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Inside the Chamber column: The good guy discount

Local stores are more than just a place to buy stuff. They provide local jobs and contribute to the local economy, but they also offer an experience that simply can’t be found in an online shopping cart.

He was a trained and talented pianist, but he had no business playing guitar. The young teen didn’t have the first clue what he was doing with the new instrument, but when he stepped into the local music store, the owner enthusiastically encouraged him try out the various guitars and amplifiers. Though he didn’t buy anything, he became a regular visitor to the store. The owner patiently taught him how to tune a guitar and gave him mini guitar lessons right in the shop.

After weeks of playing nearly every guitar in the store, he finally landed on his favorite. He’d stop by the store nearly every day to play the instrument as he saved money to buy it. When the day finally came that he had saved up enough to purchase the prized guitar, the store owner gave the aspiring musician the “good guy discount.” This was in addition to all the free lessons he had already received.

The pianist turned guitar player is my husband, Scott. He still has that guitar from Glenwood Music. Though the store has moved to a new location and has new owners, 20 some years later Scott is still giddy like a kid in a candy store when he walks through the door. He could spend hours and hours browsing, testing instruments and talking about anything related to music with the people working in the store.

Recently our 5-year-old daughter, Paige, expressed interest in learning how to play piano, so Scott proudly took her into Glenwood Music to pick out her first lesson book. He could have ordered the same book online, and with the click of a button it would have arrived at our doorstep in just two days, but he wanted to create an experience. They looked through all the books, and she picked the one that coincidently had the same cover as his very first piano book. The two of them sat at the piano when they arrived home for the first of many lessons together.

I’m not sure if our daughter will remember the day when she picked out her first lesson book or how interested she’ll be in learning piano, guitar or any other instrument in the future. However, I know Scott will always remember the day, just like he fondly remembers the many days spent in the store with the “good guy discount” where he essentially learned how to play guitar, his lifelong passion.

Life is busy, and there is no question that shopping online is quick and easy. However, purchasing anything from a book to a car in the community supports local business owners, helps create jobs and pays for essential community services. Local shops aren’t just a place to buy stuff. They provide an unmatched experience.

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is a champion for a thriving community. By supporting local businesses, we can all contribute to the success of the community. Our team has been featuring local shops with our 24 days of holiday shopping videos on our Facebook @gwschamber and Instagram @glenwood_chamber pages. Throughout this holiday season, we invite residents and visitors to share their local shopping stories and photos using hashtag shopglenwood (#shopglenwood) on social media. One lucky participant will win two, one-day passes to Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

Angie Anderson is president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Glenwood Escape Room unleashes new rooms in new location

The Glenwood Escape Room has a new location and brand-new rooms for players to navigate and attempt to escape from before their time runs out.

According to Glenwood Escape Room Co-owner Ken Murphy, a few misconceptions about the growing industry continue to persist.

“Escape rooms aren’t claustrophobic,” Murphy said. “We’re not trying to scare you. …It’s not a haunted house.”

Instead, teams of between two and generally six players work together to solve puzzles and decipher clues, hopefully, before their 60-minute time limit expires.

Previously, the Glenwood Escape Room was situated in the 900 block of Grand Avenue but has since relocated to 923 Cooper Ave.

“[In] our old facility, our lobby wasn’t very interactive. It was, sit there and wait.” Murphy said. “One of the highlights of this new lobby is, we’ve made it very interactive.”

In addition to Egyptian relics, the Glenwood Escape Room’s lobby features key mazes and puzzles that players can practice on before their actual countdown clock begins.

The three new escape rooms include one with a Christmas theme, another Murphy described as “PG-13,” and an elevator.

Taking place on Dec. 24, at first glance, nothing about the holiday-themed room’s stockings, cozy fireplace and Christmas tree appear out of the ordinary.

However, once the timer starts, the unsuspecting holiday room quickly turns into “Christmas Chaos.”

“It’s called Christmas Chaos, which we all have in our family,” Murphy said. “Standing in here you wouldn’t realize all that’s going on.”

While Christmas Chaos certainly caters to the holiday season, things get a little darker, literally, in the escape room’s Serial Doctor room.

Geared more toward teenagers and adults, players must escape from a deranged “doctor’s” lair by using a variety of senses.

“We want to get all of your different senses working together,” Murphy said. “Or, working against each other.”

