SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Owning a Snowmass Village business is not an easy thing. The town is carved into the side of a mountain at 8,209 feet. Winters are cold. Summers are too short. And then there's little bumps in the economy like 9/11 and the Great Recession in the past three years.
But business owners in Snowmass do survive, and they do it through perseverance, hard work and being a little creative. Reed Lewis who owns and operates three businesses locally - Daly Bottle Shop, Grain and 81615 - is one such businessman.
One of the oldest stores in Snowmass Village is the liquor store on the Snowmass Mall that was originally opened during the resort's first winter in 1967. It was bought by the Kelly family in 1972 and then sold to Lewis in 2001. Lewis has owned and operated Daly Bottle Shop ever since.
"When I first started it was mainly a one-man operation," he said. "The first three years, I was in here from noon to 10 p.m. every day, six days a week. I was pretty exhausted."
Like many Snowmass business owners, Lewis came to Snowmass to ski after college (studying geology at Colgate University). He arrived in 1996 and "worked every service job imaginable the first few years."
"I just did whatever it took to stay here," said Lewis. "At one point I had keys to two hotels, the liquor store, the bakery and (Snowmass Resort Association)."
Lewis had been figuring out how he was going to stay in Snowmass, and purchasing a business seemed like a good way to do that. When the owners of the liquor store decided to sell in 2001, Lewis stepped in, and he is forever grateful to the Kellys for financing the purchase.
Over the years Lewis has expanded and moved Daly Bottle Shop, relocating from the backside of the Snowmass Mall above the transit center stop to its present location at the Carriage Way entrance on
the first floor.
He places "listening to what the people want" high on his list of how he has stayed in business through the rough spots over the years. He has expanded his range of beers and currently carries between 160 and 170 different beers. He has expanded his selection of traditional hard liquor. And he has worked hard to discover and support smaller and family-run wineries. Lewis also gives a rare compliment to his local competition.
"I popped into Sundance Liquor (at the Snowmass Center) the other day, and I was throughly impressed with Barb's wine selection," said Lewis. "While we might have 25 or 30 wines that overlap, most of the other 400 or so wines we carry are different. I think that's pretty nice for the Snowmass consumer to be able to get such a variety."
This summer Lewis will have wine tastings every Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Daly Bottle Shop.
"We're always trying new wines, new beers," said Lewis. "This summer the Aspen Brewing Company beers have been doing great."
When Lewis moved up to the current first-floor location six years ago, he opened Grain to offer gourmet products in addition to his liquor, wine and beer. Because of Colorado liquor laws (you can't sell food in
a liquor store and can't sell liquor in a food store), Grain and Daly Bottle Shop are separate businesses, even though they are both housed under the same roof. In the winter of 2010 Lewis took over 81615 on the Mall selling T-shirts, sundries and snacks. It's the only place on the Snowmass Mall that sells magazines.
He likes to travel when he's not working in Snowmass.
"I enjoy checking out different places and visiting friends," he said. "I joke that I kind of work wherever I go. I'm always looking for new wines, new foods, new ideas for the T-shirt job. It's neat to get out there, and it's always neat to come back home."
No longer his only employee, Lewis says running three businesses in Snowmass Village wouldn't be possible without "the great employees" he has. His staff expands from three to 10 part-time workers depending upon the season.
Lewis is happy that people are finally supporting local products when they travel. At Grain, you can purchase a made-to-order gift basket of gourmet quality products from mainly family-run businesses along with liquor, wine or beer.
Lewis likes to follow live music across the country meeting friends at different concert venues. Here in Snowmass, he volunteers for the Forest Service walking the trails of the White River National Forest.
He has served as a member of the Snowmass Village Town Council and on the town Marketing, Special Events and Group Sales board.
"I came out here for the skiing, but stayed for the people," said Lewis. "You really can't get a better community. And there's a lot of great people here in Snowmass."
Steve Alldredge is the former assistant editor/writer for the Snowmass Sun. He now runs a local communications company whose clients include Related Colorado. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.