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Focus On Business

A long look at longtime businesses...

Publisher Richard G. Ballantine

General Manager Ken Amundson

INSIDE

off the old block: Eagle 6 Chips Block Company celebrates 61 years in Durango a claim: Ore House 8 Steaking Restaurant yields treasured lifestyle for 40 years on truckin’: Vandegrift 10 Keep Diesel in Durango earns trust over 30 years seeped in chile: Julie’s 12 Love El Amigo in Ignacio is now a landmark after 47 years a legacy: Economy 14 Steering Nissan celebrates 30-year

Vice President of Newspaper Advertising

anniversary in Durango

Paul C. Hay

on the menu: 16 Memories Through recession and tragedy,

Director of Sales and Marketing

Francisco’s is still a landmark of the community: 18 Mirror The Durango Herald remains

Mark Drudge

family-owned for 60 years and bust: Businesses 20 Boom adapted to “Magic City of

Design Manager Brady Sutherlin

the San Juans” in 1880s

Magazine Editor/Designer

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Karla Sluis

Photographer

Overview: Joe Keck, 22 Economic Roger Zalneraitis, and Laura Lewis Marchino offer insight learn to earn: Mountain 30 Teens Middle School writers look at summer jobs for young people

Lindsay Abshagen

with a smile: Tips on 34 Service treating customers well will

Advertising Sales Teressa Fenn, Darryl Hunt, Chuck Jillson, Karolann Latimer, Rob Lillard, Shawna Long, Ralph Maccarone, Michael Billy, Amanda Puett

Advertising Assistant

give businesses staying power

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Down through the years: Happy Anniversary to longtime businesses in La Plata County

‘one-of-a-kind’ in mind: 38 Keep Local First describes benefits of investing in local economy

Cora Younie La Plata County workers make barrels at the turn of the century. / Animas Museum photo

Advertising Design Mitchell Carter, Jennifer Dickens, Janelle Farnam, Michelle Uhl, Tracy Willbanks, Hanah Noland

The Durango Herald uses reasonable effort to include accurate and up-to-date information for its special magazine publications. However, all general information comes from a variety of sources and may change at any time for any reason. To verify specific information, refer to the organization or business noted. To see the online version of this guide, click the link at: www.durangoherald.com. A publication of

ON THE COVER

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Eagle Block Company family members show off the “Eagle Block Muscle” along their wrists from lifting and carrying blocks. Piccoli family members, from left: Jerry, Steve, Wilma, Megan and Don. Photo by Lindsay Abshagen

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The test of time

What does it take for family-run, county businesses to survive and thrive through the decades?

Stories by Karla Sluis Photos by Lindsay Abshagen

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hat makes a succesful business tick? Luck, love and hard work. These are the essential parts that wind up in every conversation about business longevity. Luck is good timing and foresight. Love is the force that keeps founders together for better or worse. Hard work is perseverance or, as Vicki Vandegrift of Vandegrift Diesel said, “It’s not knowing when to throw in the towel.” As we explored the topic of longevity in this magazine, we spoke to owners of many longtime, family-run businesses in La Plata County. Everyone interviewed echoed these words, almost verbatim: “This is a tough place to make a living.” And yet, they chose to stay. In one interview, Ryan Lowe, executive chef and general manager at the 40-year-old Ore House Restaurant, turned to owner Bill “Beatle” Abshagen and said, “This place is very much a part of you.” Investing luck, love and hard work into a business makes it an extension of self and family unity. When people put so much time and personal energy into a product or service – no matter whether it’s cars, chile, or newspapers – the business begins to absorb the entire community as a family. Customers feel this when they walk in the door, in the way they are treated, and in the happiness of the staff. The longer this feeling of family is sustained over the years, the deeper ingrained the commitment from both owners and customers. After a decade or two, a “landmark” is born. But it’s not all milk and honey. Like any family, longtime businesses have ups and downs – and internal arguments. Wilma Piccoli, matriarch of seven children in the Eagle Block Company clan, solves problems the old-fashioned way. “We’re Italian. We holler at each other until we figure it out.” – Karla Sluis X

Focus on Business

Historic photos courtesy of Animas Museum, Center for Southwest Studies, and Durango Herald files


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test of time Don Piccoli, general manager of Eagle Block Company in Durango, reminisces about growing up at a home near the family business on top of Farmington Hill on June 11. LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald

Chips off the old block

Eagle Block Company celebrates 61 years in Durango

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Koshak Mesa – from relatives. iccoli family members Gino’s training was as a machinist, proudly show off the and he got into the block business “Eagle Block Muscle.” by accident. He intended to use the The tight curve at the site for woodworking. Gino and wrist – built up from years of James built cabinets, and found gripping and carrying stone a mold that would make concrete blocks – is a symbol of their blocks. People kept buying the business ethic. Hard physical blocks, so they eventually shifted labor and family unity have their focus. They founded Eagle sustained Eagle Block ComBlock in 1951. pany for 61 years in Durango. “Our longevity is a result of “There are seven of us. Dad making some great decisions Kids are cheap labor,” said in the ’40s and ’50s,” said Gino’s Rita Piccoli Anderson, proPhoto courtesy of Piccoli family son, Don Piccoli, Eagle Block’s voking laughter from family From left, Annie Bellutino helps Eagle Rock founder James Piccoli in the general manager. “We were never members gathered around an shop as his wife Henrietta Piccoli stands by in this photo circa 1951. heirloom table on June 11. underneath a note. There’s no way Her brother Don chimes in: we could have bought the land our“Yeah, I looked forward to going to school so I could rest.” selves today, because of the cost and land-use codes.” The business began as the American Dream of an immigrant Today, Eagle Block Company is a manufacturer of building block family. James and Henrietta Piccoli came to the U.S. from Italy in materials of various sizes as well as a retail location for rock, cement, 1920. In 1943, Gino bought the land on top of Farmington Hill – the lime, sand, landscape pavers and elements, fireplace components, brick,

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cultured stone, and glass block. There are four other seasonal employees besides family members. All block and some landscape pavers are made on-site. “That’s the biggest surprise for most people: that we bring in raw material and make the block here,” said Don. “We don’t import things from other places.” He said aggregate materials are put in a machine to make the block. “Because we make our own, the box stores aren’t necessarily cheaper than us.” Don and his brother Jerry Piccoli, Eagle Block’s president, offered a tour of the cool, dusty shop on June 11. Jerry built some of the machines himself and keeps them running. “He has Dad’s machinist ability to problem-solve on the fly,” said Don. He says his dad was a product of the Depression. Gino saved every scrap of metal, and could remember its exact location when it was needed. “When we tore down the old shop, he made us save the nails and straighten them for re-use,” said Don. A hard worker to the end, Gino died in 1997 while working in the shop. Don said it’s a rarity in the industry for a block company to still be mom-and-pop. Most are owned by conglomerates. They found a niche in the market because it can be hard for people to get certain materials here. The company eventually expanded to include stone and other landscape products. Don said they needed to adapt because buildinguse codes changed the way stem walls were made, from block to solid poured concrete. Gino and his wife Wilma had seven children. Four of them – Don, Jerry, Rita and Steve – manage the day-to-day operations of Eagle Block. They say the key to family harmony is having a division of duties. Jerry and Steve handle production, Rita does accounting and office work, and Don handles sales – Don Piccoli and customer service. And when they don’t agree? “We’re Italian. We holler at each other until we figure it out,” said Wilma, the matriarch. Her children laugh. There are 11 grandchildren between the seven siblings, ages 6 to 34. Many of them have worked at Eagle Block over the years. Jerry’s daughter, Megan Piccoli, is working this summer. “Everyone has a story about lazy, plugged-in teenagers – that’s not us,” said Don. “We were expected to pay for things we wanted ourselves. We grew up understanding what it meant to work, and we weren’t afraid of it.” Today, the tight-knit Piccolis camp together on the weekends, and the grandchildren have grown up working and playing together. Wilma says it has been a wonderful place to raise a family. Jerry says the siblings have benefitted because they have been in business so long, things are paid off. But the ultimate secret to longevity isn’t about finances. According to Don, it’s a numbers game. “Have a lot of kids,” he said, laughing. X

“We grew up understanding what it meant to work, and we weren’t afraid of it.”

LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald photos

ABOVE: Wilma Piccoli, center, stands with her children: Don, left, Jerry, second from right, and Rita, far right, at Eagle Block on June 11. “It has been good for Mom to have her children all around her on a daily basis,” said Don. TOP PHOTO: Jerry stacks bricks on a warm summer day.