The final room, which Murphy hopes to open by Christmas, includes the Elevator.

In the elevator, players take on the role of Fortune 500 Company executives trapped with a ticking time bomb.

According to Murphy, thus far roughly 40-percent of players have successfully completed Christmas Chaos whereas just 27-percent have finished the Serial Doctor escape room.

Co-owner and game master Logan Bartek, who gives clues to stumped players along the way, said he tries to make each team’s experience as unique as possible.

Especially, when teams range from corporate parties to bachelor and bachelorette parties.

“We want to make it fun, not frustrating,” Bartek said.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Cripple Creek Backcountry stays on a roll with expansion to Aspen Highlands

Doug Stenclik recalls entering a ski shop in the mid-2000s to inquire about ski touring gear “with little money and even less knowledge.”

After his first forays into the backcountry he fell in love with the sport and thought he saw a bright future for the niche market.

So before uphilling, ski touring and skimo became common jargon among skiing enthusiasts, Stenclik and Randy Young took a chance in 2011 by opening Cripple Creek Backcountry in Carbondale — believed to be the first store in the county dedicated to ski touring.

Stenclik said it’s hard to describe why he was so confident the sport would take off. It was basically a hunch that a lot of other people would share his love for uphilling on the slopes of the ski areas for the conditioning and touring in the backcountry for the beauty and solitude.

Bingo! Residents of the Roaring Fork Valley have immersed themselves in ski touring this decade.

“I think what we found is if you own a downhill set-up you’re going to have an uphill set-up too,” Stenclik said. “Now it’s not just your one crazy friend doing it.”

By the 2016-17 winter, there were an estimated 3.2 million skiers slapping climbing skins on their equipment and hustling up the slopes of ski resorts while 928,000 were venturing into the backcountry, according to SnowSports Industries America’s annual Participation Study that year. Some participants, of course, partake of both.

Sales of alpine touring and randonee skis, boots and accessories hit $54 million by 2015, the ski industry retail association estimated, and it’s climbed from there.

The Roaring Fork Valley embraced the uphilling culture from early on. Aspen Skiing Co. officials welcome uphillers on their slopes. Marble, the back of Aspen Mountain and Independence Pass are popular havens for backcountry enthusiasts. The Aspen area hosts two of the premiere ski mountaineering races in the country with the Power of Four and Grand Traverse.

Cripple Creek Backcountry’s growth has paralleled the explosion of the sport. Building off their success in Carbondale, Stenclik and Young opened their second shop in Vail in 2016. They added Aspen to the mix in 2018 and, new this year, they took over the retail operation at the Aspen Expeditions shop at the base of Aspen Highlands.

Uphilling and ski touring was slower to catch on in the Vail-area than in the Roaring Fork Valley, but it’s picking up steam, Stenclik said.

He remembers what it was like for him to walk into a ski shop with little knowledge of backcountry gear. That’s guided his business philosophy. It’s important to him that employees are as welcoming to newbies as they are with seasoned veterans. He wants to see the sport continue to attract new blood.

The educational aspect of the business is important to him. Cripple Creek has an extensive archive of blogs on its website dealing with everything from the ski touring start guide to ski mountaineering race reports. They also purchased backcountry skiing icon Lou Dawson’s WildSnow, a longtime blog focused on all things backcountry.

Cripple Creek also hosts numerous community events. A presentation by Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s Brian Lazar in early November to recap March’s epic avalanche cycle attracted a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 people to Cripple Creek in Carbondale.

Customers are encouraged to stop by and consult with the staff over a hand-pressed espresso or a craft beer. Customers can also schedule an appointment online to dial in their gear.

He is particularly excited about teaming with Aspen Expeditions. It’s a one-stop shop for people who want to buy or demo gear and work with guides on everything from uphilling on the slopes of Aspen Highlands to venturing into the backcountry. Stenclik said Cripple Creek will take advantage of its location just a few yards away from the slopes at the Highlands base and host frequent demonstration days where skiers can check out gear.

The store’s online sales of skis, bindings, boots, climbing skins and accessories continues to blossom. Stenclik said his staff often exchanges multiple emails with prospective customers before they complete an online sale.

So what’s next for Cripple Creek Backcountry?

“We’re definitely trying to get into Denver,” Stenclik said. “It takes more time.”

