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Minturn Main Street businesses staying positive

Dustin Racioppi
dracioppi@vaildaily.com
NWS Minturn Business 1 DT 2-28-09
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MINTURN ” The businesses on Main Street can say right now what many others in the country can’t ” that they’re getting by in a scary time.

With a lull in the Ginn Co. proposal to build a ski resort and golf course ” an almost surefire spark to infuse economic growth in town ” Minturn’s Main Street moneymakers are, at the least, keeping the bills paid, and in some cases, holding the line.

Holy Toledo and Holy Toledo 2 are the exceptions.

The consignment shops have benefited from belt tightening, as locals have been turning out the past few months to find good deals. Owner Heather Schultz said in a recent Vail Daily article that the current economy has worked in favor of consignment shops.

But it has obviously worked against other sectors.

Johnie’s Garden took a major hit last year when construction in the area dropped off. Business went down by about 20 percent, owner John Rosenfeld said, and forced the company to look for new cost-saving measures, which included layoffs. The company provides a myriad of services, but maintenance, construction and snow removal are its major revenue sources.

Even though construction and maintenance work are down, Rosenfeld said Johnie’s is doing well keeping its existing customers, and its flower program that recently started is doing well, which in turn helps balance the ledger well enough to stay afloat.

“(The flower program) is actually up from last year,” Rosenfeld said. “We’re doing fine.”

Since construction and remodeling projects are down in the area, places such as Johnie’s and one of Main Street’s newer businesses, Heid Remodeling and Construction, will suffer.

When things are good, Heid manager Katie O’Flinn said the company will have about seven or eight projects going at a time. Lately, it hasn’t had more than one at a time, but the business is still OK, O’Flinn said. A noticeable drop-off in business happened around Christmas, O’Flinn said, and it has become more difficult to convince a customer to take on a new project or to be able to fill in work for people who have canceled scheduled projects.

The company, like Johnie’s, has had to make budget cuts and make a layoff in recent months to make things work, though.

“We’re staying steady,” O’Flinn said. “The year’s still shaping up to be pretty good.”

The year already has been good at Kirby Cosmo’s. Manager Mark Tamberino said his restaurant is maintaining its revenues from last year, though in a different way. He said liquor sales are slightly higher than food sales. He also said Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass has helped business.

“I thought we’d be more affected than we have (been),” Tamberino said. “It’s business just as it always was. Our doors are open, our lights are on.”

Even though it’s undoubtedly a good thing that the Main Street shops are surviving a period of frugal spending and economic uncertainty, it doesn’t mean some aren’t preparing for the worst.

Johnie’s is scrutinizing its spending and record-keeping in order to save as much money as possible.

Rob Rollins, at the Colorado Mattress Company, also has had to let staff go, leaving him as the owner, manager, salesman and sole employee of one of Main Street’s mainstays. His reason to lay off is simple: The mattress business is traditionally slow between February and June, and he’s bracing himself for a down year.

“I don’t think I’m going to feel the effects of the economy until spring,” Rollins said. “I haven’t been hit in the face, and I know it’s going to happen. I’m just kind of girding myself.”

He just recently got a sense of what he may be bracing for. After a peculiar two months of mattress sales, phone calls and inquiries have been scarce the past week, Rollins said.

“Just this week it hit, and I’m like, looking around. The silence is deafening,” he said. “I kind of feel like I’m ready to start planting a garden and get some chickens if I have to.”

Minturn-Red Cliff Business Association President Jay Raiola said the pitfall of Main Street is that it’s filled with “destination businesses.” The number of people walking around Minturn and pumping money back into the local economy has fallen off, she said, and those empty storefronts along Main Street are seen as potential for businesses to bring that back.

“There aren’t too many businesses that are that type of ‘wander around and poke your head in place’,” Raiola, also a Realtor in Minturn, said. “Minturn is kind of the place to do business right now.”

Yet the difficulty in that, Tamberino said, is getting people to come into town, because virtually nobody can get a loan at the moment, and it’s a risky financial proposition.

But beating the doom-and-gloom drum isn’t going to help anybody, many of the business owners said.

“People need to go to work, really,” Tamberino said.

O’Flinn believes people have been paralyzed by the fear swirling around lately, and it’s only contributing to the problem when they don’t spend and invest in their communities. She tries to stay positive about business no matter what. After all, her operation is still in business. And it’s in the company of many others, up and down Main Street, that are open and ready for people to walk through the doors.

“The economy’s definitely scary right now,” O’Flinn said. “If we all keep spending, we’re definitely going to contribute to things getting better.”


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