Vail Valley construction company ‘Business of the Year’ again |

Vail Valley construction company ‘Business of the Year’ again

Dominique Taylor/dtaylor@vaildaily.comTop executives from Evans Chaffee Construction, from right, president, Michele Evans, assistant business manager, Katie Vernon, vice president, Chris Evans and business manager, Beth Christie are celebrating their company's second Business of the Year award.

The Vail Valley Partnership started giving “Business of the Year” awards six years ago. Twice, Evans Chaffee Construction has earned the honor, most recently this year.

Co-owners Michele and Chris Evans aren’t sure how that happened, but, of course, they’re happy for the recognition.

“I just feel like getting to the finals is the greatest honor,” Michele Evans said “There were something like 160 nominees. As far as what distinguishes the top three, it could be anything.”

Chris Evans said the quality of competition just in the construction industry makes winning special, too.

“I’m not going to say that we’re the best general contractor in the valley,” he said. “There are a lot of great companies out there.”

But two of the three owners ” partner Gregg Chaffee was pouring concrete in Breckenridge the day of this interview ” believe that the awards recognize what Evans Chaffee is trying to do in the valley.

“It’s how we do business, the way we give back ” from our kickball tournament to Adopt a Family ” it’s all of it,” Chris Evans said.

The Evans Chaffee way is a little different.

Michele Evans earned a degree in architecture, but went on to get a master’s degree in construction engineering management.

“In school I’d ask how something worked and they’d tell me ‘It’s OK ” the contractor will do it,'” she said. “I hated that.”

Chris Evans grew up helping his family build everything from screen porches to homes, but earned a degree in aerospace engineering and worked for NASA for a time. He is, literally, a rocket scientist.

“Chris can look at a set of plans, build it in his head, and think of ways to build it more efficiently,” Michele Evans said.

The Evanses met in college and worked together and for others for a few years before starting a Vail Valley branch office for Mendel Alison Construction of Denver. Working for the Denver company along with Chaffee, the company built lodge buildings at Arrowhead and other projects.

With the Mendel Alison partners nearing retirement, the local partners started Evans Chaffee Construction, formally adopting their new name in 2001.

So far, the company has weathered the (in hindsight) relatively minor recession of 2001-03, prospered during a boom, and now, along with everyone else in the valley, is facing tough times again.

“We started feeling it in March of last year,” Chris Evans said. “We were able to start (cutting back) employees then. The upside of that is that everyone we let go has a job with someone else because we acted early.”

But that doesn’t make cutting back any easier.

“We lose sleep over it,” Chris Evans said. “The way our business is run is based on our people and our ethics. We try to treat everyone as if they’re part of our family.”

That means employees’ kids are often in the office, as are a handful of dogs.

And Evans Chaffee is trying to weather the current slump by starting a new division devoted to disaster restoration.

“We’ve spent the last 18 months on strategies for the future,” Michele Evans said. “That means reinventing ourselves to an extent.”

The disaster restoration part of the business is coming along, especially since Evans Chaffee can get into structural repair after a fire or flood. The company is also working with past and current clients on, well, just about anything.

“We’ll hang Christmas lights for someone if that’s what they need,” Chris Evans said.

But the company is also looking at other ways to keep people working. Evans Chaffee now has a guide to adding value to a home on its Web site.

“It’s a great time from a return on investment standpoint to do renovations right now,” Michele Evans said. “Anyone who has money to invest and doesn’t is going to say ‘I wish I’d done that in 2009.'”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

Owners: Chris and Michele Evans, Gregg Chaffee

Open since: 1998

Employees: 20

What’s new? Disaster restoration

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