Vail Valley economy: In tough times, some doing well |

Vail Valley economy: In tough times, some doing well

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyEdwards, Colorado resident Amy Karpel tries on a pair of boots while shopping at Holy Toledo in Minturn. The Vail Valley consignment shop recently expanded and hired new employees.

VAIL, Colorado ” These days, many businesses are trying to stay afloat, but a busy afternoon at the Holy Toledo in Minturn shows that the consignment store is booming.

In fact, the clothing store recently expanded into a second building, Holy Toledo 2, to house the store’s new merchandise, while the second-hand items stayed at its old location.

“Economic trouble is bad for most retail, but it’s good for consignment,” said Heather Schultz, who owns the business with her husband Eric.

She said the shop began to see more business around election time, when many first-time second-hand shoppers began walking through the doors.

“I think that’s about the time that people started holding onto their money and looking for different ways to spend it,” Schultz said.

Schultz said the store has hired a couple more employees to help with the expansion, but Holy Toledo’s story is an exception.

A look at the help wanted ads in the newspaper are telling. There were 628 job listings found in the Vail Daily last January. This January, there were only 155, a mere half page.

With many people looking for work, the businesses with openings said they’ve been inundated with applications.

Manor Vail general manager Bob McCleary said the hotel had no problem restaffing almost 100 employees when the it reopened this season after a major renovation.

In past seasons, the hotel had always been slightly under full-staff ” this year, there’s no lack of workers to fill the spots, McCleary said.

For the jobs the hotel posted online, there were many responses, not only from the area, but from around the world.

Paul Armstrong, maintenance supervisor at Johnie’s Garden, said that after posting a recent ads for a snow plow driver, he received many responses from good applicants.

“We’re getting more of a qualified employee pool,” he said. “Part of that is that construction is down and those people are looking for alternative work.”

A good number of people walk through the doors of the Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead inquiring about work, including many international workers who couldn’t get work with the resort, said operations manager Jim Cooper.

“We were a little panicky going into the season,” he said of hiring. “But by the first or second week of December, there was no lack of applicants. After bigger companies went though some layoffs, people were coming in through the store daily looking for work.”

And it seems that while the lending market meltdown has hurt the real estate market, there are still buyers for some of Vail’s most attractive properties.

Ron Byrne of Ron Byrne and Associates, a real estate and development firm offices, said the firm is doing “better than OK.” The firm recently sold several creek-side luxury condos and penthouses, as well as most of the units at the Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa, which the company developed and sold.

Overall, the company’s number of sales is down a bit, but the amount of revenue is about the same as last year. Byrne attributes the success to having a range of well-priced properties in premium locations.

“We worked very hard over the last year anticipating a rough economy, but we didn’t know it’d be this tough,” he said. “We put together an inventory of well-priced homes and condos in order to have a broad spectrum.”

Not that it hasn’t been difficult ” family homes in the $1 million to $3 million range aren’t selling, and buyers are shopping for price and negotiating harder, Byrne said.

He’s optimistic that Vail’s real estate market can come out of the downturn quickly, said Byrne, remembering economic crises in the past, such as the stock market crash of 1987, the devaluation of the peso, and Sept. 11.

Vail’s real estate market isn’t overbuilt, and it is still a place people, especially retiring baby boomers, will want to come and live, he said.

“People still have their dreams,” Byrne said. “For people in their 50s who want to live their life, are they going to not ski or not enjoy life? Vail will still be a very attractive place.”

Some businesses said the recession has meant they need to learn how to do business a different way, or build on what has made them successful in the past.

Lynne Schleper, of Treasures Quality Consignments in Eagle-Vail, said she’s holding the store’s first live auction on Mar. 5 to get people out shopping and having fun.

“You have to reinvent yourself in times like this,” she said. “People now more than ever are looking for good deals. Before it was, do I want it? Now it’s, do I need it?”

Double Diamond, which had a booming early season, said that it’s starting to feel the bad economy. The store’s numbers for January aren’t measuring up to last year, which was a record season, but are closer to the 2006-2007 season, Cooper said.

For the first time, he’s seen customers question the cost of services, price shop for their ski tune, and many destination travelers are cutting their trip lengths, he said.

The store has been “holding its own” by emphasizing its seasoned staff and customer service, Cooper said.

“People are willing to pay for the level of expertise and the quality of customer service. We’ve built long-term relations with people who come year after year.” he said. “Still, watching the bottom line this year is really crucial.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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