The Bay Street Company has held its position on Main Street in Breckenridge for 34 years. Now one of the longest-standing retail shops in the area, with its historic background and iconic front garden, will be changing ownership in March. Although it is the end of an era for one family, the new owners plan to keep the atmosphere of the place alive.
The Bay Street Company was opened in 1978 by Dodie Bingham, who had just moved from Michigan to Breckenridge to be closer to family. She brought her antiques and home decor business with her, setting up shop on the corner of Main Street and Adams in one of the town's remaining historic buildings.
The building was constructed sometime before the 1900s and had belonged to a prospector by the name of Herb Vogan. Over the years it had expanded and survived a fire in 1884 that consumed many other buildings.
Bingham's personal touch came in the form of a flower garden. She went to work planting a variety of blossoms, which many told her would not thrive at such a high altitude. Nevertheless, she persisted and soon had visitors flocking to her garden, taking pictures and asking advice. In 2005, the town of Breckenridge granted Bingham an Award of Excellence for the beautification of historic Main Street with her flowers.
Bingham lived in the apartment above the store for 25 years, working in both the store and the garden. As she retired, her daughters Judy Girvin and Candice Van Runkle gradually took over the business.
The Bay Street Company shop soon became more than just a business for Bingham and her family. Girvin and Van Runkle remember family gatherings, children playing in the shop and sweeping the snow off the deck to sing Christmas carols in the winter.
"It's a gathering place for all of our family," Van Runkle said.
Girvin agreed. "One thing that is important to us is this building has always been more than a shop," she said. "It's been a home."
While the building is full of fond memories, Girvin and Van Runkle knew that it was time to move on. After finishing with the shop in March, they plan to go into retirement.
Selling such a personal place was difficult, but the sisters feel that they found just the right buyer in Sandy and Bob Helt.
Though she currently lives in Avon, Sandy Helt has a strong connection to Breckenridge. She lived in town for four years, starting in 1999, when she ran Pearl Street Jewelry out of her home.
Now she is the owner of Valleygirl Boutique, which has a shop on Main Street as well as three other locations in Colorado. The business in the Bay Street Company building will be a new one, featuring jewelry, much of it handcrafted, accessories, gifts and a smattering of other items, including clothing.
"A vision of mine is to have a boutique that has a really large selection of jewelry and gifts," Helt said. "We'll have jewelry and fashion accessories and home decor and gifts, (as well as) handmade crafts by Colorado artisans."
In addition to starting up a new business, the Helts are excited that they are able to do so in a building with as much history and community connection as this one.
"This house has always been something (Sandy's) been in love with," said Bob Helt.
"That is why we are so pleased, because we know you care about it as much as we do," Girvin told him.
"I promise we will," he replied.
The Helts have also promised that the garden will not grow neglected, but they will continue to care for it as avid gardeners themselves.
"We definitely plan to upkeep the garden," Sandy Helt said. "Gardening is a passion of both mine and my husband's. We have a big garden at home and (want) it to be an extension of our garden."
She said she is also excited to become more involved in Breck, both with her businesses and spending time with friends who still live in the community.
"With my background and the roots that I have in Breckenridge, we really wanted to invest in owning a piece of commercial property for the future of our business," she said. "I think the Bay Street Company is the most beautiful property in town, so we're really excited that this opportunity came up and that we were able to make it happen. It's definitely a dream come true."
Passing the property on to the Helts and their two young daughters has helped Girvin and Van Runkle in letting go, knowing that another family with local ties will continue pouring in their time, energy and memories.
"It's a match made in heaven," Girvin said, smiling.