Vail’s allure is still drawing businesses
VAIL, Colorado – Despite the national economy, some entrepreneurs still answer the door when opportunity knocks.Four years ago, Tara and Nate Picklo opened Yeti’s Grind, a coffee shop in downtown Eagle. The Picklos were new to the business, but thought they had an idea they could take to other towns – maybe Boulder or Fort Collins to start. Then, through mutual friends, they learned a space was open in Solaris, a new condo/shopping/entertainment complex in Vail Village. The couple considered their options, then decided to make the leap into Vail. Picklo acknowledged that the experience is going to be a big change from what she and Nate have established in Eagle.”We’re going to have to sell a lot of coffee,” said said. “But we did see this as an opportunity.”Near the Children’s Fountain in Vail Village, Matt Cardille saw the same opportunity earlier this year. In the summer, he opened Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory. Cardille, who also has shops in Steamboat Springs and Coronado, Calif., said he’s excited, and has even moved to the valley full-time.”I’ve always wanted a store in Vail,” Cardille said. “We were first approached by the Solaris folks four years, ago, but knew the building wouldn’t be ready for four years. That was too long.”So Cardille bided his time. Last October, on a trip to Vail with his family, he had a talk with longtime family friend Carroll Tyler, long a broker with Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate. Tyler showed Cardille the space – where the Laughing Monkey used to be – and the deal was done soon after.”You can’t pass up a location like that,” Cardille said.While Vail’s sales tax collections are down more than 20 percent from just a couple of years ago, Cardille, the Picklos and others seem to believe that Vail remains a good place to do business.According to numbers from town of Vail sales tax administrator Sally Lorton, the town issued 621 business licenses in 2006. This year, that number is 586 – a decline of 5.6 percent.”There aren’t as many vacant spaces as there were a year ago – it’s kind of filled back up,” Lorton said.Of course, Vail is well known as a place where upscale tourists come to play. But a group of investors is counting on people to come to a new Qdoba restaurant – a chain that features made-in-front-of-customers burritos and other items, all less than $10 each. Those investors – called QMG Vail, LLC – saw another opportunity, this one in the West Vail Mall.”We have been approved franchisees for some time and spent a tremendous amount of time identifying the best space available,” partnership spokeswoman Amy Cassidy wrote in an e-mail. “Our location in the West Vail Mall has great visibility for travelers and a variety of food options for locals.”While Vail continues to draw businesses, Picklo and Cardille said they’ve had to make some adjustments from their existing stores.”We’re going to be working on Christmas Day, and our Eagle store is going to be closed,” Picklo said. “There’s a different mentality up here.”And, while Picklo said Solaris is going to be open year ’round, she said she’s ready for the high and low seasons.Cardille is used to the seasonality of ski resorts, but said his shop in downtown Steamboat is pretty busy all the time.”We were busy in the summer here, and then off-season was off-season,” he said. Still, he’s trying to make the adjustment from being in Steamboat, where downtown has a base of year ’round residents, to Vail, where the highs are highs and the lows are just as low.”Here, most people live in Avon or Eagle or Gypsum,” Cardille said. “I was concerned about getting locals in here, but they’re starting to find us.” Still, he said, Vail’s just different. But it’s also potentially lucrative.Picklo said while she and Nate were doing their research before signing their Solaris lease, they learned they’ll need three times the volume of the Eagle store to make it in Vail.”We hope we can get four times the volume – we’ll see,” Picklo said. “But we believe in Vail, we believe in our product, and we believe in Solaris.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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