Winter business a mixed bag for Vail Valley locals |

Winter business a mixed bag for Vail Valley locals

Scott N. Miller/Vail DailyVail Valley DJ Fred Hammond said his winter has been pretty quiet, due mostly to the loss of corporate group business. Hammond said he's booked for about as many weddings this summer as he was last year.

AIL – It was a great winter for Dennis Lavezzi. But Brad Foster will acknowledge his company is looking for work wherever it can get it.

Lavezzi tends bar at the Vail Chophouse in the Arrabelle at Vail Square. He’s been there since the place opened in 2008. Pouring drinks at the Vail Valley Partnership’s April 14 Lobster Blue Jeans Networking Party, Lavezzi said the just-completed ski season was “great” in his opinion.

“Business was way up from last year,” Lavezzi said. “The Arrabelle is really kicking a lot of business our way now.”

Foster is the local president of Boles Construction. Like most local construction companies, business is a lot different than it was in 2007.

“Our winter was mostly remodeling jobs,” Foster said. “There just isn’t any volume out there. We’d never marketed in the past, but in the past couple of years we’ve started.”

Howard Olsen is vice president of the Alter Group, the company that’s just about finished with the Landmark condos. His company’s busy now, but Olsen acknowledged he’s looking for more work.

“We’re looking to stay in town,” Olsen said.

Don and Annette Anderson have owned Vail Electronics for a number of years. They’ve been hit by the construction slump, too.

“We’ve been working really hard to get new business,” Don Anderson said. “We’re getting more efficient at direct marketing, and we’ve done a ton of personal networking. But we have a plan. If we stick to it and execute it, we’ll be all right.”

The Andersons have been in business long enough to remember that dips in the local economy used to come a little more frequently – if not as hard as the most recent slump.

“It’s the natural business cycle,” Annette Anderson said. “I think it weeds out people who just got lucky.”

Julie McCahan owns Gralyn Resources, a company that specializes in employee training. McCahan said her business is up and down these days, not only because companies have fewer people to train, but because companies that just laid off employees aren’t going to spend money on staff development for those who are left.

“People are still doing seminars, but now, instead of an all-day session they ask if I can do it in two or three hours,” McCahan said. And, she added, catering has given way to asking employees to bring their own snacks or lunches.

Corporations aren’t just trimming training – they’re also cutting back on entertainment.

Local DJ Fred Hammond said much of his winter business used to come from corporate groups coming to town. Between the economy and the bad PR that corporate junkets have acquired lately, Hammond said he doesn’t see nearly as much business from those companies as he once did.

Still, he’s philosophical.

“It gives me more time with my family, so it’s OK,” Hammond said, adding that he’s gearing up for a reasonably busy summer wedding season.

“I have about as many booked this year as I did last summer,” he said.

While local businesses seem to have settled into survival mode, attorney Kim Taylor picked last year to start her own practice. A former employee of a big Denver law firm, Taylor said striking out on her own in a down economy has actually been a good move.

“I have a nice base of clients in Denver who came with me,” Taylor said. Those clients came both because they wanted to keep her as their attorney, and because she charges less than the big firm she used to work for.

“My rates have let me pick up some new clients, too,” Taylor said. “It’s not a bad time for me.”

Prices can help aggressive construction companies, too, Foster said. “The prices of materials are good right now,” he said. “If you’re ready to go, it’s a helluva time to build right now.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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