‘Minturn has been really slow’ | VailDaily.com

‘Minturn has been really slow’

J.K. Perry

Bret Hartman/Vail DailyVandy Schaefer, surrounded by boxes and garbage bags full of the Two Elk Gallery's merchandise, wraps a lamp Thursday in Minturn. The gallery is moving from Minturn to the Edwards Village above the Post Office due to the need for a higher traffic location.

MINTURN – An exodus of Minturn Main Street businesses has some downtown entrepreneurs worried while others are trying to turn around the small town’s business future.Three businesses are leaving or ceasing operation, including Two Elk Gallery, Eagle River Trading Company and Soke art gallery. The shops account for three of about 15 downtown businesses.”These (closures) are visible because we don’t have a lot anyway,” said Karen Earley, Minturn’s economic development director. “Our challenge is to turn Minturn around and make it a tourist destination again.”Business owners, officials and locals understand Minturn has its problems. Business is seasonal; foot traffic is low in the winter; and there are no hotels or venues to draw visitors. But the town also has strengths: an eclectic collection of galleries and unique shops and restaurants, the possibility of a private ski resort development and a unique community, locals say. ‘It’ll pick up again’Two factors have led Soke owner Justin Brunelle to leave Minturn for a Denver – little foot traffic and his inability to purchase the property his gallery sits on from owner Tim Simon.

“If I owned property and was paying a mortgage I’d stay because then I’d make money,” Brunelle said.Passers by are infrequent. Whereas Brunelle said he will see 350 people a week at his Denver gallery, he might encounter 350 per month in Minturn.Another reason for businesses leaving is the growth of Avon and Edwards, Simon said. “Minturn doesn’t have enough of a vibrant community to keep (business) here,” Simon said, who also rents space to Party Central next door. “Minturn used to be busy. A lot of it has to do with Edwards, which is where people want to be,”Two Elk Gallery is an example. Tracy Fernandez, store manager, is packing up and leaving for Edwards. She and owner Sarah Vaughan searched Minturn the past three years for property to purchase, but found none. Fernandez also blamed a lack of foot traffic in the winter as a reason for moving.”We had the option to buy in Edwards,” she said. “Minturn has really been slow the past two years; it’ll pick up again.”Eagle River Trading Company is going out of business. Owner Georgette VanBuren said she wants to pursue real estate and cited expensive property and a subdued art market after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as reasons for closing her business.’Scariest time in a while’

The owners Colorado Mattress Company (formerly Grammy’s Attic), Holy Toledo consignment and Antique Accents are confident they will be OK.Mattress Company owner Rob Rollins appears concerned about the overall health of the town’s the retailers. He has seen cycles of good and bad times, but never so many businesses leaving at one time, he said. “It’s the scariest time in a while,” Rollins said. “Some individuals will be OK, but as a group, it’s not good.”To combat the downturn, Rollins said, business owners must band together to promote one another. There must also be a “synchronicity” among business, government and the community for business to flourish, he said. A coming influx of new blood excites Party Central owner Marian Salazar. She said new shops will rejuvenate local business and pull visitors in. The possibility of an upturn is why Soke owner Brunelle said he plans to keep an eye on Minturn.”I think Minturn has tremendous potential, but I’d like to step back and wait it out a little while,” Brunelle said.Some business owners said the planned development of Battle Mountain into a private ski resort is reason for optimism. “It seems like the exact opposite time people should be leaving with Ginn coming in,” said Mike Hanrahan, owner of Catering Cuisine, referring to the developer, the Ginn Company.The catering company, which is fronted by a small carry-out section with one table, will lose sales from the people leaving Minturn, but he said the catering portion of his establishment will not be affected, Hanrahan said.

‘Locals don’t shop there’Marka Brenner, president of Minturn Reality, said a resurgence in Leadville, which in bring more people through town, helps. The company owns the Two Elk and Eagle River Trading property in addition to many other downtown locations. A boost in tourists could come from the creation of a recreation facility, some other kind of venue or a hotel, Brenner said.Earley said she would like to offer grants to small businesses to entice entrepreneurs to town. She is also trying to drum up interest among Leadville business owners.Brenner and Simon said they have been in touch with retail businesses interested in the soon-to-be vacated properties. Brenner said she is offering decent rental prices to make “it easier for the new guy on the block to get his foot in the door.”Retail stores might not work, but a grocery store, Laundromat or video store could keep money from leaking to other nearby towns, Earley said. “At this time I don’t know that we can support new retail or art galleries,” she said. “There’s no foot traffic and locals don’t shop there.”Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or jkperry@vaildaily.com.