They are used to small mountain town markets where a store can be successful despite an obscure location. In Denver, picking the right site is critical to success, so the Cripple Creek team is taking its time and doing it right.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Glenwood’s mom and pop shops ready for this weekend’s Small Business Saturday

As big-box stores gear up for Black Friday, mom and pop shops in Glenwood Springs continue to stock their own displays in preparation for this weekend’s Small Business Saturday.

Lisa Manzano, who has been in retail in downtown Glenwood Springs since 1976, thought Black Friday was a bit of a “miss for downtown” but believed Small Business Saturday had gained traction, particularly with locals.

“I think it has picked up over the years,” Manzano said of Small Business Saturday. “Hopefully it will be the beginning of a great holiday shopping season.”

For the last 22 years Manzano has owned Mona Lisa Unique Boutique located at 710 Cooper Ave. Ste. 101 in downtown Glenwood Springs.

“We are hoping small business Saturday will inspire everyone to come out and support local small businesses,” Manzano said.

Small Business Saturday was created by American Express in 2010, and immediately follows Black Friday and precedes Cyber Monday.

For its part, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association has joined the Small Business Saturday Coalition to support this year’s event.

“I think our small businesses offer something that you can’t get online. They offer an experience and so many of them are so unique,” Angie Anderson, Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association president and CEO, said. “They are the lifeblood of our community and we can all support them.”

To kick off this year’s Small Business Saturday, which falls on Nov. 30, the chamber resort association will offer free hot beverages and doughnuts between 10 a.m. and noon at the Glenwood Springs Visitor Center located at 802 Grand Ave.

“We hope people will stop by on their way out shopping and we’ll get them fueled up with a little sugar and caffeine,” Anderson said. “[Small Business Saturday] has gained a lot of recognition and the numbers certainly show that.”

According to a 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, U.S. shoppers reported spending an estimated “$17.8 billion at independent retailers and restaurants” during last year’s Small Business Saturday.

Additionally, an American Express Small Business Economic Impact Study reported that “an average two-thirds of every dollar ($0.67)” spent at small businesses stays in the local community.

From comic book shops to clothing boutiques and jewelry stores, several small businesses in Glenwood Springs will offer specials as part of this year’s Small Business Saturday.

“We have small businesses throughout the entire town,” Anderson said.  “Our businesses really do rely on this time of the year.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Working through Aspen’s labor issues: It’s a ‘constant struggle’ each season for local employers

The lifts are spinning, the snow is falling and the 2019-20 ski season is underway, but local employers are still scrambling to fill the necessary positions to provide a top-notch level of service and uphold the reputation that has garnered Aspen-Snowmass the ranking of the No. 1 resort in the West.

It’s a tricky business these days as cultural exchange visas that enable international seasonal workers to come to Aspen are more challenging to acquire, and the local housing inventory continues to shrink.

“The new normal is being understaffed,” Ryan Sweeney, owner of Ryno’s Pub and Pizzeria and Silver City Saloon, who employs around 40 people between the two bars, said last week.

Judging from “help wanted” signs plastered on windows of retail shops across town and employment websites like Indeed, there are hundreds of positions to be filled from budtenders at pot shops to airline workers to concierges and bell men at local lodges, and everything in between.

Sweeney, who like many employers in Aspen relies on getting seasonal employees through the J-1 visa cultural visitor exchange program, said his applications were denied last month with no explanation.

“I had eight people lined up,” he said. “They had housing and they had flights.”

CCUSA, a sponsor of J-1 program, wrote in an email to Sweeney that the agency was experiencing a shortage of visas.

Jim Laing, who oversees human resources for Aspen Skiing Co., the area’s largest employer, said it’s getting more difficult to obtain visas, but the company has been able to stay on it.

“Earlier this year there was a very big concern about the availability of J-1 visas, so we worked twice as hard to get them this year,” he said, adding Skico is in a better position in terms of staffing than it has been in the past five years, and some departments are as much as 20% ahead of the same time last year.

He said last week that nearly 1,400 offers have been extended so far this year.

“A lot of offers are out there but the question is, is everybody going to show up?” Laing said, noting that a trolling of the internet will show a lack of affordable housing available for prospective employees. “We hope they’ll start showing up in December.”

A cultural exchange of people power

About 20% of Skico’s guests are international, so it is the company’s goal to have employees who mirror the guest demographic of whatever country they are from.

Companywide, Skico has about 400 J-1 visas, which is not very much considering it employs 4,000–4,500 people during peak times.

