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Triple Crown boosts some summer businesses

— Steamboat Springs was jumping with more than 13,400 visitors last week. It was like the busiest week of the ski season, only with more cars and minivans.

The Chamber Lodging Barometer anticipated area lodging properties would be 96 percent full July 31.

However, retail businesses tell varying stories of how the presence of 140 youth baseball teams and their families, along with several hundred specialty motorcycle enthusiasts affected their daily receipts.

Ben Gero of Design of the Times said last week put the finishing touches on one of the best summer months he has experienced in 18 years here.

“July was an excellent month period and this weekend in particular,” Gero said.

His small store at 810 Lincoln Ave. has 14 departments ranging from jewelry to clothing to toys and posters. Gero said he was up in every department. Sales in July were up 25 percent over last year, but 2003 wasn’t a particularly good year, Gero hastened to add. This July was also ahead of July 2002 at Gero’s store.

“We actually approached numbers that we typically see in February and March,” during the heart of the ski season, he added.

Jace Romick of Into the West, said he has almost discounted youth baseball business at his store that specializes in high-end Western home furnishings, clothing and accessories.

That’s why he was so surprised one day last week when a customer from New Mexico, here with his son’s baseball team, dropped almost $5,000 on a dining set and lamps.

“It’s very seldom that we see that” during Triple Crown weekends, Romick said. “The store was packed all day long. But we’ll have two adults with 10 kids.”

Rarely, do the baseball families make a purchase in his store, Romick said. But to be fair, his line of merchandise is aimed at an affluent customer.

“It’s always been a real question in my mind,” Romick said. “The store is full but it’s almost detrimental to business. It alienates the second-home owners who are my main customers.”

Into The West is at 807 Lincoln Ave. A half block away at Steamboat Treasures and Tees, Leon Rinck estimates his business was up almost 25 percent over the same period in 2003.

“For my business, Triple Crown definitely has an impact,” Rinck said.

Rinck follows developments in the structure of Triple Crown tournaments closely and is aware that the loss of a girls fast pitch softball tournament in 2003 reduced the number of teams here during the last week in July. Tournament organizers responded by spreading volume out across the summer.

The size of last week’s tournament was rebuilt by 25 to 30 percent over last summer, he said, and his sales of T-shirts and ball caps jumped correspondingly.

“There was a direct correlation to an increase in business Wednesday (July 28) to Sunday (Aug. 1),” Rinck said.

Kathy Diemer at Johnny B. Good’s Diner at 738 Lincoln said she has the impression the baseball teams and their families cook a lot of meals in their condos and barbecue in the park.

“We were busy, but we didn’t set any records,” she said.

Will Bashan at Steamboat Art Company said last week’s crowd didn’t exactly fit his store’s intended customer base, but he was happy to see the town busy.

“That wasn’t our target demographic, although we certainly benefited handsomely from their presence,” Bashan said. “It’s good for Steamboat, and it all filters across.”

Bashan said during ski season, a group of tourists the size of the one that arrived in Steamboat the last week in July would have generated more sales.

“We had a good week, but sales were lower than you would normally attribute to that crowd,” Bashan said. “In winter, I’m guessing our sales would have been double.”

Tracy Barnett of Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant said her restaurant ran a waiting list for about an hour Friday and Saturday nights, but they’ve done that all summer.

“We had a good week,” Barnett said. “Any time you get a lodging report showing 13,400 people in town, you’re busy. Anything over 11,000 is really busy.”

Barnett and her husband Cooper drive to the summit of Rabbit Ears Pass every night where they act as hosts at the Meadows Campground. Even the National Forest campground was busier than usual last week.

“We can’t take the time away for a vacation so we’re spending our summer vacation right here in Steamboat,” Barnett said.

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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