Selling Vail with "Pie in the Sky’
Their first stop was Milwaukee, where they showed their film, “Pie in the Sky,” to potential investors. After the presentation, someone came up to Caulkins and asked if he had the authority to sell stock in Wisconsin. After consulting with his attorney and the Wisconsin SEC, Caulkins got the go-ahead because he was only talking about three or four units.
Fitzhugh Scott’s daughter, Kit Sherry, was an old friend of Caulkins and attended the presentation in Wisconsin. She became Vail’s first employee, because Seibert had an office in Denver and needed someone to take care of the loose ends.
Kit Sherry had graduated from Vassar with a degree in geology and was also a fabulous skier. She had skied all over the world, particularly in Alta, with the Rich kids.
“I don’t mean wealthy – I mean Joe Rich’s kids,” Caulkins said.
It was through Kit that Caulkins met her father, Fitzhugh Scott, and induced him into becoming an investor in Vail and later one of its key players.
While in Milwaukee, Caulkins also gave a presentation at a German restaurant. Everyone at the presentation was enthusiastic, but when Caulkins passed the hat for the $10,000 subscriptions, the hall cleared in a hurry. He finally figured out that he could show the movie to ski enthusiasts, but if they didn’t have the money, it wouldn’t do him any good. He realized that if he showed the movie to people who had the wherewithal, he could kindle an interest in skiing for this wonderful new area in Colorado.
That’s when Scott made the comment to Caulkins, “How come you only know rich people?”
After Milwaukee, Seibert and Caulkins drove to Rochester, Minn., home of the Mayo Clinic, to put on a presentation, then continued on to Minneapolis, where George Pillsbury put on a nice show for them. There they met Henry and Gracie McKnight. When they first showed the movie in Minneapolis, Henry was excited. Gracie, a former Olympic skier, thought it was a great idea – and she knew Ann and Moose Taylor.
“Well, I’d like to invest, George, but let’s see if I can get the money out,” Henry McKnight said. “It’s in a trust.”
After stops at Lake Forest, Chicago, and Kalamazoo, they finally reached Detroit, where Caulkins’s cousin Freddy Ford (Freddy and Nancy are parents to one of Vail’s mayors, Rob Ford) committed to and bought the first unit. They showed the movie at the home of George’s brother in Grosse Pointe. The next day, Freddy Ford called Caulkins and said, “Cousin George, I think I’d like to buy one of those units.”
“That’s wonderful!,” Caulkins said.
The first real commitment!
Caulkins immediately called Henry McKnight in Minneapolis and said, “Henry, they’re selling like hotcakes. You’d better get in. You’d better get that money out of the trust.”
Which McNight did. Not only did he become an investor, but he built a nice house on Rockledge Road.
“It was a way to take a large family skiing – more than just an investment,” he said.
“Never build a ski house that sleeps more people than you can cook breakfast for in one skillet,” added Gracie McKnight.
When she hired architect Bob Magney from Minneapolis, she told him, “Bob, you and I are going to have disagreements, so here’s how it’s going to go – I will win the first one and you will win the second one, and so on, but I will win the last one!”
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 35th, an excerpt from chapter 5, “Creating a Plan to Make it Work.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.