On a perfect day in Red Cliff, this looks like a good bet | VailDaily.com

On a perfect day in Red Cliff, this looks like a good bet

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

When people say “I came here for the winter, but stayed for the summers,” they’re talking about days like Thursday.

It was warm, the sky was crystal blue (until the forest fire smoke from Mesa County oozed in later in the day), and there was just enough of a breeze to take the sweat away if you were working. It was the kind of day perfect for a couple of hours of mid-day hooky from work.

So, with a borrowed motorcycle sitting in the parking lot and an increasingly itchy throttle hand, I saddled up and headed to Red Cliff for lunch at Mango’s Mountain Grill.

It was about 2 p.m., but the place was fairly busy. A group of Harley-Davidson riders from Kansas stopped in for a burger and a beer on their way to who knows where. Kathy Davis and Mark Hanschmidt of Silverthorne had ridden their four-wheelers from the top of Vail Pass down the Shrine Pass road to Mango’s for lunch.

Which led to this thought: Every restaurant and bar in the world tries to be somehow different from every other restaurant and bar in the world. Mango’s manages to separate itself through sheer geography (good burgers help, too).

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But Mango’s, and the Green Bridge Inn next door, represent something else: A substantial bet placed on the future of Eagle County’s first town and original county seat. Red Cliff has been in a state of slow decay since I first moved to the valley many years ago. A few businesses have come and gone, but the post office and liquor store have been about the only constants. And the folks who live in Red Cliff seem to get along just fine with the town the way it is.

But with a new, private ski resort poised to rise on the private land between Red Cliff and Minturn, Eric Cregan and Tim Parks, owners of Mango’s and the Green Bridge, have put their chips in early that Red Cliff is going to change.

Cregan has also managed to convince one of his former bosses to place a bet, too.

The owners weren’t around Thursday, but Mango’s general manager Mark Plank was. He said Cregan had worked for him in Florida 15 years ago. Plank, a Florida native who had never seen snow, got a call last year from his former employee, who invited him to the Rockies. He came, and liked what he saw.

“I went back to Florida and told my wife we’re moving,” he said.

The Mango’s/Green Bridge story is probably too big for a column, and I certainly want to interview the owners soon to learn more about why they’re betting so heavily on a little town hidden away from much of the world.

But even with the stock market dropping and oil prices rising, on a perfect summer Thursday, Red Cliff looked like a pretty good place for partners to place a good-sized wager.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller writes about valley business every Saturday. Reach him at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com

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