SNOWMASS VILLAGE -When he was born, he was named Douglas Gary Mercatoris. But only his mother still calls him Doug. For everyone else, especially everyone here in Snowmass Village, he is known by one name - Merc.Merc came to Snowmass for a visit in 1972, newly graduated from the University of Miami where he had studied political science. After college, he was a congressional aide to Massachusetts Congressman Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest who was the first congressman to introduce Articles of Impeachment against President Richard Nixon.In 1977, Merc moved to Snowmass.Why Snowmass?"It was the people," said Merc on a recent rainy afternoon in the quiet of the Mountain Dragon dining room. "And it's the same thing that has kept me here all these years."Merc's first job in Snowmass was tending bar at Hussong's Cantina on the Snowmass Mall (above the current D&E) in the spring of 1977. After that, he worked as a banquet manager and food and beverage manager at the Stonebridge and then at the Wildwood Lodge.In 1985, Merc purchased the Refractory Steakhouse, one of the original restaurants and bars on the Snowmass Mall. He operated the Refractory for one season, then closed it and built the Mountain Dragon in the same location. Merc has been operating the Mountain Dragon on the second floor of the Snowmass Mall for 27 years. In the late '80s he added The Grill on the Deck next door to expand into lunch service.Mountain Dragon serves Pan- Asian cuisine from 5 to 10 p.m. in the dining room six nights a week in the summer (closed on Sundays), but food is available at the bar seven days a week from 4 p.m. until midnight.Mountain Dragon is a popular gathering place for locals after special events like elections. During the winter it is a prime gathering place for aprs-ski. During the summer, they have live bands or a DJ every Thursday night after the Fanny Hill concerts.You will find a wide range of Pan- Asian food at the Mountain Dragon. Sushi. Chinese favorites. Even a Korean dish. Merc's favorites are Spider Rolls, the Dragon Shrimp and Mountain Dragon's signature dish, Peking Duck, which takes hours to prepare. Crab Rangoon, Korean BBQ Lettuce Wraps and Seared Blackened Tuna are popular appetizers.At The Grill on the Deck, you will find an American grill menu with salads and sandwiches. It is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, serving food from 11 to 3 p.m. They serve a wide range of fish sandwiches, burgers, and vegetarian sandwiches. Merc's favorites are the Blackened Pacific Snapper Sandwich and the Mahi Mahi Sandwich along with Smoked Chicken Salad and the Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich with sweet and spicy chili sauce.In the early '90s, Merc was part of a small group of locals that created the Thursday night concert series. With funding from Snowmass resident Bill Getz, Merc, his bar manager Terry Long, as well as Stacy Stokes, Stan Kornasiewicz, Jeff Sivess and Jeff Tippett built the stage each summer, booked the talent (or hired a company to find it) and put on the concerts to have fun and bring people to the Snowmass Mall. They have become one of Snowmass' most popular events.Merc was serving on the Snowmass Village Town Council when the concerts began. From 1988 to 2008, Merc served on Town Council and was Snowmass Village's mayor from 2004 to 2008. "Employee housing and open space were important to me," Merc explained. "I had lived here for a decade and I wanted to give something back to the community. I enjoyed it. And I am very happy with our accomplishments."During Merc's tenure on the Snowmass Village Town Council, most of the recent major public improvements in Snowmass Village were constructed including town hall, the Snowmass rec center, and the Town Park transit station.Merc loves to travel during the off-season months. He has visited six of the world's seven continents and more than 50 countries particularly enjoying wildlife, architecture, people and different cultures. One of his most memorable trips was gorilla trekking in Rwanda where a young a male reached around his travel companion and whacked Merc in the back of the knee in play."He was just trying to show me he was a guy, too," said Merc about the adventure.After each trip he is glad to return to Snowmass and continues to want to stay here even with all of its challenges and struggles.And the main reason why, according to Merc: "It's the people."Mountain Dragon is located on the second floor of the Snowmass Mall across from the Snowmass Conference Center. (970) 923-3576. Open 4 p.m. until midnight daily. Dinner in the dining room is available from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Take out or delivery is available from 5 to 10 p.m. The Grill on the Deck is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.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.
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