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test of time

Steaking a claim

LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald

Ore House Restaurant yields treasured lifestyle for 40 years Former Ore House employees gather for a reunion.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Lowe

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re House Restaurant owners Bill “Beatle” Abshagen and his late partner Jim Arias choose the best. They picked the best town, and they selected the best food. Their professional and personal decisions have been guided by one word – quality. “People don’t come here to make money,” said Abshagen. “Our personal mission has been to make enough to live in this beautiful place and develop long-term relationships. We were fortunate to come here. It’s been a great place to raise our families. You can work at night, ski, hunt and fish all day.” Established in 1972, Ore House is celebrating 40 years in its original location in downtown Durango. The restaurant features top-quality steak, seafood and spirits in an Old West atmosphere at 147 East College Drive. The idea for the restaurant was modeled

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after the Ore House in Vail, owned by Abshagen’s good friend John Beaupre. Jim Arias and Beatle met in Vail in 1970. “I was more the business end, he was more the construction end,” said Abshagen. They didn’t always agree. “Partnerships are very difficult... But I’ll miss his loyalty, honesty and integrity. Jim was a dedicated family man and a funloving guy.” Abshagen said he fell in love with Colorado, and wanted to find quality of life with a restaurant of his own. The partners chose Durango for its natural beauty and outdoor pursuits, although 40 years ago Durango was “a different place: kind of dirty, run-down, not a lot of trees.” Abshagen said he could have chosen a town with a bigger population and made more money, because there was a need all over the country for a quality steakhouse. But slightly scruffy Durango called to him. He rightly predicted that the train and

proximity to Mesa Verde would help Durango grow over the years. Abshagen and Arias found the location, formerly a Chrysler dealership and later the restaurant El Sombrero. “It wasn’t a good part of town,” said Sharon Abshagen. Beatle and Arias “signed their lives away” for $125 a month in rent. There was a lot of construction at first during four months of remodeling, because the building was essentially a shell. They also had to collect signatures to get a liquor license approved. “Once we got past political wrangling, the response was instantaneous,” said Abshagen. “There weren’t too many restaurants here, as opposed to today.” In thinking about the secrets of longevity and the restaurant’s 40th anniversary, Abshagen is intrigued by the idea of not just surviving, but thriving. In the cool, dim restaurant on June 11, he and Sharon, plus Ore House


Executive Chef/General Manager Ryan Lowe sit down to ponder the underpinnings of success. Beatle pulls out a yellow notebook with pages of notes, with scribbles and highlights. Here are his five key points: 1. Have good timing and good luck. The Abshagens say buying the building before Durango became popular was key to their success, but they had to weather slow years in the early days. “You could roll a bowling ball down Main Avenue in January, it was so empty,” he recalls. Today, restaurant owners who lease in a highly competitive market are “at the mercy” of landlords who continually raise the rent. Meeting and marrying Sharon in Durango would also fall into the luck category. “She

has listened to my song and dance all these years; and did the bookkeeping. She is a big part of our success,” he said. 2. Create a good business model and find your niche. From the beginning, Ore House was intended to be “special-occasion” dining – birthdays, proposals, anniversaries, promotions. “Customers want good food, but they really want an experience,” said Abshagen. “Anyone can go to McDonald’s and fill their belly on the cheap. People want entertainment, and special food for special occasions.” The atmosphere, which Abshagen called “the essence and history of Southwest Colorado” adds to the experience. The walls of the restaurant are packed with Western memora-

LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald photos

ABOVE: Bill “Beatle” Abshagen says a major perk of his job is “free steak and whiskey.” BELOW: Bill’s wife Sharon Abshagen consults with Executive Chef/General Manager Ryan Lowe. bilia and elaborate murals. The food reflects the spirit of the West, too. Abshagen said that in the past restaurants used to include multiple cuisines; but today, you see restaurants specializing in one thing. For Ore House, the anchor of the menu has always been a quality steak. The menu today is still focused around this ideal, serving hand-cut, USDA-certified prime and choice steaks; while also offering sustainable wild-caught seafood; free range poultry; homemade ice cream, desserts and sorbets; seasonal, organic, local produce; an extensive wine cellar, and a full bar

3. Be consistent and focus on what you do best. Ore House customers tend to come back year after year to celebrate big occasions. Abshagen says people will go to places where they’ve had positive experiences. “It breeds loyalty within a customer base. There’s a sense of security when there are no surprises. People like consistency, familiarity and something that hasn’t changed.” The menu doesn’t change with the latest culinary whims. Customers can find traditional favorites every time they come. Chef Lowe says that during the peak of the recession, a lot of local restaurants decided to offer inexpensive menu items. “We decided to increase the quality of the food we serve, while focusing on utilizing regional ingredients.” Abshagen adds: “We’re not in the bargain business. We’re expensive, and we won’t compromise our brand by utilizing lower quality products.” 4. Adapt, and watch the bottom line. Controlling inventory and carefully handling finances is imperative, according to Abshagen. “Technology has been a godsend for restaurant operators. Ryan is on the computer constantly, checking the market prices of food.” Attention to detail pays off. He says Ore House business is up 20 percent this year. “I’m proud of that,” he said. “It tells us that we’re doing something right.” 5. Hire and maintain a great staff. “The staff always comes first,” said Lowe. “If they’re not happy, why would they want to make sure our customers are happy? The staff has a good quality of life here. They are paid well, but they work their butts off for it.” Lowe said there’s a “laundry list” of former employees – many of whom come in to eat with their children and grandchildren – who went on to start their own successful businesses in Durango. In addition to treating staff well, the Ore House vision extends to treating the community well. Lowe said the restaurant participates in “every way, shape and form possible: Everything from donating thousands of dollars in gift certificates every year, to sponsoring many communitybased events, to being dedicated chamber members.” The future of the Ore House is with those who are learning new culinary skills, and keeping up with the technology, according to Abshagen. The new generation will take it over, because he wants to spend more time fishing, hunting, and riding his bike. “But it will still have your guidance and vision,” Lowe says to Abshagen. “This place is very much a part of you.” X Focus on Business

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Keep on truckin’

Vandegrift Diesel in Durango earns trust over 30 years

LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald photos

Vicki Vandegrift, shown with her husband and partner Todd, says the key to business longevity is perseverance – aka “not knowing when to throw in the towel.”

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o one wants to be here,” said Todd Vandegrift, owner of Vandegrift Diesel. “Their vehicle is broken down, and they are stressed.” The repair industry has a “bad rap” that adds to that anxiety, said Todd’s wife and partner Vicki. “You never know if mechanics are telling you the truth. There are shops that take advantage of people.” The Vandegrifts say their customers may come in a bit frazzled, but they leave with a feeling of trust. Honesty is what has sustained the business for 30 years in Durango. The family-owned, 8,000-square-foot shop, located at 225 Turner Drive in Bodo Park in Durango, offers professional repair and maintenance services on all foreign and domestic trucks. The facility has several bays for different types of vehicle work, including public-transportation vehicles, the phone company’s fleet, construction trucks and automobiles. The business is a certified Napa Truck Service Center and a dealer for National Interlock Services. They also offer welding, and repair air-conditioning systems and Western and Meyer snowplows. Early in 1982, Todd Vandegrift and Pat Hanon formed Vandegrift & Hanon to provide vehicle maintenance and repairs for Mountain Bell. They soon expanded the business to work on other fleets, and took over management of the old Texaco service station at 17th and Main. As the clientele grew, the business moved to Bodo Park to a rented shop that now houses a restaurant. Hanon’s life headed in another direction, so the partnership was dissolved, and the business became known as Vandegrift Diesel. Real estate was purchased in the southwest corner of Bodo, and the business moved into the new shop in February 1995, where it continues to operate. Vandegrift said he has thought about closing a few times over the years, because Durango “is a tough town to make a living.” He has persevered because he “wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.” The main challenges over three decades have been finding good employees, maintaining overhead costs and riding out the economic slump, which hit the construction industry hard. “But I’m optimistic to see the economy come back around,” he said. On a busy Monday morning June 11, the shop was clanging, banging and whirring with activity, and technicians had their hands deep in the innards of various vehicles. Vandegrift said in the old days he often fixed phone-company fleet vehicles late at night to have them ready to go the next morning. Now that he has five technicians, he misses doing the hands-on work; although there are some


very specific A/C systems that only he knows how to repair. “I’d work in the shop more if I could. As an owner, you have to delegate, do the paperwork and greet customers.” But Vandegrift still finds plenty of work to do. As he walks into the shop office, his wife Vicki grabs his elbow and inspects it. “You’re already dirty,” she says. They exchange a look and laugh. The couple has been married 35 years. Todd said the key to working with a spouse is a clear delineation of duties: He is the principal of the day-to-day operations and she does the bookkeeping. “You’ve got to have patience and a good sense of humor to work with family. You have to understand each other,” said Todd. “I can be a jerk some days.” Vicki says one way to maintain harmony in a business/personal partnership is to pursue individual interests outside the workplace. For spouses who work in different businesses, Vicki says it’s important to be with and discuss the day with other family members; but the Vandegrifts tend to separate for a few hours in the evening. Todd maintains a huge garden with his dad, and Vicki spends many hours a week doing Jazzercise. “It’s hard not to bring home the stresses of the day,” said Vicki, “but we try to limit work discussions to the office.” They raised three sons, who spent most of their childhood in the shop. The oldest, Jeremy, remains in the industry as a fleet analyst for Jefferson County in Golden. Nathan received a mechanical engineering degree from CSU and is a product engineer for John Deere in Waterloo, Iowa. Alex, the youngest, will also graduate from CSU in mechanical engineering and is currently serving an internship with John Deere in Dubuque, Iowa. Todd is clearly proud of his sons, and said he is glad they learned a trade at a young age that led to mechanical careers. There’s a family joke around their sons’ career ambitions. “We always complained about engineers needing to get their hands on an engine to realize how hard it can be to fix it. Now that we have one in the family, we’re hoping to create a better breed of engineer.” Todd doesn’t plan to retire for another 10 years, but they hope to keep the business going through employees. Their sons aren’t interested, Vicki said, because they have good-paying jobs they enjoy. “Our retirement plan includes borrowing money from them later on,” said Todd, chuckling. Vicki pondered the secret to business longevity for a moment. “It’s perseverance and stubbornness – and not knowing when to throw in the towel. At this point, we’re pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to find a job as personally rewarding as this – even on bad days. “This business has thrived all these years due to the hard work of its owners, committed employees who are pretty much considered family, and great customers.” X

