Steamboat businesses say holidays were a gift |

Steamboat businesses say holidays were a gift

Store owners, managers report lots of traffic, strong sales to close out 2021

F.M. Light & Sons manager Peter Gudolawic talks with customer John Duldner, who was trying on cowboy hats at the downtown store earlier this week.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Ohana manager Cait Bambenek took a moment away from scraping a fresh layer of snow off the sidewalk in front of the downtown store this week to reflect on the holiday season.

“Christmas was great,” Bambenek said. “We saw some of our busiest days in the shop — like ever. The people were great and friendly and excited to be here. Finally, we had some snow for everybody to get up on the mountain.”

The message was the same across the street at F.M. Light & Sons, where manager Peter Gudolawicz was helping John Duldner, in town for Musicfest at Steamboat, try on some cowboy hats. Nearby, owner Chris Dillenbeck was happy to talk about the foot-traffic he saw over the holidays, not only at F.M. Light & Sons, but also at Moose Mountain Trading Co. and Chrysalis just a few doors down.

He said Christmas is an important time of year for the family-owned stores, and this year has been good.

His wife and co-owner, Lindsay Dillenbeck, is the great-great granddaughter of F.M. Light and the fifth-generation to run the downtown retail store, which carries everything from cowboy boots to hats.

“There are a lot of people in town,” Chris Dillenbeck said. “Typically, the beginning of December is pretty slow until the flights come in; but this year, with people traveling a lot, it feels like the slow times weren’t nearly as slow as normal.”

Lisa Popovich, executive director of MainStreet Steamboat, said that is pretty much the same message she is getting from businesses across Steamboat Springs with the holiday season coming to a close.

“It was very busy,” she said. “Everybody’s been very busy, and all indications are that businesses are up.”

According to Popovich, that’s impressive considering the challenges many local businesses have faced simply getting the products they sell into their stores. Both Dillenbeck and Kris Allen at Allen’s clothing said they have had to deal with shortages in the supply chain.

Like many other local business onwers, Kris Allen, owner of Allen’s clothing, is reporting a busy holiday season this winter despite some difficulties getting products in stock.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“There have been supply chain shortages, and it’s just hard getting stuff here and making sure we had the stock,” said Allen, a fourth-generation store owner. “It’s still an issue that we’re battling, but it’s got a lot better, and it worked out that we were able to get stuff in time for the holiday push.”

Popovich said that the holiday season is slightly different in Steamboat, where small retailers count on tourism during both the ski season and the summer season.

“The holidays are not as big as they are if you’re say down on the Front Range, but those last five days before Christmas are really big — and really the five days after are just as big,” Popovich said.

Allen agreed, saying his store depends on locals during the weeks leading up to Christmas and then for the week that follows.

“It was good,” Allen said of his business. “We had a lot of foot traffic, a lot a locals shopping, and it went really well.”

He said this holiday season matched or may have beaten the numbers the store posted in 2019. He said much of the business was supported by locals who came in looking for that perfect holiday gift.

Cait Bambenek, manager of Ohana, said that many people decided to shop local this holiday season, and it was a blessing for the location in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

While Ohana hasn’t been around for generations, the downtown store and the graphic T-shirts, hoodies and other unique gifts it sells have found a place with locals and visitors.

Bambenek said the products have been around for six years, but this is just the second holiday season for the store at 843 Lincoln Ave. in Steamboat. Bambenek said last year the store was limited in capacity because of COVID-19, but that was not the case at the end of 2021.

“I think ever since last year, and ever since COVID, we’ve definitely seen a big push to shop local,” Bambenek said.

Bambenek added that she also planned ahead and had a lot of goods to sell, and she credits that, along with Ohana’s name in Steamboat, for bringing a lot of people into the store this holiday season.

Sales associate Chloe Williams folds hoodies at the front counter of Ohana in downtown Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

At Straightline Sports, co-owner Bruce Lee said the holidays are his favorite time of the year because he loves to help people find the perfect gift. This year, he helped a whole lot of people find the right item to put under the tree.

“It was not nonstop, but people were out spending and were out looking for gifts,” said Lee, who has been helping customers for more than 30 years. “It’s always fun for me, being in this business as long as I have, finding the right gift for each person.”

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