Changing Times for Businesses in 2012
by Watch Staff
Dec 28, 2012 | 1872 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CLOSING TIME - After 40 years, Montrose institution Jeans Westerner closed its doors. Here, employee Amanda Thurston readied inventory in preparation for the store's liquidation. (File photo)
CLOSING TIME - After 40 years, Montrose institution Jeans Westerner closed its doors. Here, employee Amanda Thurston readied inventory in preparation for the store's liquidation. (File photo)
FOLLOWING HIS PASSION - Telluride's "Town Doc," David Homer (with son Noah) left his private family practice in April to become the full-time medical director of the Uncompahgre Medical Center in Norwood. (File photo)
FOLLOWING HIS PASSION - Telluride's "Town Doc," David Homer (with son Noah) left his private family practice in April to become the full-time medical director of the Uncompahgre Medical Center in Norwood. (File photo)
SMARTS PARK - The San Miguel Area Resource-Recovery Transfer Station, which opened in May in the Ilium Valley outside of Telluride, is the region's first nonprofit recycling center. (File photo)
SMARTS PARK - The San Miguel Area Resource-Recovery Transfer Station, which opened in May in the Ilium Valley outside of Telluride, is the region's first nonprofit recycling center. (File photo)

Telluride’s longtime town doc David Homer, M.D., closed down his Telluride Family Practice to take the helm at a new health care model at the Uncompahgre Medical Center, where he is medical director. In Telluride, logging 4,000 patient visits a year, Homer said he had about 80,000 patients walk through his door over the past 20 years. “It’s special being a family doctor in a small town for more than a generation; I am starting to see two and three generations of the same family. Really, I’m not going anywhere – I love Telluride. I am just telling people I am moving to a bigger, better facility in Norwood.” The Uncompahgre Medical Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center and is one of 15 in Colorado aimed to offer preventative and primary care to the underinsured and uninsured. “These health care centers take care of 10 percent of the people in Colorado,” Homer said, of his new job running a center serving roughly 40 percent of patients who have a commercial health insurance provider, 30 percent of patients who are underinsured and 30 percent with no health insurance. The UMC is a big, 10,000-foot facility with a staff of 25, and has a center for mental health care, a four-chair dental clinic and a full-fledged emergency room with a helicopter pad. It’s a patient-centered medical home, Homer said, where patients can get all their medical care under one roof. The February closure of the 40-year Montrose staple Jeans Westerner was a reflection of the hard times businesses, and in particular, Main Street America, continue to face. But the closure did not discourage the efforts currently underway to make Montrose's downtown an attractive, vibrant place for business and the community, said Bob Brown, board chairman of Montrose's Downtown Development Authority. The liquidation process started on Feb. 14. “It's an end of an era,” said co-owner Steve Omernik, who had run the family business with his siblings, Tom and Mary Mathis, since taking it over from their parents, Gene and Kay, who opened the doors in 1972. In its 40 years, the store fought through times of new business competition and spurts of a downturned economy, but this time, there were just too many factors for too long, Omernik said. “The perfect storm hit us, as it wasn't just one thing that was a factor,” he said. The business hit its peak in 2007, after which profits began declining, due to less spending by consumers and stepped-up competition combined with high overhead for the family-owned 25,000-square-foot building, Omernik said. In the spring of 2012, the family closed its Delta store, but by Christmas, the siblings knew they might have to make another hard decision, he said. “It was an incredible emotional rollercoaster. You don't give up 40 years of life easily,” Omernik said, adding that telling his 12 employees of the decision was heartbreaking. The Jeans Westerner family has been a part of the downtown community since they moved to Montrose in the 1970s. “That has been one of the most emotional parts of this whole thing – to lose that connection,” he said. “We've been pleased and proud to be a part of it.” Longtime Ridgway Town Councilor John Clark won his bid to become Ridgway’s mayor, with a resounding 238-50 vote margin over Janet Smith in the April 3 election were also elected, including incumbents Rick Weaver and Richard Durnan and newcomer Jason Gunning. “I would like to express my gratitude to the voters of Ridgway for electing me their new Mayor in the April 3 election,” said Clark. “I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement that I received at the polls, and have received via phone, email, text message, etc., since then. Pat Willits' shoes will indeed be big ones to fill, but I promise to work hard to do just that. …

