Vail generations: Born into the business
VAIL, Colorado – Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer’s daughters grew up in Vail Village. Really. The whole family lived at Gasthof Gramshammer, the hotel on the corner of Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive. Pepi and Sheika still live there.
Now, daughters Kira Cameron and “Little Sheika” Gramshammer have homes of their own. But both work at the hotel that bears the family name, helping continue the traditions established at one of Vail’s oldest hotels.
One of those traditions – one that came from Europe – is that the oldest child goes into the family business. Kira is the oldest, and that was the plan – at least in Sheika’s mind.
“When we’d started and this turned out to be what it became, we never asked what Kira wanted to do,” Sheika said.
So Kira went to hospitality schools in Switzerland and Denver, and she always worked in the restaurant and hotel businesses wherever she was.
But while Kira has always worked in the hospitality business, she acknowleges there’s more than a little bit of Gypsy in her personality. She and her husband, Ken, have moved around quite a bit, including a stint in Costa Rica before she returned to the family business in Vail.
While she once thought about studying English or writing, “The business has worked its way into me,” Kira said.
The plans weren’t as solid with Little Sheika. (For the record, there is no locally recognized opposite for “Little Sheika.” There’s “Sheika” and “Little Sheika” – or “Sheika Junior.”) She went off to college, but with her parents getting a little older, returned after a few years.
“I’m very lucky,” Little Sheika said. “How many people can come back to something like this?”
And, while the daughters are able to help their parents with new ideas, both said they’re happy to still lean on their parents’ experience.
“Kira and I will have to learn our own ways,” Little Sheika said. “But some fundamentals are the same, and we want to learn those from our parents.”
From the parents’ perspective, Sheika said she’s been happy to learn from her daughters.
“Every year is a new change,” Sheika said. “You can’t stop still, although I’m happy to stop still these days. So it’s time for the kids to go on with their ideas.”
Those ideas involve quite a bit of technology. It’s just in the last few years that the hotel has upgraded its website to include online booking. And it hasn’t been too long since the old punch-and-pull cash registers were retired to the basement.
While the family still spends plenty of time together, everyone says working together works well, most of the time.
“We’re all married with each other, just in the business,” Sheika said. “But we all respect each other.”
The family members all have unique personalities, Sheika Junior added. “We’ll have different opinions. But we all care about the business.”
But both daughters were quick to add that Mom and Dad are still very much in charge – particularly Mom. That’s traditional, too.
“This is her baby,” Little Sheika said of her mother. “It’s her place, and we work here, for Mom and Dad. We introduce new ideas, but they still have to approve.”
And, while Kira won’t say her vagabond days are done, both daughters said they’re eager to keep the hotel thriving.
“We’ve got a lot of competition,” Little Sheika said. “We need to provide a unique product. Mom and Dad built this up, and we need to maintain that.”
“And improve it!” Sheika quickly added.