“You’ve got to have patience and a good sense of humor to work with family. You have to understand each other. I can be a jerk some days.” – Todd Vandegrift

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Love seeped in chile Julie’s El Amigo, a landmark family restaurant in Ignacio, celebrates 47 years in business

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TOP PHOTO: Julie Quintana, owner of Julie’s El Amigo, talks about the origins of the longtime restaurant on June 12. ABOVE: Quintana describes the menu as “home-style” Mexican and comfort food, like this lunchtime hamburger. RIGHT: A mural of St. Francis adorns the exterior entryway. 12

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ulie Quintana started in the restaurant business at the tender age of 13. She would finish her studies, clean the school from 3 to 5 p.m., and then work at a restaurant in Arboles until 10 p.m. “We lived out in the middle of nowhere, and we were very poor,” said Quintana. “I remember the minimum wage was $1 per hour. I was paid $6 per hour under the table.” Forty-plus years later, Quintana has served four generations of customers at Julie’s El Amigo in Ignacio. Although the work is demanding, she said she “wouldn’t trade it.” El Amigo was founded in Farmington in 1973. It was relocated to Ignacio in 1975, next to a gas station. It expanded to the current location at 355 Goddard Ave. and was run by Julie’s mother, Inez Quintana, from 1978 to 1990. “When we started here, El Dorado was the only other restaurant,” said Quintana. “Now there’s one on every corner.” Local residents, including many Hispanic families and tribal members, keep coming back for the “home-style” Mexican comfort food and New Mexico favorites like sopapillas, Navajo ta– Patty Wright, cos and Frito pie. There is a beloved “Faverino customer and Special” on the menu, named after a husband former employee and wife who always ordered the same dish. “We used to have 20 old farmers who loved to come in and drink coffee and bull****. A lot of them have died. But I’ve seen many children grow up here,” she said. Quintana, a welcoming, maternal woman, clearly values family unity. She worked with her mother for many years, and her four children and some of her grandchildren have worked at the restaurant. “All my children know how to cook,” said Quintana proudly.

“Four generations have come in to eat here.”


Julie’s sister and brother-in-law pitched in to renovate a hacienda-style house when the restaurant moved to its current location in 1986. A cousin did the decorating, which includes flowers, paintings and warm-toned walls. A bright mural of St. Francis graces the restaurant’s exterior entry way. Longtime employees are treated like family as well. On June 11, a waitress came in for the lunch shift with her hair newly dyed bright red. The teasing banter showed a closeness and affection between Quintana and her staff. Former employee Patty Wright helped herself to a drink, as if she were in a friend’s kitchen. “Four generations have come in to eat here” said Wright. “We come here because we love Julie and we like the food.” Quintana said she makes her own chile, and all the sauces are from scratch. Two cooks have worked for her since 1994. “My food is made daily, and not canned. It’s like cooking from home,” said Quintana. Her favorite food has been the same since she was little: beans and chile. The menu features burgers and sandwiches between $7-8. There are classic regional dishes, such as Navajo tacos, Frito pie, sopapillas and fried jalapeños. Mexican entrées include enchiladas, chile relleno, and tamales – all “smothered in special sauce” – in the $9-10 range. Quintana said there was a time she tried doing something else. In 1989, she moved and ran the Pinon Hills restaurant and motel by Navajo Lake for a short time. Eventually, she came back to El Amigo, where she plans to stay. “I’m going to keep cooking. I don’t plan to retire,” she said. “This is home.” X

Julie’s El Amigo, located at 355 Goddard Ave. in Ignacio, has been a favorite gathering place for locals for four decades.

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Economy Nissan owner Monte Roder, left, stands with his son David in this old family photo.

Steering a legacy

Economy Nissan celebrates 30-year anniversary in Durango

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“When we came here, there was a window,” onte Roder’s secret to success is not a secret. It’s not a new techsaid Roder. “There were not many import venique. In fact, it’s ancient. hicles for sale. A lot of people were interested It’s simply the Golden Rule: – it was new and exciting.” Treat other people they way you Three decades later, Roder said longevity is want to be treated. a result of adaptability, consistency and luck. “We try to put ourselves in our customEmbracing technology has been critical in er’s shoes,” said Roder, President of Econthe auto industry. A new Nissan sold for $5,995 omy Nissan in Durango, which offers new in 1985. Back then, Roder said business was and pre-owned vehicles and a service cenentirely different: no computers, no Internet. ter at 20704 Highway 160. Roder’s rule “We didn’t have calculators or digital watchapplies to his staff as well. “You’ve probes. Some people can’t even imagine that,” said ably heard horror stories about car dealRoder. “There was no fax machine: We had to ers who run their business like a dictator. dial the rotary phone and read the credit appliI don’t want to be that guy – the jerk boss. cation. You used to just show up and sell cars. Photo courtesy of Monte Roder If you are, you’ll wind up with people David, left, and Monte Roder hold an award from Now it’s endless stuff that gets thrown at you. who are always looking for another job, Nissan for 30 years of service on Feb. 12, 2012. The world has changed.” and customers who don’t come back.” A lot of business now takes place online, Economy Nissan is celebrating 30 years and Roder uses tools such as an iPad app of an in business this year. Roder started in the industry in 1973 working interactive showroom. Benny Gutierrez, a seven-year sales and leasing employee, enthufor a local Ford dealer. They bought Economy Datsun in Salida in siastically showed off the technical wonders of the new Nissan LEAF 1982, which moved to Durango in September of 1985.

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on June 18 at the showroom. The sleek, all-electric car, which starts at $35,200, is filled with the latest electronic gizmos, including a heated steering wheel and seats, navigation system and a rear-view camera for ease of parking. Roder recalls a trip to the World’s Fair in New York City when he was a kid. He said there was a Jetsons-like version of a car that was like the ones we have today – except for flying around. “The car world has turned into the future. The future is here,” he said. Roder has built a legacy to pass down to his son, Executive Manager David Roder. David worked his way up from the bottom: washing cars as a teenager, then moving into sales and eventually his current position. “This is a title that has to be earned from Nissan,” said Monte Roder. “With this designation, David has full authority to deal with Nissan in any capacity if I am not at the store. He runs the store in my absence.” “Working with family is a good thing, although it can pose challenges,” said Monte Roder. “I think my way is the right way, and I can be controlling.” Monte Roder’s daughter, Makena Avarell, works on a scanning program for Nissan at home while she cares for her two young children. Makena helps the business be environmentally friendly by saving documents in an offsite server, which eliminates paper use and storage. Makena’s husband, Cameron Avarell, started his first day on the job June 18. He had the look of a kid in a candy store. “I really like cars – I always have. And this is a place I’ve always wanted to work,” he said, noting that many long– time employees told him they “bounced around” to many dealerships before settling at Economy Nissan. Consistency is key. Happy employees translate into repeat business and happy customers, according to Roder. In a competitive industry where sales people are known for being overly assertive, Roder said friendly, longtime employees “give customers a certain level – Monte Roder of comfort.” Roder said the lucky part of his longevity is that Nissan is a good-quality brand. “They’re good on gas, they don’t break and they’re good-looking.” Specializing in one franchise as the smallest dealer in town is beneficial, because the staff knows the product very well – they can be experts. “Having just Nissans is easier for us. And it’s easier for our customers,” said Roder. As many longtime business owners agree, Roder said Durango can be a hard place to live because the costs are high and people’s incomes are not keeping up. Not every year has been great, but Roder continues to show up. “You gotta be here,” he said. “I know many dealers who don’t go to the shop. They allow the different levels of management to run it. But a dealer has to know how to sell cars. You use your experience to help you survive the tough times.” X

LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald photos

ABOVE: Shiny cars are lined up for sale for sale in mid-June at Economy Nissan. LEFT: Monte Roder’s son-in-law, Cameron Avarell, smiles during his first day on the job at Economy Nissan. BELOW: A 1985 ad announces the opening of the business in Durango.

“I don’t want to be that guy the jerk boss. If you are, you’ll wind up with people who are always looking for another job, and customers who don’t come back.”

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Memories on the menu

Francisco’s owner Claudine Garcia describes a scene in one of the murals at the restaurant. Artwork and antiques from the family’s travels adorn every wall, and one guidebook lists the restaurant as a gallery.

LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald

Through fires, recession and tragedy, Francisco’s is still a landmark

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Skip, Francis and Claudine gathhe Garcia family ered on June 18 to explain how made a promise to it all began. In 1968, the couple a place, and to each moved from Farmington to Duother. Commitment rango to seek an opportunity has sustained Franto buy a business. Francis said cicso’s Restaurante y Cantihe wanted to work for himself, na for 44 years in Durango. and he wanted to bring Claudine “Many partnerships fail,” back to her hometown. said General Manager Skip They intended to buy a gas Garcia, “but most famPhoto courtesy of Skip Garcia station, but found out it was not ily businesses succeed, because we are not partners A stained glass image behind the bar portrays “Poncho.” This little character was for sale. Instead, they ended up first sketched by a customer on the back of a bar napkin decades ago. purchasing Joe’s Place, a cock– we are family.” Founders Claudine and Francis Garcia have persevered through tail lounge at 619 Main Avenue. Money was so tight that Francis had various challenges over the years, including the Missionary Ridge to sell his favorite mare to come up with part of the downpayment, Fire, the 9/11 disaster, and the recession, as well as “way too many and Claudine used the change from the bottom of her purse to put restaurants to slice the pie,” said Skip. The business survived a per- into the register as the bar re-opened on Oct. 17, 1968. Skip credits sonal tragedy: Former executive chef and Skip’s brother Ted Garcia his parents’ “extremely embedded work ethic” as a big part of the was killed in July of 2010. restaurant’s success, especially in the early days. “Those were our toughest days,” said Skip. “We spent a lot of time “I would drive trucks during the day and be a bartender here at consumed in overwhelming grief, and the restaurant helped keep us night,” said Francis. “It was a good thing I was 26 years old – you together – it gave us a sense of purpose.” Francis says he still feels don’t get tired at that age.” close to his late son at Francisco’s. “On any given day, I feel like he Francisco’s soon became one of Durango’s favorite bars, and the Garcias decided to add free, live music and dancing. Tables were might walk down the hall.” The halls of the restaurant are filled with decades of memories. cleared away and locals could dance the night away to live country 16

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LEFT: The late Ted Garcia displays signature dishes.