But Skico holds the lion’s share for sure. The Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of Private Sector Exchange, which designates sponsors to conduct exchange programs, issued 325 for the 81611 ZIP code last year, according to the state department.

It won’t be known until 2020 how many have been issued for this year, but 2018 was the most given to the Aspen area in the past five years, according to data provided by the state department.

Laing said it varies every year, and it is based on supply and demand.

“J-1s are highly correlated to the economy and political climate,” he said.

On its website, CCSUA referenced a Wall Street Journal story that said the current administration is considering cuts to the J-1 program as it reviews U.S. immigration rules to “ensure that the interests of domestic workers are protected.”

According to the state department, nothing has changed about how it implements or administers the visitor exchange program.

Despite the fact that he didn’t get any designated J-1 workers, Sweeney said he has been able to cobble together a staff for the season through former employees and Skico workers who need a second job.

Every year it seems more daunting to recruit workers, Sweeney noted.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” he said. “We are reaching a breaking point in this town. … It’s getting really bad.”

Aspen’s open labor market

Sweeney isn’t alone in the struggle to find workers.

Tony DiLucia, general manager of the Hotel Jerome, said while he feels pretty good going into the winter season, it takes a ton of effort to get fully staffed at around 240 employees.

“It’s like survival,” he said, adding that when the hotel runs short of workers it makes it harder on the current staff, which has to cover more shifts and work in different departments.

The hotel has an advantage in that it has a lot of returning employees, or full-time workers who stay on throughout the year, according to DiLucia.

Craig Cordts-Pearce, who owns four restaurants in Aspen and employs around 150 employees, said the key to survival is long-term employees.

“We’ve got such great employee retention, and I’m lucky to be in that situation,” he said, adding that a few key positions have been filled by the same people for 13 or 14 years.

But the real challenge is to find solid employees who have housing.

“We are constantly looking for good people,” Cordts-Pearce said. “We always have to fill gaps.”

David Clark, manager at Clark’s Market, said the locally owned business relies on the cultural visitor exchange program to complement the tenured staff in the grocery store.

“Entry-level positions have been hard to fill so we rely on the J-1 program, because it’s hard to recruit locally,” Clark said, noting that 85 employees are on the payroll, and staff levels will increase by 11 people during Christmas week.

At just about every turn in the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport people can notice a lack of employees, said John Kinney, director of the facility.

“It’s a constant struggle not just for the airport but also the airlines, the TSA and even the security company that we are negotiating with now,” he said. “We are in a perpetual hiring mode 10 out of 12 months of the year.”

Kinney said it is hard no matter whether it is filling an entry level spot or management position that pays around $100,000 a year.

“The cost of living is so high that the airport loses a lot of people to other places where it’s cheaper to live,” Kinney said. “There is a real pause for people to come here.”

Aspen’s tight housing market

Employers blamed the lack of housing as the most critical issue affecting their staffing levels.

They all agreed that gone are the days when a ski bum could show up in town and land a place to live.

Condos and apartments that used to be rented to seasonal or year-round residents are now used for short-term rentals for tourists, so the inventory has shrunk significantly, Sweeney noted.

Some employers have their own apartments, or access to affordable places so they can house some of their seasonal or key staff.

The Hotel Jerome has about 40 beds, Clark’s has a few places in Snowmass Village and access to the Marolt seasonal housing complex.

“More housing is needed because finding seasonal staff is hard,” Clark said. “When you do find good people you do everything in your power to keep them.”

Skico has a total of around 800 beds and is building more in Willits in Basalt, according to Laing.

“Seasonal housing is critical, and I like to think that we’ve helped a bit,” he said, explaining it’s a difficult sell in some neighborhoods to build short-term rentals. “I know there is a reluctance to look at seasonal housing.”

But the concept is slowly coming into the local conversation.

Colorado Mountain College near the Aspen Business Center is in the initial stages of looking at building dormitory-style housing, and there is pushback from nearby residents in the North Forty subdivision.

The city of Aspen is looking at building a few hundred units down the street on land it owns near the ABC and at Burlingame Ranch, across from Buttermilk Ski Area.

But it’s not enough, and some community leaders believe there’s not adequate political will to address housing in a meaningful and impactful way.

“If this is such a public enemy No. 1, I don’t understand why we don’t throw some serious solutions and investment to this issue,” Kinney said. “It’s perplexing.”