After 25 years, Norwood's annual Horse Races stalled at the starting gates.“The marketing crew just couldn't get it to come together in time,” said Tamara K. Dargavel, president of the San Juan Horse Racing Association. “There is no blame, no shame. We'll just come back bigger and better next year. We decided to put it out to pasture for one year,” Dargavel said. … Fletcher McKusker, the owner of the Llama bar and restaurant, was philosophical about the closing of his business, which started as a Mexican restaurant on West Pacific Ave. in 2004 and morphed into a restaurant/nightclub on main street. “He deserves a peaceful existence,” McKusker said, of the upstairs resident whose increasingly vociferous complaints about the noise led to the April 7 closure. Once noise complaints were logged, McKusker added, Chief Marshal Jim Kolar “was between a rock and a hard place. It’s his job to enforce the law, and if people complained, he had to cite us. It’s like the Bubble Lounge,” McKusker said, referring to the nightclub a block west, above O’Bannon’s, that shut down in 2011 after repeated noise complaints from residents upstairs. But the dilemma at the heart of this latest skirmish in the battle to permit late-night music in Telluride remains unresolved, suggested McKusker. “Skiers want an après-ski environment; great ski resorts have nighttime entertainment,” he said, “and Telluride has always scored very poorly in that regard. I think we changed the game. “There’s no doubt it was noisy,” he said, of the two or three days a week of high-season, late-night music. “We addressed the issues when we got complaints from adjacent businesses or residents or passersby, but there really wasn’t anything we could do.” The sound levels, he said, were “internal to the building,” a fact that led, “ultimately, to our demise.” Running a restaurant in Telluride, McKusker observed, “is very seasonal, as most restaurant owners will tell you: ‘Make hay while the sun shines, and then hang on in the off seasons.’ We pretty much broke even,” but with a big assist from “music, and the alcohol sales associated with that. With a roster of top-flight musical acts from Otis Taylor to the Emmett Nershi Band, the Wailers and Ana Sia, over recent years, the Llama emerged as a go-to spot for music lovers. “We had a couple of things working in our favor,” McKusker said, when it came to transforming the spacious bar/restaurant into a nightclub. … The Ouray Brewery significantly expanded its operations to include the Ouray Brewing Company, the new 3,000 square-foot brewing, bottling and canning plant and tap room in the old BIOTA building alongside the Uncompahgre River in the North Ouray Corridor, at 1900 Main Street. The plant’s first brews were kegged last month, and its taproom, seating up to 120 customers, opened to the public on Memorial Day weekend, offering indoor and riverside seating as well as tours, snacks, swag and more, remaining open through the summer and into September, with live music Fridays, 5-7 p.m. … Priscilla Peters announced in May that her stalwart Ridgway business, Cimarron Books and Coffeehouse, is for sale. Peters has witnessed Ridgway’s growth ever since the day in 1976 when the final location for the Ridgway dam was announced – downstream of earlier plans – and the town was officially spared from drowning. The store is about so much more than just books, or coffee, of course, and has been a community meeting place, a salon and a stop on every Democratic political campaign and a few Republican ones. Congressman Scott McGinnis accepted Peters’ invitation to swing by and talk with the locals about wilderness, but he didn’t much like what he heard and never came back, while former Congressman John Salazar became a close friend; the governor’s office called recently, asking to come by for a meet-and-greet. “It’s a journey selling anything,” said Peters. “I haven’t put it on the market yet. And I won’t be going