Photos courtesy of Skip Garcia

BELOW: The Garcia family, from left: Ted Garcia, parents Claudine and Francis, and Skip.

music. While several well-known bands and traditional flamenco guitarists played at the restaurant, it was the house band, Roy New and the Country Squires, that were the hometown favorites. On any given night, Francisco’s was packed with locals wagering on a friendly game of pool or chatting with the pretty waitresses in their traditional ruffled dresses. “We had Mexicans, cowboys, hippies, college students. There was some fighting in the early days,” said Claudine. “But they finally learned how to get along. Pretty soon everybody was mingling.” Skip said many relationships have started at Francisco’s, and some of those same couples bring their children and grandchildren to the restaurant today. Claudine added that half of the old-timers in town worked at Francisco’s at one time or another. The nightclub scene could get rowdy. “I could tell you some stories about certain well-known people in town,” Skip said. “But it was like going to Vegas: What happens in Francisco’s, stays in Francisco’s.” The evolution from bar to restaurant happened accidentally. For New Year’s Eve one year, Claudine wanted to make the event special by bringing some food for bar patrons. She made a big pot of red chile and sopapillas. They set plywood over the pool tables to serve the food. It was an instant hit. “People kept asking for it,” said Francis. “We hired some help and had some long hours in the early days.” The first menu offered burritos, enchiladas, red and green chile and pizza. As the years went on, the menu kept getting bigger, and they needed more space. The Garcias purchased three additional buildings: Treasure Tunnel, a barber shop and Landis Shoe Repair. The center portion of the restaurant today is the original location

before the expansions. “We are successful in part because we own our building. If we didn’t, we couldn’t afford this now,” said Francis, who was named one of the “Top Businessmen of 1985” in the Herald’s Focus on Business section 27 years ago. In the late ’70s, Francis said they decided to focus on the restaurant and no longer have live entertainment. “It was starting to be hard to have tables of families next to young people who wanted to party,” he said. As the restaurant expanded, the Garcias collected eclectic artwork during their travels. The space is filled with cowboy memorabilia, Native American artwork, and colorful murals and sculptures from Mexico. “In one guidebook, it was listed as a Western gallery as well as a restaurant,” said Claudine. Skip said people come back to Francisco’s year after year because of the food and the feeling of being at home. The Garcias are proud of having one of the most diverse and regionally authentic menus in town. There are dozens of specials that change daily and seasonally in addition to the extensive regular menu. These items range from traditional Mexican favorites to Maryland soft-shell crabs to organically-grown herbs and produce to local farm-raised beef and poultry. The Garcias have been careful to keep the authentic chile recipes that launched the menu four decades ago. Claudine said they order a variety of chiles – caribe, molido, pequin – from a man in Hatch who still grows his own and dries it the old-fashioned way: on the roofs of adobe buildings. Claudine said Ted was an adventurous and talented chef, and the menu still reflects that. “We were able to handle the tragedy of losing him because of Skip. We’re so grateful to have him to help us and support us.” Skip left his life in Tuscon and was on the next plane to Durango after learning of the tragedy. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “You have to fix things throughout the whole day. So many restaurants are non-chef or non-owner managed. We’ve been successful because we’re hands-on. We’ve been working here all day.” Claudine and Francis have been married 51 years. Their two sons, and grandchildren and other relatives have all worked at Francisco’s over the years. Skip and Ted started dishwashing and bussing when they were kids, and Claudine would send them home when they would start to bicker. Skip said they have made a family business work by having patience with each other and utilizing the strengths of each member. “When we were all younger, we were much more passionate and argued more. Now the passion and fight has faded, and we just help each other.” Francis said the biggest challenge they face today is hiring good employees with a solid work ethic. “This is not what they want to do. It’s just a means for them to bike and ski, and float the river,” he said. But there have been some employees that have worked for 20-plus years. “Mama Bea” is the longtime head waitress, and repeat customers frequently request to be seated in her station. Evelyn Lozano and Liz Lucero worked for about 30 years. Chef Paul Fetcho is still working after 25 years. Francis says he still enjoys the work of running a restaurant at age 70, “when a lot of people want out.” He says he is sure there will be a point where it’s time to let go. But for now, the commitment is still strong. “We’ve raised our families here – and other people’s families,” said Claudine. “They consider this place home.” X Focus on Business

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test of time

Mirror of the community Durango Herald managers describe benefits of family-run newspaper on 60th anniversary

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his year marks the 60th year of the Ballantine family’s ownership of The Durango Herald, which was established in 1881. It’s one of the rare newspapers in the nation that has not been absorbed into a large media corporation. Morley and Arthur Ballantine launched The Durango Herald-News on June 1, 1952. From the start, it was a true family enterprise, where the Ballantine children worked in various departments. Publisher Richard Ballantine listened to years of conversation around the family dinner table, stuffed sections and delivered missing newspapers. He has guided the Herald since 1983. Below, two of the Herald’s current managers describe the value of the longtime family ownership in creating a vibrant newspaper with a unique voice that reflects the community.

X X X Ken Amundson, General Manager: I consider myself extremely fortunate to have landed just a few months ago with Ballantine Communications Inc. For the past 38 years, I’ve had the good fortune to work almost exclusively for family-run companies. That was simply good luck at the start, but by design as my career unfolded. Good newspapers breathe the air and drink the water that give life to communities. They reflect as perfectly as humanly possible the community 18

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ABOVE: In 60 years, the Herald’s masthead has been redesigned many times, from top to bottom: 1957, 1965, 1970, 1985, 1996, 2002 and 2011. LEFT: Morley and Arthur Ballantine gaze out over Durango in a portrait in 1967. The image was taken for an award from the faculty of the School of Journalism at the University of Colorado. Arthur died in 1975 and Morley died in 2009.


served, both for readers and for advertisers. Without a personal stake in that community, like family-run newspapers have, the fit is at best forced and artificial. But when the publisher/owner walks down Main Avenue and hears first hand what readers and advertisers are saying, then a more perfect relationship results.

X X X Paul Hay, Vice President of Newspaper Advertising: I recently joined the Ballantine’s Family, after working for a couple of large newspaper corporations, and I have to say nothing compares to the pleasure of working with such a great team here in the Four Corners area. This family rolls up their sleeves and joins their fellow workers. They don’t create or assign jobs they would be unwilling to perform themselves. They are approachable and responsive to all questions and suggestions. They put the interests of the team, the company, its clients and the mission ahead of their own. If you look at the local culture, I think that neighbors, friends, family, that sense of community, is really one of the values that drives us. We choose to live here because of that strong sense of community, of working together to make our local communities better. One of the reasons I took this job is Ballantine’ Communications has that aspect – of being the hometown, family-owned newspaper – with a real sense of responsibility. It’s their obligation as a newspaper to work hand-in-hand with other businesses to create that sense of community. X

ABOVE: The parts of an old newspaper press were presented in this plaque to Morley Ballantine in 1986 in recognition of her contribution to the Cowles Media Company, which was operated by her parents. LEFT: The Herald’s first board of directors is pictured in 1974, from left: Arthur, Helen, Richard, Bill, Elizabeth, and Morley Ballantine (seated.)

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LOCAL HISTORY

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Businesses adapted to “Magic City of the San Juan” in 1880s

Story by Duane Smith ou’ve got to know the terhave pleased local boosters, as ritory,” advised Professor well, when the Eastern press Howard Hill in Meredith called Durango “a more picturWilson’s “Music Man.” esque, attractive site would be Certainly, Durango’s busihard to find, even in Colorado.” ness history All this activity brings up the proved that adage question of why some of these busifrom its birth back nesses succeeded and others failed in September 1880. sooner or later. Besides the railDurango’s first road, only one survived long past the woman newspaper town’s centennial. editor, the feisty, Why? One of the main reasons progressive, and was over-enthusiasm for the future. ever-loyal CaroExcited boosters forecast a 10,000 Duane Smith line Romney, population within a few years – and wrote on Jan. 10, 1881: “Next to the maybe as high as 25,000 would town, the Record owes allegiance to come in the near future. The town southwestern Colorado, a land not struggled to reach 3,317 by the 1910 only ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ census. but seamed with silver and gold and That did not stop businesses from floored coal. To other agricultural, opening to be ready for the coming pastoral and mineral resources, the millennium of growth and prosperity. Record will devote due attention…” The numbers of merchants in 1880To Romney, the “Denver of the South81 expanded for a while, then slipped west” has an unlimited future. back to reality. The losers moved Romney realized that business, on to another job or town, a and businessmen and women, pattern that would be repeated were the backbone of the comrecur in the years ahead. munity – and she was not alone That future based on Romin that belief. The first municipal ney’s forecast of mining never election in May, 1881, placed three achieved what Durangoans hoped. prominent merchants in office, and that Resources of mining are always finite, trend continues in subsequent elections. and an end of the boom must come. Durangoans Such enthusiasm and civic responsibility, of course, did not also got excited about tourism and were not far off in their guarantee business success. Competition was brutal in those expectations. It would not be until after World War II that early years. As early as November 1880, Silverton’s La Plata they would finally be realized. Miner reported that the “Magic City of the San Juan” already Agriculture faced the same problem the community did: contained among other businesses, the following: seven hotels isolation. There were no urban markets nearby. Nor could and restaurants, two blacksmiths, six saw mills, two bakeries, the local farmers and ranchers grow or feed anything that two meat markets, eleven saloons and five general merchants was not available throughout the region. and clothing stores. Furthermore, town lots were selling fast, Competition already came from mail catalogs, which ofwith prices ranging up to $1,000, which must have pleased the fered more variety and lower prices. All told, these were isDurango Trust, the community’s parent. sues and problems that Durango merchants have faced now Durango also had coal seams at its doorstep, along with for more than 125 years, producing many failures and some a smelter nestled at the foot of Smelter Mountain to work successes. X the gold and silver ores form throughout the region. It must Duane Smith is a Fort Lewis College history professor. 20