Laing said Skico has had conversations about being part of a housing co-op in which other local employers could buy in on a project to house their own employees.

“If you could solve the seasonal problem, then it helps in recruiting,” he said. “If we don’t take care of it, it’s not going to take care of itself.”

csackariason@aspentimes.com

New Castle Town Council directs police department to sell confiscated firearms

The New Castle Police Department has roughly 20 guns that it would like to get off of its hands.

According to New Castle Chief of Police Tony Pagni, the police department has accumulated the firearms over the years as a result of several different scenarios.

“Prohibited use of weapons, hunting within city limits and so forth,” Pagni said at a recent New Castle Town Council meeting. “We’ve got a bunch of pistols. We’ve got a bunch of rifles and a bunch of shotguns that we can sell.”

In some cases, residents turned guns over to the police department for safekeeping and then never took them back, Pagni said.

Seeking direction from the town council, Pagni wanted to know whether the police department should pursue selling the guns via a third party, federally licensed dealer, or simply have the weapons demolished altogether.

Pagni estimated the entire arsenal of guns as being worth between $10,000 and $15,000.

“I can exploit avenues to dispose of these guns that make it a win-win for our town,” Pagni said. “Meaning that they go back into society to people that have passed the background check and they’re legally able to own, harbor and possess those guns.”

Council directed Pagni to pursue selling the weapons through a federally licensed dealer.

“The police department does not make assets off of that,” Pagni said.

Instead, sale proceeds will go into the town’s general fund.

Additionally, when Mayor Art Riddile asked Pagni if there was any precedent surrounding the issue, the chief of police replied, “tons.”

“I can tell you four municipalities around here sell them,” Pagni said. “Four municipalities [demolish] them.”

According to Pagni, one gun that was either confiscated by or given to the New Castle Police for safekeeping has been with the department since 1963.

“It’s a commodity just sitting there,” Pagni said. “We don’t need to keep that stuff.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Glenwood Springs sales stayed strong heading into fall season

All Glenwood Canyon Brewpub Manager Corrie Murray has to do is look out the front window to see that there’s been an increase in drive-by traffic since early September.

That’s when Glenwood Springs city officials decided to reopen the newly refurbished two-block stretch of Seventh Street to traffic. Judging by the latest sales tax figures, that might have played a part in keeping Glenwood on the plus side in terms of business activity.

“We had a good summer, but it still didn’t feel like we saw quite the impact we anticipated with the bridge completion,” Murray said of the first full year without construction directly related to the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement.

However, the city’s ongoing work to turn the section of Seventh from Cooper west to Colorado Avenue into a more pedestrian-oriented “festival street” did continue to impact downtown businesses, Murray observed.

“We picked up in mid-September and had a really good fall,” she said. “We definitely appreciate that Seventh Street is open, and think it’s important to businesses down here to have that street open as a byway.”

And, “there’s a really nice vibe going on under the bridge, which seems to have drawn tourism to that direct area.”

According to the city’s September sales tax report, overall, sales were up 4.98% for the month of September. That kept Glenwood Springs on pace for a +5% year in terms of spending on retail goods and taxable services.

Broken down by sector, two categories are down still compared to last year — general merchandise (-0.44%) and miscellaneous retail (-1.28%), according to the report.

General merchandise includes large national retailers, such as Target and Walmart, while miscellaneous retail encompasses a lot of the small, independent shops in Glenwood Springs, including liquor stores, flower shops, jewelry stores and gift shops.

But the restaurant and bar category continues to perform better than last year — up 2.2% compared to the first nine months of 2018. The city’s lodging sector, based on sales tax receipts, is also is up nearly 6% compared to last year.

Another sector that’s worth noting in terms of an ongoing trend is what’s referred to as the “all other” category in the city’s monthly report. That’s where online sales to Glenwood Springs residents from retailers that don’t have a physical location here have begun reporting their sales taxes, according to Glenwood Springs Chief Financial Officer Steve Boyd.

Though the overall numbers are still relatively small by comparison — $144,895 in sales taxes collected through September — the category is up more than 45% compared to last year, according to the latest figures.

Glenwood Springs Sales By the Numbers

5.08% — Year-to-date increase in sales tax collections for the city through September compared to 2018.

4.98% — Year-over-year city sales tax increase for the month of September.