anywhere. You have to kind of stay and help a new business owner. I have a feeling I’ll be consulting for a while. This is my gig. I don’t have to sell to anyone I don’t like.” Ouray’s historic Beaumont Hotel celebrated its 125th birthday this year, and owners Chad and Jennifer Leaver, who bought the hotel in 2010, threw a June 2 birthday bash to which everyone was invited, complete with a historic fashion show presented by the Durango Victorian Aid Society, live music in the courtyard throughout the afternoon, free hotel tours, and massages in the spa. The Gothic brick-clad behemoth with its tower gables and mansard roof was possibly the world’s first hotel to be wired with alternate current electricity. Its ambitious developers, who together formed the Ouray Real Estate and Building Association, had simultaneously founded Ouray Electric Light and Power Company (still in operation today as the Ouray Hydroelectric Plant) to transform their hotel into an electric beacon luring investors and high-society folk to town. In celebration of its grand opening, the Beaumont hosted a ball on the evening of July 25, 1887. “The new hotel was ablaze with light last Friday evening,” reported The Solid Muldoon, the Ouray newspaper of the day, “and the corridors and rotunda and parlors filled with handsomely dressed women and gallant beaux. The house was beautifully decorated for the occasion and the famous Telluride orchestra and band discoursed the latest and best promenade and dance music.” … Such parties were the stuff of the local society pages for years to come. Over the years, the Beaumont has also exhibited surprising resilience to time’s cruel fortunes. Not long after it opened, a young woman who worked in the dining room, Eller Day, was murdered by her boyfriend in the servants’ quarters of the hotel, inspiring an outraged mob to burn the jailhouse where the perpetrator awaited sentencing. Then came the Silver Crash of 1893 that ruined several of the Beaumont’s original investors. Somehow the hotel survived all of this, plus the Great Depression and the continuing ups and downs of the 20th century. Historian Doris Gregory writes in her comprehensive book, Ouray’s Beaumont Hotel, A Century of Ouray’s History, that the hotel was nothing short of the social centerpiece of the community. “Newly married couples used the Beaumont for receptions and dancing ... and they returned years later for their anniversary celebrations. Businessmen made use of the hotel and many deals were conceived and settled over lunch or in the privacy of a hotel room. Politicians of all parties held secret strategy meetings in smoke-filled upstairs rooms and public dinners in larger areas. The Beaumont’s darkest days did not come until the 1960s. Chicago businesswoman Wayland Phillips, who purchased the building a few years after it had already shut down, approached the City of Ouray, asking to close off a portion of Fifth Avenue to provide parking for the hotel. The city said no. A bitter feud ensued. Phillips shuttered the Beaumont. The town of Ouray, meanwhile, grew up around the embattled building, as if fulfilling the outsized ambitions of the leading Ouray citizens who had come together to build the grand hotel all those years ago. Phillips died in 1997, and the Beaumont’s fortunes turned once more, when it was announced the hotel would be sold in a sealed-bid auction by the Denver outfit Sheldon Good & Co., to pay off Phillips’ estate taxes. Prior to the auction, the company opened the hotel to the public a number of times. Bright voices rattled off the walls, as the long-shuttered hotel once again hosted crowds of people who flocked to Ouray to catch a glimpse of the ruin. Wallpaper and plaster hung in shrouds from the walls and ceiling. In some places on the third floor, one could look right through the ceiling to the open sky – or, for a more dizzying effect, through the cracks in the floorboards to the rooms below.