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COUNTY tRENDS

Economic overview JOE KECK: Get your ducks in a row and pull on the bootstraps Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center

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n the last year, the overall economic conditions in La Plata County seem to be improving. Economic vitality in the county seems to be different depending upon the business sector you are in. Construction and real estate seem to be slowly improving. Oil and gas drilling appears to have dropped off considerably over the past few years. Some sectors appear to be doing fine, such as niche manufacturing and export businesses. Retail sales have seen a steady increase this year in Durango, which indicates that consumers are spending more. At the SBDC, we have seen quite an uptick in client requests, especially in the past six months. Our “Starting Your Business� workshops have been running consistently and attracting 15 to 20 people on average. My sense is that some of this demand is driven by people having an entrepreneurial idea, and some by people hedging their bets against being laid off. Overall, our local economy does seem to be faring much better than the state and national economy, with lower unemployment rates, and increasing retail sales tax collections. Durango continues to be highly rated as a great place to live. This appears to be driven by a number of quality-of-life amenities, such as the mountains, rivers, climate, college town, and overall diversity – especially for a 22

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lower populated, rural area. One key element of this quality of life is the number of highly educated and skilled people living here. Fort Lewis College is a major contributor to this element of our community. What does the future have in store for us? My sense is that we will continue to see slow but steady improvement in our county economy. Housing and construction will continue to make some improvements as foreclosures work their way through the process. Solid business planning will continue to be extremely important in determining the success of local businesses. Thorough business planning can really take a lot of the risk out of doing a business expansion or start-up. That is where resources such as the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, Region 9 Economic Development District, the local Chambers of Commerce (Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio) and the SBDC can make a difference. We also have some excellent collaborative relationships between these economic development and business development organizations. The level of collaboration and partnering we do is really a best practice in the state. These partnerships really can make a positive difference for our clients. Overall, I think our economic future looks pretty good. I would

Economic vitality in the county seems to be different depending upon the business sector you are in.

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An aerial view of Durango is shown from a helicopter in summer 2011. HAL LOTT/Herald file

Three local experts weigh in on La Plata County’s statistics just encourage folks to use the business and economic development resources available and bootstrap their way to success. Developing a good roadmap for their business can really make all the difference in the world. At the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center, we have counseled about 400 small business clients in the last year. Over 1,300 people have attended workshops and seminars offered by the SBDC. Roughly half of our clients are start-ups, and they come to us for help in getting their arms around a business idea. This usually entails providing assistance in determining the feasibility of their business idea. We work folks through the business-planning process to help them prove or disprove an idea. I call it “getting your ducks in a row.� The SBDC has some unique competitive advantages when it comes to providing technical assistance to small businesses. First, we have a 35-person Business Advisor Network that brings a lot of great expertise and experience to bear for our clients. Our advisors have expertise in a wide array of skills, from accessing venture capital to marketing, finance, social media and more. The second advantage of SBDC is data mining to help determine market potential for a business start-up or expansion. We have some great databases that make it easier to find good market research. We also assist with the analysis of the data, which can be very helpful to a small business. It can be a daunting task for many smaller businesses to find good market research data and also understand how to use it effectively. The SBDC provides Economic Gardening databases and consultants. X

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COUNTY TRENDS tax collection Sales Tax

40,000,000 35,000,000 30,000,000 25,000,000 20,000,000 15,000,000 10,000,000 5,000,000

Property Tax

2001 ’02

’03 ’04

’05 ’06 ’07 ’08 ’09 ’10 ’11 ’12 Source: La Plata County Budget Overview

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE As of May 2012:

6.8% La Plata

8.1% Colorado

8.2% U.S.

County

Source: La Plata County Economic Development Alliance

County numbers a

employment data Employment in Top 10 Industries INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT AVERAGE WAGE Government....................................................................... 6,015..........................................................$55,270 Retail Trade........................................................................ 3,819..........................................................$24,973 Construction...................................................................... 3,728..........................................................$44,764 Health Care & Social Assistance........................................ 3,378..........................................................$45,376 Accommodation & Food Service........................................ 3,289..........................................................$16,302 Professional, Scientific & Technical..................................... 2,525..........................................................$54,856 Real Estate Rental & Leasing............................................. 2,349..........................................................$30,869 Administrative & Waste Management................................. 1,765..........................................................$37,494 Finance & Insurance.......................................................... 1,688..........................................................$79,768 Other Services................................................................... 1,589..........................................................$28,894 Total Employment............................................................... 36,671.......................................................$40,924

Largest Employers COMPANY TYPE EMPLOYEES Southern Ute Indian Tribe........... Government......1,500 Mercy Medical Center................ Health...............625 Durango School District 9-R....... Education..........544 Fort Lewis College...................... Education..........535 City of Durango.......................... Government......500 Mercury Payment Systems......... Finance.............442 La Plata County.......................... Government......412 Wal-Mart.................................... Retail................353

Top 10 Job Occupations

Durango Mountain Resort.......... Recreation........346

BUSINESS EMPLOYEES AVERAGE SALARY Management..................................................................... 3,845..........................................................$54,629 Office & Administrative Support........................................ 3,434..........................................................$30,908 Sales................................................................................ 3,143..........................................................$40,492 Construction, Extraction & Maintenance............................ 2,961..........................................................$46,435 Food Preparation.............................................................. 1,686..........................................................$21,136 Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance..................................... 1,325..........................................................$23,958 Education, Training & Libraries........................................... 1,289..........................................................$39,600 Business & Finance.......................................................... 953.............................................................$38,542 Personal Care & Service.................................................... 891.............................................................$19,934 Production........................................................................ 868.............................................................$35,520 Total Job Occupations....................................................... 27,704........................................................$39,054

San Juan Basin Health............... Government......226

Source: La Plata County Economic Development Alliance Dashboard

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Fastest Growing Occupations Computer & Mathematical................................ 185% Health Technologists & Technicians................... 100% Material Moving Workers................................... 70% Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance..................... 65% Life, Physical & Social Science.......................... 63%


Census “quickfacts� Source: United States Census Bureau

La Plata County Colorado Housing units, 2010................................................................. 25,860........... 2,212,898 Homeownership rate, 2006-2010............................................. 69.1%............. 67.6% Housing units in multi-unit structures, percent, 2006-2010 ..... 18.7%............. 25.6% Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2006-2010..... $343,400....... $236,600 Households, 2006-2010 ......................................................... 20,512........... 1,918,959 Per capita money income 2006-2010...................................... $29,836......... $30,151 Median household income 2006-2010 ................................... $56,422......... $56,456 Persons below poverty level, percent, 2006-2010 .................... 10.2%............. 12.2% Private nonfarm establishments, 2009 . ................................... 2,374............. 152,9971 Private nonfarm employment, 2009 ......................................... 19,582........... 2,005,5781 Private nonfarm employment, percent change 2000-2009 . ..... 9.8%............... 4.8%1 Nonemployer establishments, 2009 ......................................... 5,795............. 407,139

s at a glance

Retail sales, 2007 ($1000) ..................................................... 790,433......... 65,896,788 Retail sales per capita, 2007 ................................................... $15,914......... $13,609 Accommodation and food services sales, 2007 ($1000) . ....... 206,242......... 11,440,395 Building permits, 2011 ............................................................ 154................ 13,502 Federal spending, 2010 . ......................................................... 282,243......... 49,686,8571

REAL ESTATE DATA La Plata County Homes ....2010 ..............2011 ............. 2012 ..............11 to 12 Change .......% Change Median Price ......................$302,500 .......$296,901 .......$279,250 ....... -$17,651 ................... -05.95% Number sold . .....................132 .................127 . ...............161 . ............... +34 ........................... +26.77%

Building Permits

Durango In-Town Homes . ..2010 ..............2011 ............. 2012 ..............11 to 12 Change .......% Change Median Price ......................$346,500 .......$325,000 .......$329,950 ....... -$4,950 ..................... +1.52% Number sold . .....................17 ...................20 . .................32 ................... +12 ........................... +60.00%

In 2011, La Plata County issued 535 building permits. Source: http://co.laplata.co.us

Durango Country Homes ...2010 ..............2011 ............. 2012 ..............11 to 12 Change .......% Change Median Price ......................$347,500 .......$373,500 .......$345,000 ....... -28,500 ..................... -07.63% Number sold . .....................36 ...................31 . .................52 ................... +21 ........................... +67.74

