It’s true that Loren Gifford probably got more skiing time in on Vail Mountain back when he lived in Wisconsin. The difference is that now, he can pick his days on the mountain.”It’s kind of neat to be able to do that,” Loren says with a smile.Loren moved his wife Judy and two children, Erica and Nicholas, from Wisconsin to Vail 12 years ago. The family had been vacationing in Vail for years, but it wasn’t until Loren heard about the local hardware store that he considered moving to Vail.”We started hearing about the hardware store that was here and about how it had seemed to do quite well, but had gone bankrupt,” Loren remembers. “So we spent about three years researching it and the different companies to use as a supplier. We decided Ace was the company we wanted to align ourselves with it looked to us like Ace had the best support system,” Loren says.Eventually they got the support they needed to open Ace Hardware and in the early spring of 1993, Loren moved out to start putting everything together. The rest of his family joined him in July, after school finished up.Now the store, located in West Vail next to Safeway, is in its 12th year, though Loren jokes that some days it feels like 30 years.Carl Walker, pastor at Mt. of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, has known Loren and his family since they moved here in ’93.”(Loren) is an extremely generous, caring person. We as a congregation go down to Juarez every year to build a house and he’s gone down a couple of time and has donated power tools to help with the project,” Walker says. “He’s reliable; anytime you ask him to do something, he’s right there. Both he and Judy together are just wonderful, genuine people.”Loren grew up about an hour east of Minneapolis St. Paul, on a farm. He attended college but as he says, “That first year I started running out of money so I decided to get a job.”Not long after, Loren learned that the next few years of his life would look a little different than he had envisioned.”Before I knew it the government had decided I needed to come to work for them I was drafted,” Loren says.Loren served two years with Uncle Sam a year in Vietnam in the Army as an infantryman and another six months in Germany where he was able to travel around on the weekends.”I didn’t get too serious about being a career officer,” Loren says.After Loren’s stint in the military, he returned to college at the University of Wisconsin. Nights he worked as an ambulance attendant and as an orderly at the local hospital. He’s the first to admit he didn’t really know exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up.”When I started out in college, I started with (studying) music and anthropology,” Loren says. “I don’t know what that means, maybe I was going to play the bones, I don’t know.”Over the course of his education, Loren switched majors many times but his extended education eventually ended up in business. “I’ve been drawn to that area, the older I got, the more I was drawn to business administration.”One summer during college Loren worked building silos, which, at the time, paid extremely well. He was able to save enough money to purchase a little sports car and to take time off for a little adventure.”Instead of going back to college after that summer was up, I came out to this part of the country and I skied from the Canadian border all the way to the Mexican border, hitting every ski resort that was open at that time,” Loren remembers.Loren met his wife Judy while doing community theater back in Wisconsin. This coming May the couple will celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary.”Judy and I met on stage at a community theatre. We played opposite leading roles and it kind of stuck.”Since moving to Vail, Loren has made it a priority to stay involved with the community. Shortly after arriving here, Loren joined the Vail Rotary Club, where in the past, he’s served as president. Loren has also been instrumental in starting another club where he lives downvalley, in Edwards.”It’s just really neat to be able to give back to the community and also to the world, and Rotary is a great way to do that,” Loren says. “When we first moved to the valley we weren’t sure we’d be accepted. We came out of a very small, tight-knit farm community and our only contact with this area was the sparkly lights, the vacation, the skiing. We didn’t know what we would find underneath it all and it was really a neat experience to find that a majority of the people here came from a similar background as I did. People here have very strong work ethics; it’s a very neat group of people to work with.”When Loren first started Ace Hardware, he envisioned he’d be spending everyday on the floor, chatting with his customers. The reality is that he spends most of his time with the administration aspect of the business and not as much time as he’d like with his customers.”I really enjoy getting up on the floor and helping people.”Loren readily admits that the big boxes down the road have been a challenge, though he says their addition has made him a better businessman.”We didn’t know if we’d make it through the opening of the two big boxes, as both of them are competitors in certain areas of what we do,” Loren says. “But we’re very grateful and thankful that we’ve made it this far. We believe we’ve seen the bottom and we look forward to a steady constant growth from where we are at this point.” VTCaramie Schnell can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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