The smells of dust and mildew mingled, pervading everything. The air was frigid. There was no electricity. No heating. No plumbing. An opaque layer of grime caked those windows that were not boarded up.

Yet here and there were hints at what once was. A glass case contained old guest registers and original room keys. An enormous old cookstove sat in the ruins of what was once the kitchen. A couch lurked in a dark hallway on the third floor, upholstered in dusty velvet.

Through the cobwebs, the Beaumont’s elegance still shone – its gorgeous woodwork, its charming design.

One longtime Ouray resident, Bernice Swift, who had last been in the building in 1940, recalled the place when it was still in its prime. “There were Mariposa lilies on each table,” she said, “picked fresh that morning from the top of Dallas Divide.”

Helen Moon, who had worked as a maid at the Beaumont in 1944, stood in the orchestra gallery, looking down at the ruined ballroom, its ceiling caved in, trying to hold back tears.

“At Christmas, there was a tree in here that went all the way to the ceiling, with just enough room for an angel on top,” she recalled. “And there was a chandelier – I’ve never seen anything like it. The hugest thing I’d ever saw.”

Those who knew and loved the Beaumont wondered who would have a vision grand enough – and pockets deep enough – to restore Ouray’s “Titanic in dry dock” to her former glory.

The answer came in the persons of Dan and Mary King.

It cost $87,000 to build the Beaumont in 1886. As it stood poised for the auction block in 1998, 112 years later, the hotel was assessed at $700,000. The Kings bought it for $850,000 and poured millions more into the old structure to fully restore it.

A team of local workers used blowtorches and nylon brushes to remove pink paint from the hotel’s brick exterior over a period of five painstaking months. The building was structurally stabilized with 12 tons of steel. What couldn’t be saved, inside and out, was meticulously replicated with no expense spared. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Beaumont Hotel was the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation in 2003. The Kings were also presented with a 2004 Preserve America Presidential Award. The Leavers, a young couple who fell in love with the Beaumont while staying there briefly as guests in the summer of 2010, caught the Kings’ dream, and over the past two years as its new owners have ushered the beloved old hotel into a new era. The Leavers now market the hotel as a venue for destination weddings and other events, and shifting away from an unprofitable business model that once featured a four-star restaurant, The Tundra, that the town simply could not sustain. Today, The Tundra has returned to its roots. Rechristened “The Grand Ballroom,” the space is now used as a venue for wedding receptions, as well as occasional special events that are open to the public, including an annual Halloween Ball.

Deep pockets, grand vision, a little madness and a lot of love. The Kings needed all these things to resurrect the Beaumont from the depths of ruin a decade and a half ago. And the Leavers will need all that, and more, to steer the Beaumont smoothly with her sails unfurled, into the choppy waters of the 21st century. Looking around the lovely lobby, with the exact same check-in desk that served customers in 1887, its oaken stairway sweeping up to the second floor, its elegant clock quietly keeping time as it has done through 125 years of opulence and ruin, Jennifer said, “Ouray is so lucky someone had the vision to bring this hotel back to its original splendor. We don’t know if anyone else cares, but we think it’s huge that the Beaumont is turning 125, and we are going to make the celebration as grand as we can to honor it.” … 

After being nominated by Telluride Town Councilmember Ann Brady, Town Manager Greg Clifton was named 2012 Manager of the Year by the Colorado City and County Management Association. The announcement came at Tuesday’s meeting of the Telluride Town Council. 

“The Colorado City and County Management Association is responsible for all 46 counties and all 274 municipalities in Colorado and they were looking for [nominations] in all of those,” Mayor Stu Fraser said. “This is very special.” Before taking his post in Telluride, Clifton served as town manager in Ridgway. According to the submitted nomination form, in his time in Telluride, Clifton has completed a number of tasks that range from realigning the entire town budget to present a clear relationship between the source of funds and expenditures to supporting town staff by securing a 2 percent Cost Of Living Adjustment, presenting a defense of the town’s Procurement Code when it was challenged, working to find a successful solution to accessing the Hillside property by engaging neighbors in detailed discussions, and much more. “In my 13 years of public service, I have had the opportunity now to work with a fair amount of county administrators and town managers,” Town Attorney Kevin Geiger stated in the nomination. “ I can state, without equivocation, that Greg Clifton has been the most professional and competent administrator I have worked with so far in my career.  Greg brings an unwavering ability and willingness to tackle important Town issues with an initiative that sometimes can be lacking among public servants.  I have witnessed on several occasions how Greg has taken issues that had previously stymied other town managers, and he has employed novel and rather creative ways to solve these issues that many thought were either not capable of resolution or should be left unresolved until a later time.”