Median Rental Rates

Durango Mountain Resort Homes ..................2010 ..............2011 ............. 2012 ..............11 to 12 Change ....... % Change Median Price ......................$306,100 .......$250,000 .......$155,000 ....... -95,000 ..................... -38.00% Number sold . .....................13 ...................15 . .................17 ................... +2 . ............................ +13.33% Bayfield In-Town Homes ....2010 ..............2011 ............. 2012 ..............11 to 12 Change .......% Change Median Price ......................$238,000 .......$191,400 .......$171,000 ....... -$21,400 ................... -11.18% Number sold . .....................6 .....................3 .....................6 ..................... +3 . ............................ +100% Bayfield Country Homes ...2010 ..............2011 ............. 2012 ..............11 to 12 Change .......% Change Median Price ......................$311,000 .......$198,425 .......$232,450 ....... +34,025 .................... +17.14% Number sold . .....................12 ...................12 . .................16 ................... +4 . ............................ +33.33% Land (1-10 Acres) ............2010 ..............2011 ............. 2012 ..............11 to 12 Change .......% Change Median Price ......................$115,000 .......$195,000 .......$219,000 ....... +24,000 .................... +12.30% Number sold . .....................5 .....................5 .....................3 ..................... -2 .............................. -40.00%

Studio ...........................$2,000 1 Bedroom ....................$750 2 Bedroom ....................$1,000 3 Bedroom ....................$1,500 4 Bedroom ....................$7,285 Source: StatsAmerica.org

Foreclosure Rate

In the 4th quarter of 2010, La Plata County had a foreclosure rate of 21% of occupied housing units. Source: http://www.scan.org

Commercial/Income ........2010 ..............2011 ............. 2012 ..............11 to 12 Change .......% Change Median Price ......................$0 ...................$377,250 .......$340,000 ....... -37,250 ..................... -9.87% Number sold . .....................0 .....................4 .....................1 ..................... -3 .............................. -75.00% Source: Durango Real Estate Network

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COUNTY TRENDS

An artist’s rendering shows the new Mercury Payment Systems building, which will be part of the Mercury Village site created by Russell Planning & Engineering. It emphasizes attention and care toward outdoor amenities and connectivity of the building and site to the natural environment, specifically the river corridor. The building will be respectful of the Animas River user as well as the Animas River Trail user. The buildings can be viewed in the round (no back to the river). The building will include a lower walkout level, which integrates it to the natural grades rather than having it perched on a newly formed hill. The building will be sustainable in nature and sensitive to its use of resources.

ROGER ZALNERAITIS: County sees slow and steady improvement

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La Plata Economic Development Alliance Executive Director

he La Plata Economic Development Alliance has begun tracking key indicators through a monthly “dashboard” on its website (http:// www.yeslpc.com/1962/featured-newslines/ economic-development-alliance-economicdashboard ). Through that, we believe the local economy is slowly and steadily improving, but that this improvement hasn’t translated into more jobs yet. First, we’ve seen steady growth in new commercial electric accounts this year, as well as increasing energy demand from commercial users. The City of Durango has also been issuing more business licenses this year than last. Higher electricity use and more business licenses are indicative of better economic activity in the commercial sector, so this is generally a positive sign. The natural gas sector has been flat through the first half of the year. This is actually not bad, considering that natural gas prices are near record lows. However, reports out of the field suggest that we 26

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

are continuing to lose drilling rigs and that many gas companies are reducing their scope of activity locally. We may see a slowdown in natural gas activity as the year progresses. Tourism is a little mixed. Airport enplanements have slowed, as have visits to key regional attractions such as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. However, lodging taxes and sales taxes remain strong, which is good for our retail businesses. Anecdotally, it appears that the summer is off to a solid start, so tourism numbers may strengthen as the year progresses, particularly with the Pro-Cycling Challenge coming on Aug. 20. Another key component of the local company is construction. Building permits have been strong in the county, but weak in the City of Durango. But what Durango is lacking in quantity, it is making up for in size. One of the permits issued for the City is the new Holiday Inn, a multi-million dollar project that will provide

Mercury Village and Holiday Inn represent some of the largest private commercial projects the region has seen in years.

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The project is pursuing LEED Silver certification. One of the most beneficial features for employees is the maximization of day lighting and views, which is also a sustainable feature. Gregg Andrulis of Russell Planning & Engineering said the estimated date for the completion of the Mercury Village site is December 2012, and completion of the Mercury building is October, 2013. Image courtesy of Russell Planning & Engineering

much-needed lodging capacity for our region. Further, work is under way at the new Mercury Village immediately south of the Durango Mall. According to Jan Owen, Mercury Payment System’s senior marketing manager, the company is continuing to hire new employees while the building is under construction. There are currently 400 employees in Durango, and by the time Mercury Village opens the count is estimated at 600. This project and Holiday Inn represent some of the largest private commercial projects the region has seen in years. The most important factor, however, is jobs, and it is here that the year has been the most disappointing. Job growth is flat so far this year, meaning that increased commercial activity is not yet translating into more employment for our residents. However, hiring tends to lag some of these other indicators, such as building permits issuances and new business starts. We therefore may see job growth as the year progresses. In summary, the Alliance is cautiously optimistic about economic growth. There are significant risks such as soft gas prices, as well as national and international economic trends. At the same time, there is great opportunity for growth and jobs as reflected in new business activity, the new hotel, and the Mercury Village campus. Keep an eye on our Dashboard to see how the rest of the year turns out for our economy. X Focus on Business

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COUNTY TRENDS

Jason Contway and a colleague work on a reconditioned computer at the Fort Lewis College IT department on Aug. 22. It was one of Contway’s “numerous” part-time jobs. The livable wage for a single person living in Durango is $11.57 per hour. HAL LOTT/Herald file

LAURA LEWIS MARCHINO: By the numbers, it’s a great place to live Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado, Assistant Director

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t is not new news to say that La Plata County is a great place to live. Region 9, which covers the five counties, ten municipalities and two Indian tribes in Southwest Colorado, reviews and compiles data, and the data shows that we compare favorably. La Plata County’s unemployment and foreclosure rates are the lowest in the region, and our per capita income the highest going from $36,500 last year to $39,769 this year. La Plata County has seen significant transportation construction work into the region, including the airport, trails and transit. Agriculture is also seeing renewed interest. Total employment has grown 14 percent since 2001, though the peak was in 2007, prior to the recession. Currently 32,446 persons are employed in the county. The economy is grouped into 20 broad job sectors called NAICS (North American Industry Classification System). These job sectors allow us to measure the relative strength of an industry over time. La Plata has seen the most growth in the Mining and Utilities sector (includes oil and gas), as well as the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate sector, growing 110 percent and 29 percent respectively. Declines are currently seen in two sectors: Manufacturing and Information, which 28

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shows a 33 percent and 15 percent job loss. However, it is important to note that businesses classify themselves, and that too can vary over time. Top employers in the county include a cross section of job sectors, including: the Southern Ute Indian Tribe (administration and casino), Mercy Regional Medical Center, City of Durango, La Plata County, Durango Mountain Resort, Mercury Payment Systems, Fort Lewis College, Wal-Mart, and San Juan Basin Health Department. When viewed as a whole, the even better news is that La Plata County has a diverse economy and is not dependent on any one sector. This has served the county well during the recession, which dramatically impacted tourism and construction. When an economy is dependent on only one sector, economic ups and downs have a larger overall impact. Areas where the county struggles include the number of uninsured, affordable rental housing for families, and the fact that the level of income necessary to support a given size and type of household is higher than the minimum wage. Livable wages vary by community, and Region 9’s most recent estimate is that a single person renting

The even better news is that La Plata County has a diverse economy and is not dependent on any one sector.

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Is your business taking advantage of Colorado Enterprise Zone Program? You could be missing out on Colorado income tax credits for your business. The Enterprise Zone Program encourages job creation and capital investment in economically depressed areas by providing tax credits to businesses and projects to promote and encourage economic development activities. Did you know your business … • Could receive a 3 percent Investment Tax credit on equipment purchases. • Could get job training tax credits of 10 percent on qualified training expenses. • May be eligible for Research & Development Increase Tax Credits of 3 percent on expenditures. With a New Business Facility (NBF) designation, you could receive… • Jobs credits – $500 per new job. • Ag Processing Jobs Credits – $500 per new job (job credit + ad processing job credit = $1,000) • Health Insurance Credits – $200 x 2 years ($4,400) additional per new job. • Could see 25 percent of rehab expenditures (hard costs) credited under the Vacant Building Rehabilitation Tax Credit. • As a manufacturing or mining business, the Manufacturing and Mining Sales and Use Tax form can exempt you from sales tax, if filled out prior to purchase and given to your vendor. • If located in Archuleta, Dolores or San Juan counties, it could mean larger tax credits under the Colorado Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone Program (EREZ). Call the Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado at (970) 247-9621 or visit www.advance colorado.com/ez for more information.

a one-bedroom apartment would need to make $10.65 an hour to “make it.” The livable wage for the same person in Durango would be $11.57 and in Ignacio would be $11.87. These calculations take into account transportation, housing and basic expenditures such as food, clothing, and health care. When one earns less than a livable wage, and has a family, he or she is forced to make undesirable choices such as working more jobs, longer hours, longer commutes or giving up basic items such as telephone or insurance. One area that requires economic planning is how to prepare for the growing aging population. Though La Plata County’s changing demographics are no different than the rest of the United States, La Plata County will need more senior-friendly housing, assisted living and nursing-care facilities in order to keep our population in the community as they age. Without them, the county is in danger of losing younger residents who, unable to move aging parents here, must relocate. Region 9 works collaboratively with the private and public sectors to enhance the economic conditions in the area and improve the region’s prosperity. For more information, go to www.scan. org, call 970-247-9621 or email laura@scan.org. X Focus on Business

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NEXT GENERATION

Story by Bryce Gordon, Katie Austin, Kaylie Evans & Corinne Truax

Main Avenue in downtown Durango is filled with busy shops that may offer some opportunities for summer jobs or volunteer work for local teenagers.

