Navigator Awards: Recognizing excellence
If you go:What: Navigator Awards When: Nov. 11 from 5 to 9 p.m. Where: Strings Music Pavilion Cost: $75 per person. $750 for a table of 10. Tickets available at steamboatchamber.com.
Past winnersBUSINESS LEADERS OF THE YEAR 1999 — Julie Green 2000 — Rod Hanna 2001 — Mike Lomas 2002 — Andy Wirth 2003 — Scott Ford 2004 — Steve Dawes 2005 — John Kerst 2006 — Chris Diamond 2007 — David Baldinger Jr. 2008 — Rex Brice 2009 — Chuck Porter 2010 — David Nagel 2011 — Grant Fenton 2012 — Karl Gills 2013 — Jim Schneider 2014 — Ed MacArthur 2015 — Bob Dapper YOUNG PROFESSIONALS OF THE YEAR 2009 — Stacy Huffman 2010 — Ryan Marsden 2011 — Sara Ferris 2012 — Stephany Traylor 2013 — Chris Tamucci 2014 — Sarah Fox 2015 — Glen Traylor BUSINESSES OF THE YEAR 1999 — TIC 2000 — Native Excavating 2001 — Ore House at the Pine Grove 2002 — SmartWool 2003 — Ski Haus 2004 — PostNet 2005 — F.M. Light & Sons 2006 — Off the Beaten Path bookstore 2007 — Prudential Steamboat Realty 2008 — Christy Sports 2009 — BAP! 2010 — Yampa Valley Bank 2011 — Alpine Bank 2012 — Colorado Mountain College 2013 — Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare 2014 — Yampa Valley Medical Center 2015 — Rex's Family of Restaurants
Steamboat Springs — It took the vision of community leaders and the drive of Executive Director Scott Parker to transform this year’s business of the year into a thriving downtown entertainment venue.
Just four years ago, Carmike Cinemas closed its doors and building owner Michael Barry put the Chief Theater up for sale.
Steamboat Springs resident Jim Cook was among those who saw an opportunity to make the Chief shine once again.
There were ultimately two goals — to expand the arts in Steamboat and create a more vibrant downtown.
“We wanted to fill in with some more excitement on Lincoln Avenue,” Cook said. “This just adds to the whole theme.”
When it was built in the 1920s, the Chief was a single-room venue and was the first place “talkies” were shown in Northwest Colorado.
In the 1980s, walls were put up to separate the space into four theaters.
By 2012, the Chief was in need of some tender love and care.
“That place hadn’t been cleaned in years,” Cook said. “God, was it horrible.”
Cook went on to help form the Friends of the Chief nonprofit group, and he gambled his own money to secure the rights to buy the building by putting up the non-refundable earnest money.
“We had no idea how we were going to pay for it,” Cook said.
A year after getting the building under contract, Friends of the Chief was able to raise enough money to purchase the Chief for $1.45 million on Oct. 2, 2012.
The names of the donors are listed in the Chief’s lobby.
“It was a real grassroots efforts,” said Cook, who later stepped down from the Friends of the Chief board. “The people who are running it now are doing a stellar job.”
A cultural hub
In October, the hottest tickets in town were for the sold-out performances of “Cannibal: The Musical” at the Chief.
These days, if you want to see a show at the Chief, you better get tickets early.
“The Chief, just by its presence, is the cultural and entertainment hub of downtown Steamboat,” said Parker, who became the executive director in August of 2013.
And on nights when the Chief is packed, neighboring businesses reap the benefits.
“When we have a busy night, restaurants have to add staff,” Parker said.
The vision of the Chief is taking shape, and today, the historic theater is home to a variety of eclectic entertainment and fundraising events.
“There’s no other thing like it,” Friends of the Chief board member Alice Klauzer said. “It’s a multi-cultural center.”
This year, a milestone was reached when a view-obstructing post was removed from the main theater and turned into a bar top.
There is still more work to be done.
To truly transform the theater, Friends of the Chief wants to return it to a one-theater venue and add a balcony. It is a big job and would take a year and a half of construction and a price of between $3 million and $5 million.