“We are indeed fortunate to have Greg here,” Fraser stated. “In less than two years, he has left his positive imprint upon Telluride through his daily actions and even-handed management style.” Telluride Outside has acquired the snowmobiling portion of Dave's Mountain Tours, a guide service that has operated near Telluride since 1995, and will offer daily tours in the spectacular Beaver Park area, accessed from a snowmobile base on Fall Creek road, just 30 minutes from Telluride, in November. 

John Duncan, co-owner of Telluride Outside, says, “This is a tremendous opportunity to offer a premier winter guide service on parallel with our most popular summer activities, like rafting, 4WD tours and fly fishing.  Snowmobiling is a major winter vacation amenity.  We’re going to take these tours to the next level with better machines, improved transportation and most importantly, the best guides in the business.” Prior to 2001, Telluride Outside operated snowmobile tours in the Alta Lakes area under original owner Bill White and interim owner Todd Herrick.  Since 2001, Duncan and his partners have sought snowmobile permits to balance Telluride Outside’s summer-oriented guide services: fly fishing, rafting, 4-WD tours, mountain bike tours and photography tours. Complete tour information is available at  

Term-limited Ouray County Commissioner Heidi Albritton announced in July that she would resign her District 3 seat effective August 14, four-and-a-half months short of her full term. In a political twist, Albritton revealed that she changed party affiliation shortly after the July 4 holiday, “my Independence Day gift to myself,” she said. Elected twice as a Republican, Albritton re-registered as Unaffiliated, thus depriving the Ouray County Republican central committee of the ability to name her replacement. That job now falls to the governor’s office. The new appointee, who will serve only until the end of the year, must now be an unaffiliated voter from District 3. Albritton wrote in her resignation letter that she had “become increasingly frustrated with the party’s hostile rhetoric and inflammatory partisanship. I do not identify with it, and it does not represent the type of public servant I have sought to be.” Albritton said the timing of her resignation was nevertheless not political but rather personal. Knowing her time in office was coming to a close, the Ouray native and graduate of Ouray High School sought “to start over” with a new career in Seattle, where her husband, Steve, has been working, and where she landed a position as legislative liaison with the City of Seattle. Gov. John Hickenlooper selected former Ridgway Mayor Pat Willits to fill out Albritton’s term; Willits lost the seat, in November, to Republican Don Batchelder. … Telluride Ski and Golf Co. owner Chuck Horning announced in August that Dave Riley, CEO of the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., had been reassigned as CEO of Newport Federal Financial, Telski’s parent company in Newport Beach, Calif. The announcement came on the heels of a report from Outside magazine that Riley was out, following weeks of rumors that Riley had been fired. Despite criticism from some quarters for his strongly assertive management style, Riley’s accomplishments helped raise the profile of the Telluride Ski Area to that of an elite skiing and snowboarding destination in North America. A year after coming onboard, Riley moved aggressively to open new terrain, announcing the opening of Black Iron Bowl, expanding access to Palmyra Peak, the Gold Hill Chutes and the opening of Revelation Bowl, serviced by the new Revelation Lift. In October, Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort named Riley, a 26-year ski industry veteran, as its senior vice president and chief operating officer. “Dave Riley brings a commitment to excellence and a wealth of unmatched experience to Sunshine Village and the Canadian Rockies,” said Ralph D. Scurfield, president and principal owner of Sunshine Village, which last year received more than 34 feet of snow. Former president of Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort in Oregon, where he worked for 14 years, Riley has also been vice president, operations and finance for Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico and treasurer, controller and director of information systems for Jackson Hole Ski Corporation, in Wyoming. He started his career in the ski industry at Keystone Resort in Colorado. Resorts under his direction have received numerous industry awards for safety, environmental stewardship and guest services.Region 10 League for Economic Assistance and Planning Executive Director Paul Gray, who came to Montrose almost a decade ago to retire and follow his artistic passions, announced in September that he would retire. Gray went back to work in 2006 to save the Region 10 organization from a potential collapse; with the organization back on its feet and in the black, Gray, who will once again pick up his paintbrush, retired effective Dec. 21. Region 10, which serves the six counties of San Miguel, Montrose, Ouray, Gunnison, Delta and Hinsdale, is a nonprofit that was established in 1972 to offer public programs. In 2007, Region 10 under Gray was able to get a loan from Citizens State Bank of Ouray to upgrade the facility — a $500,000 project. The end result was an enterprise center with 37 offices to house nonprofits and small business start-ups. Besides providing business space in its enterprise center at 300 North Cascade Avenue in Montrose, the organization runs several public programs, including the Area Agency on Aging and the Business Loan Fund.

