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Minturn comes back to life

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
CVR Minturn Businesses DT 6-20-11
ALL |

MINTURN, Colorado – There’s new life in the town of Minturn and it’s not just because the Minturn Market has opened for the season.

New businesses in Minturn have sprouted up, giving vitality to a town that has struggled to hang on throughout the economic downturn. There’s even a vibrant new sign welcoming visitors to town as they drive south from Interstate 70 along Highway 24.

Randy Milhoan, a Minturn resident and owner of Milhoan Studios in Minturn, said the new activity has really come to life in the last week or so as businesses have opened for the summer season.

“It seems like the downtown area is pretty exciting now,” Milhoan said.

Vail Valley Partnership Executive Director Chris Romer shares in the excitement about Minturn’s new energy. He said there’s about nine or so new businesses that have opened up recently.

Business owners like Larry Stone and Jane Rohr, a husband and wife duo who brought their store, The Scarab, back to Minturn last week, 20 years after first opening in Minturn, see something special in Minturn that they can’t find anywhere else in the valley.

“The charm, the character, it has a main street, it has heritage, it’s authentic, it’s a beautiful community,” Stone said. “That’s why we wanted to come back here.”

Stone and Rohr moved their store to Eagle-Vail because they needed more space, but being back in Minturn is exciting because of the vitality in town.

“It’s amazing how many people do drive through when there’s not anything happening,” Rohr said. “They’re curious about Minturn. There’s a curiosity about individual businesses and small towns with creative entrepreneurialism. … People are just drawn to this by nature I guess.”

Stone sees a creative energy in Minturn that is really revitalizing the town.

“The entrepreneurs who have come in and set up shop – I think they recognize the charm and they have the creative energy, so you combine the two and it makes for a nice energy (in Minturn),” Stone said.

You can feel that energy when you step into Holy Toledo, a Minturn clothing store that always seems to be busy. Store manager Heather Hotard feels that Minturn is “definitely coming back to life.”

“It’s always been a colorful town and it just keeps getting more colorful,” Hotard said. “People are starting to remember what Minturn is – the spirit of Minturn, which is color and personality.”

Tom Ricci, owner of the Minturn Country Club which has been in business for 29 years, has seen Minturn’s ups and downs over the years. He’s happy to see commercial space filling up, but he can’t help but remember why that space was empty in the first place.

“I’m realistic in that for every new business, there was an old business that didn’t make it,” Ricci said.

Ricci said he wants to see more retail shops open up in Minturn. For a business district to have vitality, people need a reason to get out of their cars and walk around for at least one to two hours.

Ricci said the summertime business is crucial to any business’s survival in the valley. He remembers when July and August business was as big as January and February, but those days are gone.

Summer business dropped significantly when Colorado voters opposed a tourism tax in 1993 and tourism marketing funding was cut from the state budget, Ricci remembers.

“The year after Colorado went from one of the top 10 places that advertised for summer tourism, our summer business started to drop significantly,” Ricci said.

Ricci wants more and more businesses to open in Minturn, but he recognizes that the state of the economy is still so up in the air that Minturn isn’t out of the water yet.

“I’d rather put half a million on red or black in Vegas than open a new business,” Ricci said.

That being said, he has high hopes for Minturn’s future.

“I am positive about Minturn or else we wouldn’t be here,” Ricci said. “We love our landlord, we love our neighbors – we just need to, as a community, figure out how to get more people to the valley in the summertime.”

And getting people to the valley is only half the battle. Minturn businesses have to make sure visitors don’t get too preoccupied with Vail and Beaver Creek.

“Vail and Beaver Creek are wonderful resorts, but I think if you come to the Vail Valley and you miss Minturn, you’ve kind of missed Colorado,” Stone said. “It’s authentic; there’s historical value here.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.


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