This project would expand the theater to between 300 and 400 seats, allowing the Chief to attract bigger-named acts.
“We’re really, really working hard, trying to get it to where we want it to be,” Klauzer said.
Business Leader of the Year: Scott Marr
Scott Marr has been successful in both his business endeavors and community involvement.
Marr grew up in Florida and briefly worked as an accountant before moving to Colorado for a short stint as the business manager for the Grand Junction Sentinel newspaper.
He then entered the hotel industry back in the Florida Keys, where he developed properties with his father, who Marr considers his role model.
His father started his business career with no money, and they had to find investors for the hotel developments.
“There was a lot of rejection to get to the point where we got something,” Marr said.
Marr had been to Steamboat on a ski vacation, and he wanted to come back. In 2001, he bought the 82-room Holiday Inn, which had the Village Inn restaurant as a tenant.
“They were not up to the standard I wanted to be in here,” Marr said.
The hotel also needed some work, and in the 2009, in the midst of the recession, he committed to expanding the hotel to 117 rooms.
Marr partnered with Rex Brice to open Rex’s American Grill & Bar in place of the Village Inn.
“He has high expectations but gets out of the way to let you make it happen,” Brice said.
Along Marr’s side the whole time has been business partner Barbara Robinson, who moved from Florida to whip the hotel into shape.
“I think that we took a very average hotel and made it extraordinary,” Robinson said.
It is the highest ranked Holiday Inn in Colorado and was recently awarded the prestigious Intercontinental Hotels Group Torchbearer Award for highest quality metrics and guest satisfaction.
Out of 15,000 hotels, only 30 receive the award annually.
Outside of the hotel business, Marr is an active member of the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs. While serving as president, the club constructed the Rotary Peace Pavilion in Rotary Park.
“I think it turned out to be a great community asset,” Marr said.
Marr also has served on the Yampa Valley Medical Center board and was president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association board.
In 2009, he was recognized as the Philanthropist of the Year by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.
He is a member of the 2A trails advisory committee that is deciding how to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on new hiking and cycling trails.
“He’s involved,” Brice said. “He’s one of those people that gets out in the community and is a part of the process.”
Young Professional of the Year: Nick Sharp
This year’s young professional of the year started on the ground floor of what would become one of the most successful businesses in Steamboat Springs.
Nick Sharp, 36, grew up in Elizabeth, and he learned he had knack for the hospitality industry while attending Colorado State University.
“I found that to be a satisfying way to spend my time,” Sharp said.
After moving to Steamboat in 2004, Sharp started bartending at Mazzola’s, which was later bought by Rex Brice.
Sharp has stuck with Brice and helped him expand Rex’s Family of Restaurants. Today, the company has six restaurants and a catering company. Sharp serves as the director of operations.
Brice said Sharp has played a key role in the growth of the business.
“He is the voice of reason in the company,” Brice said.
Brice said Sharp is able to make decisions that are better long-term for the restaurants, and he helps instill the company brand and culture.
“He brings that to the table and spreads that through the organization,” Brice said.
Sharp’s co-workers speak highly of him.
Jennifer Jurgovan, who does catering sales and hospitality management for the company, said Sharp has been a huge mentor, and she frequently goes to him for guidance.
“He tries to teach me, and I do my best to follow in his steps,” Jurgovan said. “He teaches me how to be a better person at my job.”
Jurgovan said Sharp is wise beyond his years, and he has a unique ability to diffuse tense situations.
Sharp is the ultimate brand ambassador for the restaurants, which have a mission to create memorable experiences and to provide meaning in people’s lives.
That goes beyond just the customers at the restaurants, and Jurgovan said Sharp strives to make sure the employees enjoy what they are doing.
“Nick measures the success of our company by how happy people are,” Jurgovan said.
As the community has changed, so has the outlook for the company, and Sharp said they are constantly looking for opportunities.
Sharp said it was an honor to receive a Navigator Award that recognizes him as a driving force in one of the biggest companies in town.
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The Routt County Democratic Party and the area’s democratic candidates are used to spending annual fundraisers inside the Steamboat Springs Community Center for a lively night of speeches, applause and socializing.