Is high style back in style in Eagle County?
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Only the Christmas-season receipts will truly tell the tale, but early reports indicate that valley visitors seem to have recovered some – but by no means all – of their spending mojo.The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa has put together a package that includes a room and a black-tie (optional) dinner/dance. The package starts at $799 a night. Westin general manager Bob Trotter said response to the package has been “encouraging” so far.”We wanted to invite people to put some elegance back into New Year’s,” Trotter said. “We’re very pleased at how people have responded.”With the Westin still relatively new on the valley scene, Trotter said he and his management team have used an old, proven strategy in getting people into the place. “We started with great values, and if people like it, they’ll come back at a slightly higher rate,” he said. “But it’s been a slower process than we anticipated because of the economy.”The New Year’s Eve package, though, is being offered at a higher price than previous specials at the Westin, and Trotter said there hasn’t been much resistance to that pricing.Trotter said he’s also seeing people booking more spa packages these days, although guests usually decide on some spa time once they’ve arrived.The slow comeback in consumer spending is welcome news to a valley that spent last ski season – and a good part of the season before – watching not just dollars, but dimes.
In Vail, Barry Davis and his wife, Pamela, opened Bol, an upscale bowling alley, in the new Solaris building. So far, the reception to Bol’s combination of food and fun has been encouraging. And lane reservations for the Christmas season have been strong.”We’ve had an overwhelming response,” Davis said. “We have a little room for walk-ins, but if people want to bowl over Christmas, they’ll have come sometime other than prime time.”Davis said Bol’s early success could be due to a combination of increased consumer confidence and the fact his place is a limited commodity – there are only 10 lanes, which means a busy weekend could favor “demand” in the supply/demand equation.”But I think people are starting to have fun again,” Davis said. “At least I hope so.”Restaurant owners are also seeing indications that the desire for fun is starting to make a comeback.Last season, many restaurants reported that people would come in for a drink, or dinner, but often would forego wine, or buy a less-expensive bottle instead of the higher-priced stuff. Others would take advantage of restaurants’ bar menus, or buy appetizers instead of entrees.In Vail Village, Sweet Basil owner Matt Morgan said he’s starting to see people order entrees again, and maybe buy a bottle of wine with dinner.”People seem to be celebrating, and maybe not as apprehensive,” Morgan said. But, he added, people seem more sensible than in the go-go years.”We don’t see so much shooting from the hip with spending,” he said. “But people don’t shy away from a three-course meal, either.”
At the Golden Bear in Vail Village, manager Darcy Zimmerman said the store has started stocking a few more higher-priced items for this season, and has started to see people buying those items, as well as the store’s signature bears in various sizes.Bill Rey of Claggett Rey Gallery in Vail Village said he’s starting to see signs of an improved local economy, too.”I think people are tired of thinking about how tough things are,” Rey said. A down-the-street neighbor of Bol, Rey said he’s excited to see that business’s early success.”It really raised the bar for family entertainment,” Rey said. “It’s at a price, but it’s not so crazy that people won’t do it.”But, Rey added, “Thank God we’ve got snow this year.”It’s snow that brings people to the valley, after all, and everyone doing business locally knows it. Everyone interviewed for this story mentioned “snow” in virtually the same breath as “consumer confidence.” And, for Trotter, guests who hit the slopes may be in the mood for a little spa time after they return to the Westin, which means more spa reservations. Beyond that, though, the Vail Valley is ultimately a place people come to get away, and that mood is starting to return, if slowly.”People want to treat themselves,” Trotter said. “The clientele that comes here wants to take care of themselves.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.
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