Gov. Polis visits Avon, Edwards for small business week

The governor stops by Fill & Refill in Edwards and Colorado Pool + Spa Scapes in Avon to talk about economic relief and employee retention

Megan Rossman, a retail associate with Fill & Refill, shows Colorado Gov. Jared Polis around the store Thursday in Edwards. Polis visited two small businesses in Eagle County on his Powering the Comeback Tour.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis donned his trademark turtleneck and braved the snow to visit two Eagle County businesses in Avon and Edwards Thursday afternoon in recognition of Colorado Small Business Week.

The visits were part of the governor’s Powering the Comeback Tour, highlighting how the state’s economic relief efforts will help businesses across the state, especially small businesses like Fill & Refill in Edwards.

“It’s exciting to see a small business that can not only cut down on plastic waste and packaging that is unnecessary but also help save people money and their households,” Polis said of Edwards’ first refillable sustainable goods store. “These kinds of models are really exciting for the future of the valley, for the future of the state.”

Fill & Refill offers sustainable bath, body and home products in bulk, so customers refill containers they already own and reduce the waste caused by single-use plastics.

Owner Allison Burgund first opened the store in 2019 in a small space in the Edwards Commercial Park. It wasn’t long before she moved to a larger space in the park and then to the storefront at the Riverwalk, where the business is located today — two big steps that she navigated during a global pandemic.

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The Colorado Small Business Development Center, a state-run program, supported Burgund in getting her business off the ground and growing it into the thriving sustainable goods hub it is today, she said.

From marketing and social media resources to business partnerships, the Small Business Development Center “was absolutely instrumental in helping me,” Burgund said.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis looks around the Fill & Refill store Thursday in Edwards.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Also on Thursday, Polis spoke with the staff of Colorado Pool + Spa Scapes in Avon, an employee-owned business, in recognition of October being National Employee Ownership Month.

Colorado Pool + Spa Scapes gives its employees vested ownership in the company after three years of employment. This mutually beneficial model is especially important in a time when employee retention is a major challenge for business owners, Polis said.

“When you have models of employee ownership, when a company does well, the folks that work in the company can benefit from that. It also helps retain employees over time,” he said. “It’s an incentive to stay there.”

While Burgund has had success in retaining her small roster of employees, she has still been impacted by the recent changes in the labor market spurred by the pandemic, she said.

“I feel extremely lucky to retain the two employees that I have. They’re very good,” Burgund said. “I did have to increase my hourly wage, and it is very obvious that all the stores around us have ‘Help Wanted’ signs.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis talks with Fill & Refill owner Allison Burgund via FaceTime on Thursday in Edwards. Burgund was out of town when the governor paid a visit to her store.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Polis said his administration recognizes that addressing the workforce shortage is a big part of what it will look like to support business recovery moving forward. He also recognizes the importance of addressing the larger factors adding more stress to the labor market, such as affordable housing and the high cost of living.

“One of our top priorities as a state is to find ways to partner with communities like the Vail Valley on how we can create more housing opportunities for people that work in our communities and are part of our communities,” Polis said.

The state plans to use $500 million in American Rescue Act funds to partner with developers and local government to “help more Coloradans be able to afford to live close to where they work,” he said.

The rest of the governor’s Powering the Comeback Tour will focus on “economic relief efforts that will help our small businesses, help communities continue to recover and allow the state to build back even stronger,” according to a news release.

“Small Business Week is an opportunity to celebrate the hard work of small businesses and the very important role they play,” Polis said in a recent video promoting the tour.

In the first year of the pandemic, small businesses served as a crucial community connector in a time when many people felt isolated, Burgund said. For her and her customers, coming together around sustainable, forward-thinking solutions helped make the present feel a bit less overwhelming.

“Having people to see and interact with when it was such a scary and lonely time and to have a business that kind of focuses on a hopeful future all really helped,” she said. “It helped me to be working on something that was hopeful and it helped other people look forward to the future.”

After using a refillable container to purchase some peppermint Dr. Bronner’s soap, Polis bid the Fill & Refill store adieu and hit the road to visit other Colorado business owners.

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