they formerly embraced.

But what does that mean for the businesses that specialize in those services, especially in small communities such as Eagle and Gypsum?

Unlike their neighbors to the east, downvalley residents don’t live smack dab in the middle of a world famous resort. But there are several businesses that aim to pamper Eagle and Gypsum residents, albeit in a less glitzy manner than operations in Vail and Beaver Creek.

With everyone counting their pennies these days, such small town operations have had to adapt to weather the economic storm. Here’s what some of them have to say about living in the lack of luxury:

Mountain Living Spa

Rita Woods, of Eagle, said when the economy slowed the first cut her family made was on luxury items. Woods was forced to scale back the frequency of her visits to Mountain Living Spa for massages.

“Massages help me take care of headaches,” said Woods. “I now don’t come in as often as I would like.”

Although Woods, and other Mountain Living Spa clients, have reduced visits, spa owner Kristine Leslie said her business is doing well.

“Some people spread out how often they come. But other people have come on, so it has evened out,” said Leslie. “This summer we cranked. We didn’t even have a off-season in the spring.”

Leslie said while some people cut trips out of their budget they still needed some pampering.

“I think people didn’t take big expensive trips this year but they still needed some relief,” said Leslie. “People are extra stressed because of the situation and messages help them.”

Leslie also said Mountain Living Spa offers specials to help out locals. A special is offered every month and a punch card is offered to locals which reduces the price of a message from $70 to $60.

“We work hard to cater to local clients,” said Leslie. “We are anticipating a busy winter.”

Star Nails

Star Nails in Eagle has seen a 30-to-35 percent drop in business since the recession hit Eagle County.

“This year is a lot slower than last year,” said Brian Nguyen, manager “There are no jobs and a lot of people are moving around.”

Nguyen said some old patrons moved away while others who are still here can’t afford to get their nails done anymore. Other patrons continue to come but come less often, said Nguyen.

Alpine Laser

Unlike the nearby nail salon- Star Nails- Alpine Laser, in Eagle, has not seen a dramatic drop in business.

“I definitely think it slowed but not nearly as much as we anticipated. Which was a pleasant surprise,” said Cindy Ramunno, owner.

Ramunno is not certain why business didn’t drop as much as she expected but speculates it could be the moderate cost of the services.

“We are a working-man luxury service,” said Ramunno. “We don’t get second home owners. We get the workers.”

Ramunno also believes locals who used to shave and wax have turned to laser hair removal because it saves money in the long run and it is less time consuming.

“Laser hair removal is a permanent solution and it is cheaper,” said Ramunno.

In addition to laser hair removal, Alpine Laser offers botox and filler injections.

Ramunno said people who come for injections are still coming for these services, “I definitely think injections have become like hair highlights. Once you get them, you keep getting them.”

Ramunno has also seen people scheduled for cosmetic surgery cancel and instead come to Alpine Laser for injections.

“I know some people are really hurting but for us it has been OK,” Ramunno said.

Eagle Ranch Wine and Spirits

“I think the trend we have seen is people have been lowering their standards a bit,” said owner Howard Gardner. “In the past, for example, they may have bought a $20 bottle of Chardonnay. Now they buy $15 bottles.”

Gardner says there is a very wide range of wine on his shelves, not to mention in the national marketplace. As a rule, he believes wine drinkers like to branch out and try new things. As a result, Gardner said during this economic downturn, wine drinkers can look for lower prices and still find something they like. Additionally wine prices have dropped over the last year, making a good value and even better deal.

Because of that trend, Gardner has been cutting back on his high-end wines. “We will still carry them but we probably won’t have the depth of stock,” he noted.

Contrary to popular misconception, beer and sprits buyers are actually more discriminating. Gardner says that while his wine-drinking customers are more willing to try less expensive wines, his beer and spirits buyers are notoriously loyal to their preferred product.

“If you are a Stella drinker, you still drink Stella,” he said. “If your are Jack Daniels man, you aren’t switching to Jim Beam.”

Unlike wine prices, prices on spirits have either remained stable or gone up. Beer prices have also risen over the past year.

Overall, Gardner said, customers seem more willing to treat themselves to wine, beer or spirits than they did at this time last year. “People are taking a breath now. They have put off celebrating for a while, but they starting to feel like its is okay to splurge a bit.”

That said, Gardner noted that as a neighborhood business, he still sees out-of-work customers. “There are still lots of people out of work. People are still pinching pennies.”

Eagle Ranch Fitness Club

Some people see joining a fitness club as a luxury. Eagle Ranch Fitness Club manager Hilary Welch-Petrowski isn’t one of them.

“I don’t want to think of it as a luxury. My background is in cardiac rehabilitation,” she said. “I think of exercise as a necessity rather than a luxury.”

Welch-Petrowski started work at the club in May, well after the financial downturn started. She noted that membership numbers were actually up for the summer of 2009 over 2008. But summer is also a notoriously slow times for health clubs because people choose to exercise in the great outdoors versus inside a club.

When she has contacted former members about their decision to not renew, Welch-Petrowski said most the most likely reason for leaving is the family moved from the area. But some members have said they are cutting back on expenses.

Welch-Petroski noted the Eagle Ranch Fitness Club offers a variety of classes included in its membership fees, along with modern exercise equipment and child care. But the facility doesn’t have a luxury spa like other facilities in the county. She hopes the more reasonable membership fees combined with good value will keep customers satisfied.

“Hopefully our numbers will grow as the weather gets colder,” she said.

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