Business opportunities can be found in Hayden, Oak Creek as Yampa Valley grows
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the Move To Steamboat and the Yampa Valley magazine that was published Dec. 23, 2022.
Steamboat Springs has long drawn investors, and businesses to Northwest Colorado, but many are also viewing nearby communities like Oak Creek and Hayden for their opportunities as well.
“I think Oak Creek is attractive because it is where workers live,” said David Torgler, town administrator and clerk. “It’s not just workers in the valley, but it’s also location-neutral workers and families. I think that the restaurant industry is successful because people live here, and they want to be able to go out to eat and they live here all year round.”
Torgler said recent additions like Franciosi Brothers and the soon-to-arrive Dueling D’s BBQ fit nicely with established venues like the Oak Creek Tavern, the historic Colorado Bar & Grill, The Cafe and Lupita’s, which is open in the warmer months.
He said thanks to the traffic diversion the past few years, when wildfire and mudslides closed Interstate 70, a lot of people are discovering the scenic beauty that can be found along Colorado Highway 131 in towns like Oak Creek, Phippsburg and Yampa, where the Antler’s Café & Bar opens every spring to serve its regular customers and those passing through town.
Torgler said that those passing through are not just finding great places to eat, but the historic beauty and character of the towns. In Oak Creek that includes the stores that line Main Street as well as the Tracks and Trails Museum, where visitors can explore the town’s long and storied history. He said more and more people are coming for the annual Labor Day parade, and in the fall, hunters seek out what Oak Creek has to offer.
Mathew Mendisco, Hayden Town Manager, said that Hayden has also seen more businesses putting out the welcome mat in recent months. Franciosi Brothers opened up a second location there in the fall of 2022, preceded by the new Creek View Grill. Folks can also visit the Wild Goose Coffee at the Granary, Embers Wood Fired Pizza or grab a beer at Yampa Valley Brewing, all of which have become staples in the community.
Mendisco said Hayden is primed for growth, and says the community has plenty to offer.
“You are coming to a community that is authentic in the way we treat our businesses and the way we treat our people,” Mendisco said. “The support you will have here from the town, from the people and from the community will be overwhelming … while we might not be able to compete with the Front Range on financial scale, or even maybe some other Western sub communities, the effort that we’re going to put in to help you where we can is going to far exceed the expectations.”
The community also wants to attract the right kinds of businesses that put people and the community first, and offer good jobs that will make Hayden stronger, as seen in its annual business pitch contest.
Hayden caught the eye of developer Paul Brinkman who has invested in the community with projects at the historic Hayden Granary, the Salt Shed Flats and Hayden Village Townhomes. He is currently working on a proposed residential project, Woodruff Flats at 112 W. Jefferson Ave., which is expected to be reasonably priced, long-term rental units within walking distance of downtown, and downtown amenities.
Franciosi Brothers Tap and Table
Sassquatch Party Rentals
Creek View Grill
Sundays with Sarah
Yampa Valley Entertainment
Bar-U-Eat production facility
Wired and Inspired
Sascha’s Gourmet Goods
The Lodges of Oak Creek
New farmers market
Coming soon: Dueling D’s BBQ and Grill
“I’m obviously a developer, so the things I do need to be financially feasible, but it’s not a zero sum game,” Brinkman said. “My goal is to have projects that are financially feasible, but meet the needs of the community, and that the community is pleased and wants to support the things that I’m doing.”
Anthony Franciosi was drawn to Oak Creek and Hayden because he loves the idea the idea of being a part of a small town, and hopes that his pizza restaurants provide something that will add to the communities of Oak Creek where he started, and in Hayden were he has expanded.
“I started a wholesale cannabis business in Oak Creek in 2014, and we just felt like we needed some consistent food out there, to be honest with you, Franciosi said. “Every town needs pizza.”
He had been living in South Routt since 2008, and said he fell in love with what Oak Creek had to offer.
“It’s amazing the people are the best,” Franciosi said. “It’s a wholesome community where Doug, the postmaster, knows your post office box. It’s a small town America.”
Franciosi said that small town feel is why he located in Oak Creek, and the reason he expanded in Hayden. He said the town board, the mayor and the officials made things easy for him.
Both Brinkman and Franciosi said the idea of going to a smaller town is not for everybody, and at the end of the day, the business has to make the move that is right. Mendisco agrees and says that Steamboat is the economic hub of the Yampa Valley, but as it continues to grow he knows that opportunities in these smaller towns will present themselves.
“We are open for business first and foremost.,” Mendisco said. “We want to work with people, but we’re not going to do that at the expense of our community values … We just want to send a message that says, here’s what our community values are, and if you’re not in alignment with that — that’s okay there is a different place for you — but if you are then we welcome you.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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