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Merchandising Memories

Geraldine Haldner

“Me and my sister and brother were cleaning out my grandma’s home in Evergreen and I ended up with the photo albums and a box of scarves,” says the petite Singletree resident, who has lived in the Vail Valley for 15 years. “They weren’t something you throw out. They are a part of our family’s history.”She began wearing the scarves – artfully embroidered silk pieces – while the albums stayed put in a box for some time.A product of her family’s passion for photography, the leather-bound books contain more than 1,200 images and chronicle her grandparent’s travels in Europe during the 1920s and 30s.Cushioned between see-through-thin sheets of onion skin, the pages and pages of black-and-white photos, carefully framed by Manfred Huttrer and other family members, depict a seemingly endless series of capricious, care-free and sometimes down-right comical moments.There is Lilly Huttrer, standing in line with friends in front of a ramshackle outhouse. Tissues in hand they all ham it up for the camera.Or there is the candid snapshot of a group of young people, carelessly splayed out on the deck of a boat, somewhere on the coast of Italy.Another image captures the roaring 20s version of apres-ski, with a smartly-dressed Lilly and her stylish friends, lounging in front of a wood cabin in jodhpur pants and blouses, their wood-skis and bamboo poles stacked against chairs and the side of the cabin.There is a close-up of Anne Huttrer’s grandma, a svelte brunette with glossy pin-curls, as she looks out over an a landscape, the observer can only imagine.Judging from the gleam in her eyes and the subtle smile, it’s an awe-inspiring scene.”The hut system that ours here is modeled after, started in Europe,” explains Anne Huttrer, herself an avid hiker and skier. “My grandparents must have been to everyone of them.”The hundreds and hundreds of crisp images indeed tell the story of her grandparents’ tireless travels through post-World War I Switzerland, Italy and Austria, where they lived until they immigrated to America in 1938.”A woman in Zurich who had been my grandfather’s nanny helped them immigrate. My grandfather saw the war coming,” Anne Huttrer says.One of Anne Huttrer’s favorite images, depicts Lilly and Manfred Huttrer, walking arm in arm down a dirt path towards an imposing and intimidating massive of snow-covered mountains. Lilly is carrying a small satchel and her arm loosely slung through the crook of her husband’s elbow. Both are looking dapper in wool knickerbockers, and white shirts, rolled up at the sleeves.Two years ago, Anne Huttrer, a buyer for a local golf shop, decided to digitize that image and use it as her Christmas cards.The response surprised her.”I was just so blown away that this card, meant to show how proud I am of my family, would have this kind of effect,” Huttrer remembers.”I didn’t really realize what I had in those albums until one picture turned into 10, then 50, then 500,” she says of the beginnings of her merchandising business, which she named “Winter Lilly” – in an homage to her grandmother.Encouraged by friends, Huttrer began scouring the albums for suitable photos and making the rounds with interior designers.”I wanted a good mix of skiing and hiking pictures that would appeal to a wide range of people,” she says. “I wanted them to be general enough that they could be anyone’s family pictures.”Considering that her grandpa’s hobby filled more than 600 pages, the scouring took some time, but the selection made it easy to eventually come up with 500 images.Huttrer, who has worked in retail since she moved to Vail in her mid-20s, now has distributors carrying her pictures in ski and mountain resorts spanning from Aspen to Jackson Hole, Wyo. to Utah’s Snowbird.But “Winter Lilly” is proudly based in Vail.”I was excited to come here though I was a little to old to be a ski bum, I love it here,” says Huttrer of the fact that all of her merchandise carries the words “Vail, Colorado.”Most of the 500 photos of the Huttrer family can be seen in the nearly-finished Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa, which has been under construction since spring of 2000, when it was still known as the Vail Athletic Club.More than a 1,000 matted and framed copies grace the hallways, lobby, guest rooms, the spa and the Terra Bistro restaurant. Photos depicting the Huttrer’s travels can even be found in the bathrooms.As part of the renovation of the 38-room hotel and fractional-fee club, the owners wanted to incorporate a look that would resemble the kind of lodge the late Vail founder Peter Seibert may have imagined when he brought his vision of a European ski town to the valley.”We wanted it to portray something out of the time of the founding fathers of Vail,” says General Manager Chadd Ziegler of the lodge’s new back-to-the-past look, which includes all kinds of antique sports paraphernalia, from wooden skis to well-worn leather skates to hand-tied snowshoes.Huttrer’s line of pictures, Ziegler says, was a good fit for the theme and has been a hit with guests.”We are happy with the look and I can’t tell you how many people ask us about them and want to buy them right off the wall,” Ziegler says.While her pictures are slowly gaining a hold on interior decorators, who are her prime customers, Huttrer is already busy transposing her grandpa’s images onto a new medium – porcelain.In early 2001, while helping a friend redecorate her kitchen, Huttrer says she noticed that moose and fish and other species of wildlife, seemed to be the dominating subject for the rustic kind of kitchen look.Her line of “Winter Lilly” dinnerware, consists of three kinds of plates, a cup and a platter, and depicts scenes from her grandparents travels in soft sepia hues.The novice dinnerware designer is visibly proud as she shows off the over-sized plates with wide rims and the sturdy mugs, big enough to hold a generous helping of coffee or soup.Local shops will carry “Winter Lilly” dinnerware by early December. Among them are Slifer Designs in Edwards, Finishing Touch and Home Outfitters, both in Vail.While her business is rooted in her grandparents adventurous nature and her grandpa’s eye for the telling detail, Huttrer says the latter talent definitely hasn’t been passed on to her.”He saw things,” she says pointing to one picture her grandfather took of a typical European water trough made from a hollowed piece of a tree trunk.The surface of the water mirrors the stream of water from the spout in a way that gives the picture dept and balance.”I’m definitely no good at taking pictures,” she says of her disappointment when she got a roll of film back after a recent vacation. “Nothing turned out the way I saw it. (My grandpa) just had that eye.”Instead, Huttrer has business smarts. She is already picturing her families photos on greeting cards or wrapping paper.”I’m still working out the details,” she says with a big smile.Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com


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