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Some local businesses remain successful

Dustin Racioppi
dracioppi@vaildaily.com
vail co colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” In 2008, each of Phoebe Larsson’s three massage centers doubled the profit that they made the previous year.

Recession, turmoil, tragedy and all, yes, she doubled her profits. It can be done.

But Larsson ” who owns Simply Massage in Avon, Breckenridge and Vail, Colorado ” isn’t the only one turning a profit, or at least keeping her head above water in today’s financial turbulence.

“We definitely have seen increases in this down market,” Larsson said. “We’re very happy.”

There doesn’t seem to be any well-kept secret among Larsson and other successful businesses in the valley. For the most part, they follow the same model they started with. There may be a few tweaks here and there, but none of the local businesses jumped on the panic button.

For Kids’ Cottage owner Carol Warner, it’s simply a matter of making a few adjustments to the window displays.

Warner, who’s been in business for 14 years, said that when times are slow, she orders more toys and cuts back on the clothes in her store. The toys are cheaper than the clothes, and in tough times, cheap clothes can be found just about anywhere, she said. And the majority of toys she sells are educational, she said.

“I think people appreciate that,” Warner said.

Aside from that, Warner is well-known, which she believes works to her advantage. She hasn’t purchased more advertising space or stuck big, bright “sale” signs in her windows.

Knowing your customers helps

“I’ve been through recessions before. When the bottom fell out after 9/11 ” granted, it was not as bad as this ” you just have to be sensitive to what your customers want at this point,” Warner said.

The same philosophy goes for Larsson. She said that when she started her business in 2006, she set out to offer the best deal around. And particularly in this uncertain situation, she said people have been discovering her deals and are taking advantage of them.

“I think people recognize that we’re already as low as we can go and we’re always the best deal in town,” she said. “They’re finding us and coming to us and are surprised by our service.”

Larsson said there’s no compromise in the service, either. She has employees and massage therapists that also work in the area’s more ritzy and expensive spas.

In a time when people say they’re scaling back, one might think people would eliminate the luxury items ” like a massage ” altogether, no matter what the price.

They might save that money for, say, an oil change or wheel alignment. That’s where George Brodin, owner of Leadfoot Linda’s in Eagle-Vail, comes in.

Not great, but good enough to get by

Because Leadfoot Linda’s is still a business getting off the ground, Brodin isn’t necessarily posting record profits. Not yet, at least.

“We’ll turn the corner in February,” he said.

Given the state of the economy, he shouldn’t really have any basis for making that statement, right? But he’s certain his auto-repair shop will turn that corner because it has been doing well the past year and a half since its opening. Brodin said he has attracted about two new customers a day and he’s constantly working on getting more and keeping them.

That, he said, is a laborious process, from holding weekly staff meetings as a way to find out what is and isn’t working to mingling with local business owners to keeping his shop clean. Staying ahead is always a process of change, too, he said.

“Nothing stays the same. If you’re staying the same, you’re going down,” Brodin said. “You’ve got to grow.”

Brodin hasn’t taken any other measures, like cutting back on supplies or implementing pay cuts, to keep the company afloat. He invested a bunch of money last year to install a heating system that runs off used motor oil, but that’s an investment that has saved him money. He doesn’t have a heating bill.

He also has another advantage.

“Cars don’t have recessions. People do,” he said. “Right now, it’s more important than ever to have your car fixed. And it’s more important to do a good job now more than ever.”

Over at The Bookworm in Edwards, the store admittedly won’t claim 2008 and 2009 as one of its more profitable business periods. But the numbers are even, which is, all things considered, a good sign to marketing manager Stephen Bedford.

“We’re not going to have the best year ever, but we’re not going to have to shut our doors, either,” he said.

Bedford believes his store is staying viable by keeping on eye on the details of the business ” tracking numbers and orders more closely, keeping the Web site fresh and making sure its sales and displays are prominent. Plus, he thinks the cuts that people in the area are making are the bigger items, like big-screen TVs and new golf clubs or cars.

“It’s a good time to sit at home and read a book,” Bedford said.

He also said the Bookworm just placed its summer book order, and it was no different than the orders it has placed in years past, also a sign of confidence the store isn’t going anywhere.

The final thing these successful businesses claim is that keeping a positive attitude never hurts. Besides, it might start some sort of stimulus in itself. It doesn’t hurt to try.

“It’s good business to be upbeat,” Larsson said.

Staff Writer Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or dracioppi@vaildaily.com.


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