Vail welcomes Coloradoans |

Vail welcomes Coloradoans

Phil Long

The recent front page Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and local newspaper articles hashing out whether Colorado people are good enough for Vail is the single most damaging thing that can happen to this town.

Critics of the Colorado Pass are hoping their condescending words toward the people of Colorado will make them so mad that they say, “Goodbye Vail, we’re going somewhere else.

“They are using Colorado people as leverage to get something they think they want from Vail Resorts – the destination guest,” the critics lament. “If we can only get rid of the riff-raff, then the well-heeled destination guest will return and save our businesses.”

And Kaye Ferry’s well-oiled line, “They are coming; now we have to find something to do with them,” would not work well as a welcome into my home and neither does it work well with any consumer. Yet for some, she is their voice.

Well, I can say without hesitation and with certainty she is wrong and she is the wrong person to speak for a group of people looking for some change in certain policies.

From the outset, I would like to be clear: the majority of us DO want the Colorado people, period.

The problem is, some shortsighted businesses are expecting increases in sales regardless of the economy and, quite frankly, regardless of the widget they are selling. Specifically, some owners of retail shops who are experiencing challenging economic times have made it clear that they have no intention of changing the line of goods they carry or anything else about they way they do business. And then they’re surprised when their business is down.

Economics 101 would lead you to believe that there is a relationship between the ever-changing needs of the consumer, the response to those changes and the success of any business.

Let’s talk about Vail and the business community. I can tell you that Russell’s, Kiss the Moon, Joe’s Deli, LeTour, Sweat Basil, The Tap Room, Pepi’s, The Rucksack, The Moose’s Caboose, The Sonnenalp, Vendetta’s and many others are doing well. And yes, so is the Red Lion.

What are they and we doing? Changing with the ever-changing mood of the consumer! Are we cheapening our product name? No way! In some cases they are even stepping up the product they are selling, betting that the consumer does want one of the best steaks (Russell’s) that money can buy. Or that they want the unbelievably good lunch specials at Sweet Basil’s. Great value and interesting specials do not cheapen the Vail trademark, although free liquor for the ladies all night (The Daily Grind) might.

Are these businesses making the “industry standard” profit increases every year? Maybe, maybe not. But we are making our product better, and seeing a return for it. We are fixing up the bathrooms so they look nicer. We are offering Bingo on Tuesdays to hopefully bring in a couple of hundred more in sales for the day. We are cooking a little on the street on a busy day to sell a couple more burgers. We are hoping a few more big groups will show up around here during early season and off-season.

It is possible that sales will be flat for two-three years at a time before one sees dramatic increases. Frankly, increases probably have more to do with controlling expenses than seeing major increases in business on a yearly basis. At the end of the year, though, these owners are doing pretty well – and we all know that.

People, times have changed. They have changed in a big way, especially the in last 10 years. Go hang out at the Del Mar Country Club or the L.A. Country Club. It is about casual, sleek looks and fun, fun, fun. Like it or not, their members were no longer looking for tie-and-jacket dinners or about how much jewelry they can weigh themselves down with. Now they are looking for a great steak or sushi and a great night of entertainment. Clubs had to figure it out before they went broke – some did, and some didn’t.

Look at all the historic pictures of Vail. Skiers and visitors were a bunch of young people, some with money, some not, having a party! They certainly weren’t all rich, and they certainly weren’t all from out of state. Where some of today’s business people got the idea that there wasn’t room for everyone, I don’t know. It has always been eclectic here … always.

I would like to tackle one other issue, that of sales tax revenue. There are statistics that show that they are down overall. Overall is the key word here. This means that some businesses may be up, some may be flat, and some may be down.

But guess what? There is a correction going on internationally in the marketplace and it’s going on here, as well. One street can’t house too many tee-shirt shops, luxury item shops, coffee shops, night clubs or too many restaurants. You may get away with it for a couple of years, but in the end the cream rises to the top. In the end, quality of product, management, consumer interest for the product and the cost of doing business naturally correct the marketplace.

I think most of us can say that we have not seen any surprises in terms of businesses that are here to stay versus businesses that have gone or who are going away. I would cite Kiss the Moon, Joe’s Deli, The Tap Room and The Sanctuary just off the top of my head as businesses that have opened up during interesting economic times and risen to the top.

Then there are those who simply watch and expect to be successful just because they have a Bridge Street address. Running a business is hard work. You have to change and evolve if you expect to compete. There are thousands examples of the highest-end hotels, restaurants, private golf and social clubs updating their marketing and products to 2005 already in 2003.

We will take our chances that Colorado people are a good bet. We will take our chances that the younger 20- and 30-something groups who are having great times here will continue to spend more and more money as they climb into different economic brackets.

We are betting that, like most folks, the majority of Colorado skiers will find a place where they are welcome and where they like to ski. And those people will ski there forever. I like those people and want them here. (Please don’t misunderstand me – the amount of wealth in Vail continues to be astounding. On the Red Lion’s patio on July 3 and 4 were three major telecommunications media giants, the owner of the Budweiser distributorship in Colorado and Wyoming and two young “retired” major fund group managers. Imagine those hundreds of millions of dollars sitting right next to us middle-classers. And they were even having fun!)

We in the corner of welcoming visitors to Vail are preparing a statewide ad campaign to let the Colorado people know which businesses in Vail are excited to see them. I can tell you some Vail businesses will not be asked to join in.

But we will be successful, and our customers will understand that we know what to do with them. We’ll treat them with respect, show them a fun and friendly time, and give them what they want.

As a business owner, a Colorado native and a spokesman for the majority, we are going to have a great season.

Phil Long owns the Red Lion in Vail Village.

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