Those programs have seen greater success under Gray’s leadership. The Area Agency on Aging is a networking center for the area's seniors, helping them live independently as long as they can. Within the past year, the program provided more than $1 million in senior service assistance to such organizations as All Points Transit and the senior meal program. During its 2012 fiscal year, Region 10 distributed more than $205,000 to meal site programs and more than $118,000 to home delivery meal programs. It gave more than $180,000 to transportation for seniors, as well as thousands of dollars to caregiver support, legal aid and dental prevention, according to the organization. In fiscal year 2012, Region 10 recorded more than $108 million in capital investments made by area businesses, and it was able to help those businesses get more than $2.7 million in tax credits. As a result of those investments, 264 new jobs were created, he said.

Region 10's Enterprise Zone Contribution Project also helps people get tax credits when they donate to one of its state-certified nonprofits. In fiscal year 2012, more than $2.1 million in donations were made to entities such as the Telluride-Montrose Regional Air Organization, the Wright Opera House Foundation, Ridgway Concert Series, and Public Art in Ridgway, and those donors got 25 percent of their donations back, totally more than $535,000 in the form of tax credits, Gray said. … After four years of working into Ridgway’s caffeine-and-music culture, owner Jeanne Robertson announced Cups, the popular coffee bar/music venue in Ridgway would close its doors at the end of September. She is proud to have launched Ridgway’s own Shed Nuisance, and voiced fond memories of gigs by Funkdafari, Mike Gwinn and the Northfork Flyers, David Baker, Original Recipe, Rob Jones and the Good Time Music Company, and Gotta Be Girls.

Cups, the popular coffee bar/music venue in Ridgway, closed its doors Sept. 28, but not before Funkdafari played one last gig, on Sept. 14, Tony Rosario on Sept. 21 and with Bone Wagon closing the doors. … Telluride Brewing Company’s Face Down Brown, which had already made waves in the beer world thanks to its gold medal conquest at the World Beer Cup in May, reached celebrity status in October, taking top honors in the American style brown ale category, at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. To say local founders Chris Fish, Tommy Thatcher and Brian Gavin are “riding high” on their second gold medal in less than a year is an understatement, and the buzz drifting out of the company’s Lawson Hill headquarters was downright electric. “There are really only two competitions that really matter to most brewers, or that really matter to me – and that’s the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival,” said TBC’s head brewer Fish. 

Face Down Brown, a well-balanced American-style brown “hybrid” blending American and English malt and hops, was deemed the best by a world-renowned panel of judges at the World Beer Cup in May in San Diego, so TBC knew it had a shot at making the podium at the GABF. “According to some of the judges, it’s pretty rare for a beer to win a gold medal at both events in the same year,” Fish said. “The buzz on this beer couldn’t be any higher.” 

Not resting on their laurels, TBC stepped up its 

canning operation with the addition of a fully automated canner and is “heavily leaning towards” putting the Brown next in line for canning and distribution,” Fish said. “All of this recognition brings us to a whole new level. Now, all we can do is just throw everything we have at it and see where it takes us.” … Montrose City Attorney Russ Duree announced he would retire in November, after nearly 10 years of service to the city. "I've enjoyed my time here,” said Duree, “and I have enjoyed working with the employees here at the city. They are a fantastic group of individuals, and I wish them the best,” Duree said following the meeting. I just feel it is time for me to look at retiring, and maybe going fishing." A nationwide recruitment process for his replacement is now underway. 

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