Some small Vail shops hurting |

Some small Vail shops hurting

NWS Verbatim Books SM 3-22

VAIL – Robert Aikens has decided Vail can’t support its only bookstore.His business, Verbatim Booksellers, will close unless he can find enough money by next month to run the store for the next two years, he said.Construction in Vail Village, as well as Internet book stores, has dropped his sales to abysmal levels, he said.”If people keep shopping online and buying books elsewhere, you just can’t stay in business very long,” he said.The small, family-owned businesses that are Aikens’ neighbors in Vail Village report similar shortfalls this year. Some owners say they will hang on until the construction is over. Others aren’t sure if they will be able to stay in business until then.Despite record sales tax numbers in Vail and increased skier visits at Vail Mountain, these business owners say their sales are down from 40 percent to as much as 80 percent.

Vail is undergoing its “billion-dollar renewal,” which includes construction of One Willow Bridge Road, the Vail Plaza Hotel and Club and the Alpenrose restaurant near Aikens’ store. Those projects should be complete this year, although more major nearby projects – such as the Four Seasons and Crossroads – loom.Aikens faulted the town for not allowing him to have a sign on East Meadow Drive for his store – which is tucked behind the thoroughfare – because that would violate town rules.Aikens is hoping the community can rally to save the bookstore, which has been in Vail for 22 years. Ski towns like Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge all have two bookstores each, he said.The only other bookstore in the upper valley is the Bookworm in Edwards. ‘The very bottom’Nancy Tezla, who has owned Tezla Lingerie Boutique in Vail since 1978, said business is worse than she has ever seen it at her store.

“We’re at the very bottom,” she said.Business is down 75 percent compared to good years, she said. With the Vail Plaza Hotel and Club under construction, people do not circulate past her store as much as they did, she said.”People are not coming down this way because they see the construction,” she said.She’s waiting out the construction, and expects good business once it is completed, she said.”We just have to wait for it to be finished,” she said.Monica Stewart, an owner of Sunland Silver Gallery jewelry store on East Meadow Drive, said she owes three months’ rent. She said business is down about 80 percent this year. She wasn’t sure if the business, which has been in Vail for five years, would be able to outlast the construction, she said.Across the way at To Catch a Cook kitchen store, owner Ursula Nisonoff said business is also down compared to previous years, although she has owned the store for only about a year and a half.”It’s got to be the construction,” she said.

She said she’s hoping for a good summer, when the One Willow Bridge Road project across the street is expected to be completed.’Devastating impact’Kell Purcell, manager of Haagen-Dazs in Crossroads, said his business is down 65 percent compared to his best years.”I don’t think any of us knew what a devastating impact this would have,” he said, gesturing toward construction on East Meadow Drive.He said record sales tax collections are misleading because construction work itself is bringing in taxes. And skiers just visiting for the day don’t help his business, he said – he depends on tourists.”Those days you see all those cars lined up (on the frontage road) are some of the slowest days he have,” he said.

Haagen-Dazs will close after this summer, he said, and hopefully reopen in the new Crossroads building, which could begin construction next year.Jeannie Robbins of Eagle Valley Music Co. said she is facing similar problems as Aikens, including Internet sales and construction.The uncertain future of the Crossroads building has left her business in limbo, she said. She might be in the new Crossroads building or she might move to West Vail.”Basically we’re hanging on until we move, and then we’ll see what happens,” she said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or, Colorado

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