The Bottleneck closing a sobering end |

The Bottleneck closing a sobering end

Future building tenants unknown

The Bottleneck owner John Marshall is closing his downtown liquor store after 33 years of business.
Matt Stensland

New owners follow their own advice

Changes are likely in store after ownership of a downtown building changes hands.

Local real estate appraiser Lori Elliot and her husband, Mark, are purchasing The Bottleneck liquor store building at 734 Lincoln Ave. from longtime building and The Bottleneck owner John Marshall. The sale is planned for Sept. 11.

Marshall is retiring, and the last day of business at The Bottleneck will be Sept. 2.

Lori Elliot owns Elliot Appraisal Services and performs commercial and residential appraisal. She said she finally followed her own advice that prime real estate in downtown Steamboat was a wise investment.

"I've been telling people that for five years," Lori Elliot said. "I completed a few downtown appraisals over the last few months and decided if we were ever going to get property downtown, we should do it now."

The building was listed at $1.2 million and has been on the market for several years.

She said that she and her husband considered taking over the liquor store business, but they realized it was not for them.

Lori Elliot said she wishes there was a way to keep The Bottleneck open. She said the space would be available for lease.

"It didn't work out for our lifestyle to run it," Lori Elliot said. "We would like nothing more than to have a business there that serves both locals and tourists," Lori Elliot said.

There also are some changes in store for the second story of The Bottleneck building.

Cindy Tuck has owned Books and Booty bookstore for 12 1/2 years. Tuck lives in the downtown Westland Mobile Home Park, which is being redeveloped. She plans to sell her merchandise and move to Arizona.

Chrissie Felt has owned and operated Token Threads above The Bottleneck for the past six months. The store specializes in "affordable clothing for trendy mountain people."

She wants to keep her store open, but she said she needs a long-term lease and might have to move under the new ownership.

Anyone interested in leasing space in the building can call Lori Elliot at 879-1472.

— Anyone who has owned a liquor store in a resort town for three decades is bound to have at least a few interesting stories.

The Bottleneck owner John Marshall is no exception.

After running the downtown Steamboat Springs liquor store for 33 years, Marshall has decided to sell the building, close his business and retire.

He said he would take with him great memories of being a part of a close-knit community, as well as some memorable stories. One of his favorite stories is from a New Year’s Day in the 1970s.

While many were nursing their hangovers that morning, Marshall was working at the store.

“When you work retail you just don’t have holidays,” Marshall said. “I haven’t seen a Christmas Eve in 33 years.”

Downtown Steamboat was quiet on the holidays those days, and a man pulled his car next to the store, Marshall said. The man did not worry about pulling into a parking spot. He just parked in the middle of traffic and entered the store wearing a pink bathrobe and matching pink bunny slippers, Marshall said.

“I didn’t ask if he was wearing anything under his robe, and I didn’t really care,” Marshall said.

The man’s purchase did not include alcohol, only Bloody Mary mix. After paying for the purchase, he got back in his car and drove off.

“Needless to say, it was New Year’s morning,” Marshall said.

On Thursday morning, Marshall was in The Bottleneck building’s basement, which served as storage and contained a safe spot between the floor joists for some of his more expensive bottles of wine. He pulled out a bottle of 1970 Chateau d’ Yquem that he said was worth between $1,000 and $2,000. Marshall guessed that he has sold more than a million bottles of wine.

He looked over an old cash register and bar code scanner. Marshall said he was second behind Safeway to use bar code scanners. It was a considerable investment at the time, costing him about $20,000 for two registers and scanners. He started using computers to track sales in 1986, he said.

On the main floor, a dog belonging to another downtown business owner walked behind the counter.

“You never run out of two things in a liquor store,” Marshall said. “Balloons for the kids and dog biscuits.”

Marshall started working at The Bottleneck in 1973 and purchased the business and building in 1976. At that time, prime downtown real estate was going for about $100,000, Marshall said.

The Bottleneck building originally was built in 1916 to house a grocery store, Marshall said. In the 1930s, the building served as the location for Steamboat’s mainstay downtown liquor store, Lucky Liquors, which became The Bottleneck in 1968. Marshall has primarily operated the business, but he has two business partners, Noel and Terry Hefty.

Marshall said the business has been successful throughout the years but that it just became time for him to retire.

“One of the ways we kept the business going – I’m not that smart – but we were involved in the community in all sorts of ways,” Marshall said. “When you’re that involved in the community, the community rewards you by shopping in your store.”

Marshall’s philanthropic endeavors include work with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, youth sports, Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, and the Tread of Pioneers Museum. He also was co-chairman of the Winter Carnival for two years.

Marshall became a wine connoisseur throughout the years and volunteered at tastings and festivals. When he took over The Bottleneck, the store sold about 50 kinds of wine. He increased that to about 2,000.

Marshall said another reason the business had been successful was that he had good help. Out of about 100 employees during the past three decades, he said there was only “one stinker in the whole bunch.”

“I have people on staff that have been here for 10 to 12 years,” he said.

The Bottleneck’s alumni reunion will be held after the store closes Sept. 2, Marshall said.

The store’s closing also means downtown Steamboat soon could be without a liquor store. The only other liquor store, Rocky Mountain Wine & Liquor, 941 Lincoln Ave., is expected to be demolished to make room for a new mixed-use development.

“Three years ago, there were four (liquor) stores within four blocks,” Marshall said. “Next summer, there will be none.”

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