‘There’s money here’
Nancy Rehder finds maintaining a balance in her business and personal life means hitting a moving target.She owns and operates the Linen Kist, a bed, bath and home furnishing business in Avon, and she said it’s been having a banner year. “Once you’re an entrepreneur, you always are. You love the pain,” she says. “There are ups and downs, easy and hard times, rewards and sacrifices. They all are huge and worth it.” The Vail Valley has changed since Rehder repurchased three years ago the business she started in 1989. Overall, she’s owned three businesses in Eagle County and has some ideas about what it takes to run a small business in a resort. She regularly works 60 hours to 70 hours a week and commutes to her house in Denver on weekends, she says.”I’m CEO, CFO, COO, head of marketing and janitor, too,” she says. “If you don’t come into my store, I don’t see you. I’m married to it.”Keeping up with the change in this valley is a full-time job,” she adds. “You have to be able to move and change with the area.”Opportunity knockingEagle County’s growth and ever-widening gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” can be challenging.”We get so caught up,” she says. “We are entertaining the world. It’s our business. We’ve changed along with the nation. It takes more to make us happy and to feel that we belong.”The hard part? There are ‘haves’ and the rest of us,” she says. “If it weren’t for the “haves,” what would we have?”The growth of multimillon dollar second homes has made it difficult to define who constitutes a local here, she says, and makes it difficult to provide a perspective on how much of anything is enough. She doesn’t see the growth and change trend ending she says, because of the number of retirees beginning to live here full-time.”They offer and contribute so much to our community” she says. “They want to make it their own. We now have so much.”The influx of second-home owners also has raised the bar for all by adding money to the community, she says.”This is the happy valley,” she says. There are still struggles and difficulties – It’s hard to run a business and raise a family. You have to really care. “If it was still the good old days,” she adds, “we’d all be broke and starving.”
A fixer-upperForty-five miles to the east, in Frisco, Austin Offutt is taking what he calls a “fixer-upper” business and making it profitable.The first thing he did, he says, it to clean house and hire the most talented employees he could find. He considers good employees the most important building block for Recycle Sports, a consignment shop where people sell used sports equipment.”This is the truth and that’s why I’m telling you this – our employees are our most valuable asset,” he says. He gave his six employees plenty of responsibility, a profit-sharing plan and gave them the power to make decisions.”They have to be able to react and think,” Offutt says. “Whatever they have as input is just as important as what I think. They learn how to run a business effectively and to grow it.”Offutt stepped off the corporate ladder where he was in charge of sales for an international fire equipment company and soft-landed in Frisco so he could spend more time with his family and less time traveling around the world. He brought with him some of the things he learned from corporate culture, he says. “Finding and keeping good employees in mountain towns is the key,” he says. adding that the owner of a small business also has to be responsible and flexible to what’s happening in the marketplace.”With a larger business you’re just overseeing certain things,” he says. “With a small business you have to be 100 percent hands-on.”But in his business, it’s the employees that will make or break it, he says. “We like (to hire) stable people that will help us grow our business,” he says. “In the mountains it’s a transient population. People move away at the end of ski season.”Slice of a small townWhile change has swirled around her business, Nicky Broullette has tried to keep her Daily Bread bakery and restaurant in Glenwood Springs competitive with a straight-forward approach – she’s keeping it the same.Her business has occupied the same location since 1983, and she depends on the locals for the bulk of her business, she says.
“We still get a good mix of customers,” she says. “I haven’t noticed that much of a change because we aren’t a commuter’s stop or an espresso drive-through.”Everybody has to eat,” she adds. But she does acknowledge that what other businesses do affects her business and that the business environment is changing. New malls, shopping centers with big-box retailers and chain restaurants are being built in town, but that won’t necessarily affect her business, which caters to locals, she says”You have to ride the wave,” she says. “Everyone wants to try a new restaurant when they open.”Still, business isn’t what it was 10 years ago when the economy was stronger and people seemed to have more discretionary income. The largest challenge Broullette encounters is the ebb and flow of business in resort towns, she says.”You never know if this summer or next winter will be busy,” she says. “Trying to staff with no information can be tough. You have to speculate, listen to the forecasts and to what people are saying.”When Grand Avenue, which runs in front of her ship, was redesigned and repaved through downtown, it curtailed business a bit. Part of that lost business was recouped by events staged by downtown business, she says.Her business also is affected by dietary trends. When the low-carb diet became popular, it changed things. “Trends come and go,” she says. “It’s kind of fun because it give us a chance to break out of our molds by trying new things.”Broullette came to Glenwood Springs in 1993 to study photography at Colorado Mountain College and started working at the Daily Bread to earn some cash. A few years later, she purchased the business using a little “creative financing,” she says. Like most business owners, she works long hours, ranging from 10 hours to 16 hours as her schedule demands. Days start at 5 a.m. to get the doors open two hours later. But those hours also leave time for the outdoors, she says.”It’s nice in the summer,” she says. “You can still go for a hike or a quick raft down the Roaring Fork.”Biking alongJeff and Dominique Mohrman of Colorado Bike Service in Eagle-Vail could serve as an archetype of successful owners of a small business.They work six days a week, up to 10 hours a day, pay attention to details and have developed a loyal customer base, they say. It’s part necessity for their shop and a routine they’re comfortable with. They’ve run a business in the same location on Highway 6 for 15 years.”It’s the best way to provide customer service,” he says, over the easy background melody of a Tom Waits tune. “It’s rewarding. You have to have a certain type of personality.”
At 47, he admits to being driven, a “type A.” He wears wire-rimmed glasses, and a beard and could be mistaken for a computer guru. Dominique has an athletic, outdoorsy look, a quick smile and looks you in the eye when she speaks. He takes care of repairs and ordering. Dominique keeps the books and organizes the place – that’s no small job because the shop’s 1,000 square feet are packed with bikes, accessories and clothes.During winter when things are slower in the bike shop, Dominique, 46, holds a job as a chef at the upscale Beano’s Cabin on Beaver Creek. She’s energetic and says her friends call her a “social butterfly.”She also says she developed a solid work ethic during a childhood near Lyon, France. While she likes to work hard, she also says she has retained the European habit of relaxing, too.”You’ve got to take time to live and enjoy everyone’s company,” she says.Being in business requires a full-time commitment, Jeff says.”If you want to be in business you have to have a good work ethic and commit yourself all the time” he says. “You have to have great ideas and passion, too.”Being fiscally conservative helps. Morhman says he’s proud of the fact that he’s never taken out a loan for his business. He also says he works hard to maintain a balance between work and personal time.”When I wrote my business plan, I didn’t want to have a business where I pushed so hard to get rich,” he says. “I wanted a good living and a nice balance between work and a quality of life.”Sure it costs more to live in the valley,” he adds, “but you make more. There’s money here.”The Mohrmans do not have children and Dominique says that would make living here and running a business much more difficult.”It we had kids, that would be really hard,” she says, adding that together, they put 100 percent of their effort into the business and their lives.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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