$14.17 million — Sales tax dollars collected for the city through September, representing roughly $383 million in spending on retail items and taxable services.

-0.44% — Decline in spending on general merchandise items in Glenwood year to date through September, compared to 2018.

32.3% —Increase in spending at stores specializing in apparel and accessories year to date through September, compared to 2018.

$54.7 million — Amount of money spent at Glenwood eating and drinking establishments through nine months of the year, based on the $2,025,165 in sales taxes collected.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Sunlight Resort to begin charging fee for uphill access, day or night

If you want to skin up Sunlight Mountain this season, you’ll be asked to put some more skin in the game.

Sunlight Mountain Resort, located outside Glenwood Springs, now requires uphill skiers and snowshoers to pay for the privilege of what until now has been a form of free access to the mountain’s powder stashes and corduroy groomers.

Uphill privileges come with the purchase of a regular Sunlight season pass, multi-day or day pass, according to Troy Hawks, sales and marketing director for Sunlight Mountain Resort. 

However, anyone who wants to skip the lift access and skin or snowshoe up the mountain will need to purchase either a special day or season pass to do so. Dogs are not allowed at any time.

A one-day uphill ticket will cost $10, and a season uphill passport can be purchased for $50.

“The goal of the passport program is to preserve the privilege of up-hilling while preventing accidents and injuries, as well as establishing and maintaining a communicative dialogue with uphill users,” according to Sunlight’s revised uphill policy, which Hawks said was borrowed from neighboring Aspen Skiing Company.

Like the Aspen ski areas and others across Colorado, Sunlight has seen a marked increase in the number of uphill users during regular hours of operation, as well as both before the lifts open and after they close.

“We used to see maybe a dozen people a day, but now it’s several dozen,” Hawks said. “With those numbers, we decided it was time to charge at least a nominal fee to help with some investment in better signage and other improvements.”

Sunlight began its free uphill passport program three years ago, which just asked people to register and sign a waiver, with no fee. It now has an active list of about 800 people who’ve signed up for the program. 

Hawks emphasized the “preserving the privilege” message in the new fee-based policy. 

While Sunlight wants to accommodate those who wish to trek up the mountain under their own power, it’s a privilege that could be revoked at any time at the resort managers’ discretion, he said.

“There is a concern when you have a lot of people going downhill and some going uphill, and the potential conflicts that can present,” Hawks said.

Other ski resorts around Colorado and in other states are adopting similar policies, he said.

“It’s something we want to be in front of and watch the trend, and make sure the industry is all on the same page.”

Currently, with the scheduled opening day still three weeks out on Dec. 13, the mountain is closed to skiing, hiking and other means of foot access while snowmaking and grooming operations are in full force.

Preseason preparations can pose extra risks if people are on the mountain, between snowcat drivers not being able to see skiers or snowshoers, especially at night, and the potential for skis to cut high-pressure water hoses used for snowmaking, Hawks added.

Once the mountain does open — which could be early if this week’s forecasted snowstorms pan out, Hawks said — uphill users will be required to obtain a day or season pass. The pass must be worn visibly on an exterior piece of clothing or equipment.

Season pass holders are also required to check in with Guest Services for a separate, free uphill pass to be visibly displayed.

Read Sunlight’s revised uphill policy here:

jstroud@postindependent.com

Hispanic business council to promote inclusivity and diversity in Garfield County

Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce CEO and Director Tanya Perea Doose has advocated inclusivity since day one.

“Our communities – Rifle, Silt and Parachute – which we represent have such a high population of Hispanics that it was important for me to recognize that,” Perea Doose said.

The third-generation Coloradan began working for the Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce in May and has promoted efforts to engage the Colorado River Valley’s Hispanic and Latino business communities.

“We are not doing our community justice to not have Latino and Hispanic outreach within our business community,” Perea Doose said. “We all love to patron our Latino and Hispanic businesses. But, to reciprocate that, how do we as a community offer them support?”

For Perea Doose, a few immediate efforts came to mind beginning with the formation of the chamber’s Hispanic business council.

Currently, the volunteer council includes Colorado Mountain College’s Gethze Hammond, Cheryl & Co. Real Estate Owner Cheryl Chandler and Rifle realtor Pablo Ortiz.

“Our goal is to promote inclusivity, diversity and to bring the culture of our Hispanic-owned and Latino-owned businesses into the chamber and support them,” Perea Doose said.