Mountain Middle School eighth-graders participating in Inspirational Internships

HAL LOTT/Herald file

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he real world is full of unlimited opportunities and choices. We are exposed to good and bad, and we need to choose our own path, including how to find that first summer job. Mountain Middle School is a new project-based learning school that focuses on outside connections and applications. The eighth-graders at Mountain Middle School do a final project called Inspirational Internships. This project helps us choose our direction and follow our dreams as we apply skills we have learned in project-based learning to real-world internships. Four of the students at MMS – Bryce Gordon, Katie Austin, Kaylie Evans, and Corinne Truax – chose to take their May internships

Teens l to e

at The Durango Herald to pursue their interest in journalism. Together, they created this article about possible summer jobs for teenagers. They interviewed students at Mountain Middle School and Animas High School who have already had summer jobs, as well as some business owners/managers with possible job opportunities.

Will Berger adds ‘lively spirit’ Will Berger, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Mountain Middle School, has already held a summer job. Currently he works at Four Corners River Sports as a shop boy, cleaning and fixing boats and gear. The retail store sells rafting boats and gear and offers kayaking lessons.

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s learn o earn

Young people offer advice on finding summer jobs in Durango

Q: What do teens need to

know about summer jobs? “The most important thing (about having a job) is to have fun with it.”

Sara Martin, 16

“Show up, try your hardest... and give it your all.”

Cooper Stowers, 17

“Having a job is the best thing in the world, because you get paid for doing stuff you love to do.” – Will Berger

“This job is super fun and never boring, plus I get pro deals,” said Berger. “It’s the best thing in the world, because you get paid for doing stuff you love to do.” His least favorite part of the job is taking out the trash. He waits until the end of the day to do it, because it makes him “smell so bad it scares the customers away.” The most challenging part of his job is customer service. He got the job because he knows the boss, but he still had to apply with a cover letter and résumé. When asked if he had any feedback for his boss, he responded, “accept more kids at your work, it brings up the lively spirit.” According to Berger, all you need to do to keep your job is work hard and do what your boss tells you to do. Continues on next page

“Don’t wait until summer (to look for a job), and be persistent with followup calls.”

Eli Kop-DeVol, 17 “You get money to spend, and you can do more stuff when you have money.”

Anisa Person, 16 Focus on Business

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next generation Continued from previous page

Tim Wheeler values character, teamwork At Durango Coffee Company, “age is less of a determinate than character” in the hiring process, said owner Tim Wheeler. He said he doesn’t usually hire teens because long work hours are required; but if someone has good character and works well in a team, there is a better chance they will get a job. A teen with a job at DCC could assist in retail sales and help unpack and repack items. If they have confidence, they might work on the sales floor. A teenager would not handle drinks or pastries, but they might end up washing dishes or doing other side work. “The key thing for us is a friendly, outgoing attitude, and a background in team activities,” said Wheeler. “Everybody needs to work together here. It takes a team to run the place.”

Ashley Gonnella says passion has purpose Pine Needle Mountaineering is a well known and trusted gear shop in the Main Mall on Main Avenue. The atmosphere is friendly and warm; there are many people ready to help you. Ashley Gonnella, the Womens Apparel/Casual Shoe Buyer for Pine Needle, shed light on the teenage retail world while tagging and hanging products. Gonnella said she has had great experiences working with teens. Her only concern was their commitment and experience. It’s important to be familiar with the gear in the store, she said. “We need people who are passionate about the outdoors.” Teens who work at Pine Needle can do small jobs around the store. They can also work the floor, which means helping customers make choices and answering questions. Gonnella says teens in search of jobs should have a professional-looking résumé. “The outdoor industry is hard to get into, but if you’re passionate about the gear you sell, it’s easy to get good at it. That is true for any job.”

Cooper Stowers welcomes visitors at Bar-D Cooper Stowers’ work ethic comes from a quote by Warren Buffet: “There are five keys to getting a job and maintaining a job: Show up, try your hardest, expect a different result than 32

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what you planned for, be on time, and give it your all.” Stowers, a junior at Animas High School, worked at the Bar D Chuckwagon, a supper show business on County Road 250. He said they hire teenagers to work over the summer to give them experience for when they graduate high school. Stowers had to fill out an application, and write a cover letter. A résumé was not required, because most teenagers don’t have any job experience. He said the most interesting part of his job was talking with tourists, and explaining about the Bar D Chuckwagon and the town of Durango. He also enjoyed being behind the scenes of the stage show. Stowers said he had good hours; mornings from 8 to 10 a.m., and nights from 6 to 11 p.m. This left his afternoons free for summer fun. Stowers also enjoyed the comfortable, fun working atmossphere.

“The key thing for us is a friendly, outgoing attitude, and a background in team activities. Everybody needs to work together here. It takes a team to run the place.” – Tim Wheeler Stowers said working is a good thing for the summer, because it gives him something to do when he is not with friends. It also gives him an advantage over his friends, because he has more money to spend on things he needs or wants.

Eli Kopp-DeVol juggles two jobs Eli Kopp-DeVol, a sophomore at Animas High School, has worked at The Palace Restaurant and printed T-shirts for his family’s business, Advertising Innovations. Getting a job at his family’s business was easy, he said,

but to get his job at the Palace, he had to fill out an application, get recommendations and do an interview with the manager. He also had to make many follow-up calls, which he said was very important to getting the job. Kopp-DeVol chose the Palace job because he wanted a fast-paced environment and interaction with people. “There are so many opportunities for jobs in Durango,” he said. “You just need to know what you’re looking for.” Kopp-DeVol says he enjoys working, but it’s difficult to work during the summer, because it’s hard to make social plans. He says it’s worth it because he has spending money. His advice for teenagers looking for a job is to avoid procrastinating. “Don’t wait until the summer to begin searching. Definitely make sure you follow up, show up on time, listen to your boss, and work as hard as you can.” He also says that making a mistake is not the end of the world. He said he has misprinted many T-shirts, and he once spilled water on a customer. “It was not so bad. Everyone makes mistakes,” he said. Now, instead of dwelling on his mistakes, he can say his accomplishments including printing all of the Animas High School paraphernalia.

Sara Martin says it’s important to have fun Sara Martin’s recent summer job was at The Palace Restaurant, where she worked as a hostess and busser. Martin’s mother worked at the Palace for many years, and her parents wanted her to pursue a job there for a while. To get hired, Martin first wrote her résumé, and then filled out an application. Next, she spoke to the employees at the restaurant and discussed basic duties. She usually worked from 3:30 to 9 or 10 p.m. While she enjoyed meeting tourists during the summer and the beautiful outdoor weather, Martin said she didn’t like the late hours. The job interested her because she made good money working part-time, and the tasks were fairly simple. “Timing is a big part of how to get a summer job,” said Martin. “You need to show interest. Also, when getting applications and turning them in, don’t go into the


facility during busy times.” Martin said it’s important to show employers that you can be part of a team and have passion for your job. “But the most important thing is to have fun with it!”

Anisa Pearson carries the family torch Trinkets and Treasures, a gift shop on Main Avenue in downtown Durango, hired Anisa Person to carry the family torch and work at the family-owned business for a summer job. To become an employee, Anisa, a sophomore at Animas High School, completed an application and filled out paperwork. Anisa says that she enjoyed staying busy, because many summer tourists visit the shop; but she said memorizing codes and where items are located was a nuisance. The job interested Anisa because she wanted to earn money, and she said it was “cool to work at my parents’ store.” At Trinkets and Treasures, Anisa worked three days a week with 10- to 12-hour shifts. She says that having a summer job is a great way to spend the summer. “You have money to spend, and you can do more stuff when you have money. Definitely chose a job that interests you, so you will enjoy doing your work.” In May, Herald Magazine Editor Karla Sluis mentored the four teenage writers, Bryce Gordon, Katie Austin, Kaylie Evans and Corinne Truax, who were participating in Mountain Middle School’s Inspirational Interships program. They chose a story topic, worked as a team and learned basics of interviewing, news writing, editing and page design to produce this piece. X

A positive attitude and the ability to work as a team member are key qualities employers look for when they are hiring young people. Photos.com

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MINDING your OWN business

Bayfield Gardens owner Ernie Mathers tends hanging baskets at the greenhouse in Bayfield on June 16. LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald

The nature of nurturing Stories by Karla Sluis Durango Herald Magazine Editor

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Caring for customers will keep business blooming

he Mathers family cares for customers as carefully as they tend their plants. Bayfield Gardens was founded in 1998, and Ernie and Kathy Mathers have owned it for nine years. Their two children both assist with the business. “It’s a lot of work, but we’re proud of what we grow,” said Kathy Mathers. “It’s a neat business to be in, because people are happy to be here buying plants.” The majority of the vibrant plants for sale at greenhouses in Bayfield and Durango are sown from seed and raised in Bayfield, so they are well-acclimated to the region – a bonus for gardeners who struggle with a short growing season and microclimate temperature swings. “We use a real high quality potting soil and slow-release fertilizer. It’s an added expense we take on to help customFocus on Business

ers a little bit extra,” said Mathers. “It’s important not to shortcut people. If you don’t keep up your quality, they will go somewhere else.” The quality plants get customers in the door, but good customer service keeps them coming back season after season. Mathers said the staff is always friendly, and they offer old-fashioned touches, like carrying plants out and loading them in cars. They coach people as they go through the door and educate them on fertilizing and watering plants properly. “I’ve come here to buy plants every year for three years,” said Carmen Black, an avid gardener buying plants on June 12. “The quality is fantastic, but I really love the way they treat me. Not too many businesses will carry stuff out for you these days. And they’re always super nice.” X


Try six tips to improve your customer service skills

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ustomer service may be the ultimate key to business longevity in the rural, close-knit cities of La Plata County. “Durango is a small town. You can’t get away with anything,” said Don Piccoli, general manager of the 61-year-old Eagle Block Company. “Everybody knows everything. You can’t treat people poorly.” When the economy is sour and people want the most for their money, one of the best things a business can do is take steps to improve their customer service. Kindness goes a long way, according to Durango resident Darrah Westrup. She tells of a dinner out at Ken and Sue’s restaurant with her husband and their fussy 3-year-old. The manager greeted the family and asked how they were doing. The child declared: “I’m a little bit grumpy.” The manager invited the girl to help him by carrying menus around while he seated people. “She loved it, the customers loved it, and we got to a have a meal in peace,” said Westrup. “It was just a simple act, but it went a long way with us.”

Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau for improving customer service skills. 1. Know who is boss. You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays your salary and makes your job possible. 2. Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. 3. Make customers feel appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance.

4. Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately, and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as you may dislike it, it gives you an opportunity to improve. 5. Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following: What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere? What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy? What can you give customers that is totally unexpected? 6. Get regular feedback. Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services. Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going.

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down through the years

Happy Anniversaries! County businesses celebrate with thanks to loyal customers 1881

1913

Owned by the Ballantine Family 1275 Main Ave., Durango; (970) 247-3504; www.durangoherald.com The Herald has recorded Durango’s history from its origins, and continues to do so in print and digital formats today.

Owned by Bobby and Marilyn Estes; 835 Main Ave #101; (970) 247-3444; www.taylor-raymond.com We carry a wide selection of watches, timeless jewelry pieces and giftware. Let Taylor-Raymond help you find your perfect wedding ring for your big day.

The Durango Herald

1882

First National Bank of Durango Owned by Tom and Jim Fitzgerald 259 West 9th St., Durango; (970) 247-3020; www.fnbdurango.com A big, heartfelt thank you to all of our loyal customers! With you, we can continue to build Durango.

1887 Strater Hotel

A necklace from TaylorRaymond Jewelers in Durango shimmers against black velvet. Taylor-Raymond was founded in 1913. Owner and President Bobby Estes says the original shop included Hallmark cards, an optical store and a pawn shop. It’s a family business, and Estes says sometimes “it’s a fine line... you must have a game plan laid out, list your pros and cons, and have an outsider that can listen and help everyone.” He says the secret to longevity is to be ready for anything. “Every day you learn something new. You have to love what you’re doing or go home.” LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald

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Owned by Rod and Laurie Barker; 699 Main Avenue, Durango, Colorado 81301; (970) 247-4431; www.strater.com Thank you for helping us to continue to create memorable events from our corner of the world and celebrate 125 years!

Taylor-Raymond Jewelers

1930s Bank of Colorado Pinnacle Bancorp 1199 Main Ave Durango (970) 247-5151; www.bankofcolorado.com

1939 La Plata Electric Association, Inc. LPEA is a rural electric cooperative owned by its members; 45 Stewart St., Durango (970) 247-5786; www.lpea.coop LPEA, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, provides to its more than 30,000 members, with in excess of 42,000 meters, safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost, while being environmentally responsible.


1969

1982

Bar D Chuckwagon Suppers Inc.

Economy Nissan Inc

Owned by Cy Scarborough, Rick Scarborough, Gary Cook, Andrew Scarborough, Matt Palmer, and Joel Racheff; 8080 County Rd 250, Durango; (970) 247-5753; www.bardchuckwagon.com Open nightly Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day with a famous stage show and barbecue supper.

1979 Southwest Appliance Owner Roger Sterling; 1185 Camino Del Rio; (970) 259-0521 Southwest Appliance is your appliance and home remodeling expert and is proud to be serving La Plata County since 1979.

1981 Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Manager, Jessica Elkan; 561 Main Avenue, Durango; (970) 259-1408; www.rmcf.com Thank you, Durango, for 31 years of sweetness!

Monte Roder, President; 20704 Hwy 160 W; (970) 259-3940; www.economynissan.com

1982 Southwest Ag Inc. Owned by the Hillyer Family; 39927 Highway 160, Bayfield; (970) 884-4101; www.swaginc.com Southwest Ag. Inc., founded in 1982, is a family-owned and operated independent sales, rental and service business.

1983 Accountax C.P.A.’s, P. C. Owners Gregory Cavanagh & Virginia Miller Cavanagh 835 Main Ave Suite 204, Durango (970) 247-8694; www.accountaxcpa.com Accountax is a small business specialist and excels in assisting new, emerging and expanding firms in planning and accounting for their activities.

1984 Maria’s Bookshop Owners Andrea Avantaggio and Peter Schertz; 960 Main Avenue; (970) 247-1438; mariasbookshop.com Maria’s Bookshop appreciates 28 years of support from our community, making it possible to run a successful independent bookstore.

1989 Scrimshaws Ltd. Owners Linda and Bob Gramera 434 Turner Drive Suite 2A, Bodo Park; (970) 247-0770; www.scrimshawsltd.com When you wish and want the very best, call Scrimshaws Ltd. to your quest. “From Mountain Streams to Putting Greens.”

1989 Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado Nonprofit corporation; 295 A Girard St., Durango; (970) 247-9621; www.scan.org We are a regional leader, working cooperatively with the private/public sectors to enhance economic conditions and improve the region’s economic prosperity.

1997 Durango Business Improvement District 1199 Main Ave Suite 201, Durango (970) 375-5067; www.downtowndurango.org The District handles event marketing, research, planning and development of new facilities, and capital budget for equipment that helps support businesses.

2011 La Plata County Economic Development Alliance Nonprofit Board of Directors; Roger Zalneraitis, Executive Director 1150A Main Avenue, Durango (970) 259-1700; www.yeslpc.com Promotes the establishment and expansion of businesses in La Plata County.

1990 Durango Sports Club, Inc. Owner David R. Farmer, P.T.; 1600 Florida Road; (970) 259-2579; www.durangosportsclub.com Durango Sports Club is a full-service fitness facility offering personal training, massage therapy, nutrition services and physical therapy.

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Keep ‘one-of-a-kind’ in mind

Local First describes benefits of investing money in county’s independent businesses

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By LeeAnn Vallejos

ou see the familiar cairn in storefront windows, on the stickers around town, and in the popular Be Local coupon book. The cairn is a marker of a locally-owned independent business, reminding you to think local when making a purchase. This is more than a feel good sentiment, it’s a proven strategy to boost economic activity and preserve the character of our community. Researchers over the past decade have taken a close look at how money flows, and what they’ve found shows the profound economic impact of keeping money local – and how the fate of many businesses and communities increasingly depend on it. At the most basic level, when you buy local more money stays in the community. Countless studies have compared what happens when people buy produce at a supermarket vs. a local farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and they found that twice the money stayed in the community when folks bought locally. When money stays in the community, it recirculates throughout the community, keeping the local economy alive. Many local economies are languishing not because too little cash comes in, but as a result of what happens to that money once it’s here. Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going. When money is spent elsewhere—at big box stores, non-locally owned utilities or on-line it flows out, like a wound. While economics is the most important reasons to support local, Local First has a few more that are just as important: X Keep money in the community. Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community. For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $73 goes back into the community –and our tax base. For every $100 spent at a chain store, only $43 comes back* X Embrace what makes us different. 
Where we shop, where we eat and hang out – all of it makes our neighborhood home.
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Photo courtesy of Scott DW Smith

Customers buy gear in the winter at Pine Needle Mountaineering on Main Avenue in Durango. In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one of a kind businesses, and distinct character have an economic advantage. If we wanted to live somewhere that looked like everywhere else, we wouldn’t be living in La Plata County. X Get better service. 
Local businesses often hire people who have a better understanding of the products they’re selling, and take more time to get to know customers. X Buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy. 
A marketplace of small businesses means low prices over the longterm. Small businesses, choosing products based on what their customers love and need. X Create more good jobs. 
Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally, offer greater loyalty to their employees and most sectors provide better wages and benefits. X Help out the environment. 
Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact walkable town centers – which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss and air and water pollution. X Support community groups. 
Nonprofits receive an average 350% more support from local business owners than they do from nonlocally owned businesses.

X Invest in the community. 
Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining our historic town centers and linking neighbors. Local businesses are owned by people who live here, work here, and are more invested in our future, because they directly feel the impact of our decisions. X Put your taxes to good use. 
Local businesses need comparatively less infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community. Show the country we believe in La Plata County. Individuals are more likely to invest in, or move to communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and unique attitude. For more information on Local First, visit http://local-first.org. Sources: the economic impact of locally owned businesses vs. chains: a case study in midcoast Maine, the institute for local Selfreliance and friends of midcoast Maine, September 2003; and economic impact analysis: a case study, civic economics, December 2002. LeeAnn Vallejos is the managing director of Local First. X


y rical Societ ounty Histo C ta la P a L Courtesy of

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2012 Focus on Business  

An annual publication highlighting business in La Plata County, Colorado.

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