When asked if the local governments of Silt, Rifle and Parachute were equally as supportive of the chamber’s efforts, Perea Doose replied absolutely.

In addition to establishing the Hispanic business council, Perea Doose said the chamber’s physical location at 100 E. 11th St. in Rifle now always has a bilingual speaker available.

Both Perea Doose’s dad and grandfather were bilingual ministers, which further inspired the Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce CEO and Director to breakdown language barriers in her own career.

“I firmly believe that all things old become new again,” Perea Doose said.

With the rise of the digital era, chambers of commerce often lose walk-in visitors to quick online searches.

That being said, the Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce continues to revamp its website with upcoming business and event information in both English and Spanish.

“We still see, on average during the summer, probably 500 tourists that stop through here within a four- or five-month span,” Perea Doose said of walk-ins to the chamber’s physical location in Rifle.

And, upon entering, several brochures in both English and Spanish greet those visitors with a variety of activates to choose from.

“They all want maps, they all want brochures and they all want to know where the good restaurants are,” Perea Doose said. “We are not saying, ‘You speak Spanish here’s one brochure for you and you speak English here’s another.’ We are bringing it all together and uniting it.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Garfield County raises tobacco purchasing age

Garfield County joined most of the region in raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21, but commissioners are still wary of regulating flavored tobacco products.

In a split vote, Garfield County commissioners approved raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 on Monday, and also asked state lawmakers to clarify the law about tobacco licensing.

With Monday’s resolution raising the purchasing age, “we’re just asking our vendors with tobacco products to follow our resolution,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said at the meeting.

The resolution applies to nine stores, from Parachute to Glenwood to Carbondale, located in unincorporated sections of the county.

‘New horizon’ in nicotine regulation

2019 has seen a number of towns and counties in Colorado pass stricter rules and higher taxes on nicotine products, all made possible by a bill Gov. Jared Polis signed in March that grants local governments new authority on tobacco issues.

But the bill is ambiguous when it comes to statutory counties’ authority to regulate flavored tobacco and license retailers, according to Garfield County staff.

“There’s still some ambiguity about what counties can license and enforce,” county attorney Tari Williams told the commissioners.

Pitkin County has passed the strictest tobacco and vaping policies in the state so far, by including the slate of new tobacco policies — the tax, raising the purchasing age, and banning flavored nicotine, including menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Eagle and Summit counties have raised the purchasing age to 21 and proposed tobacco taxes that voters approved Nov. 5.

Aspen, Basalt, Glenwood Springs and New Castle have approved up to $4 taxes on a pack of cigarettes, and Carbondale expects to put a similar tax before voters in April.

The Garfield County commissioners approved a letter requesting state lawmakers pass statewide tobacco policies, or clarify the 2019 legislation.

In the letter, commissioners said they “are very concerned with the use of tobacco products by the youth of our community and … we strongly believe this could be best addressed at the state level. However, if it appears that a statewide regulatory system seems unlikely, we ask that some clarification language to (the bill) be adopted so that we may feel more able to create local regulations.”

Gini Pingenot, who helped draft the 2019 legislation with Colorado Counties, Inc., said she understands the caution, given how new the licensing authority is.

“This is a brand new horizon. I do appreciate the thoughtfulness of jumping into the licensing piece,” Pingenot said.

When the bill was being drafted, regulating flavors was not part of the discussion, Pingenot said.

Pingenot expects lawmakers to consider a state licensing structure for all tobacco and e-cigarette vendors in 2020.

‘A right 18-year-olds have’

The county’s minimum age resolution notes that Colorado youth have the highest rate of teen vaping. The resolution also states that 96 percent of smokers begin before the age of 21, and that nicotine users frequently shift transition from experimentation to addiction between the ages of 18 and 21.

Board chairman John Martin entered the dissenting vote on raising the purchasing age even though he recognizes the health risks of smoking.

Martin considers purchasing tobacco to be a decision legal adults should be able to make themselves.

If an 18-year-old can volunteer for the military, he or she should be able to purchase tobacco, Martin said.

“It’s just a right 18-year-olds have, along with everything else piled on them,” Martin said.

Martin added that people shouldn’t smoke, but said his philosophical position is that the government shouldn’t protect people from themselves when it comes to tobacco.

“You need to take responsibility and make those choices, and also understand what the consequences might be,” Martin said.

tphippen@postindependent.com