Anyone wondering how the town of Breckenridge is doing this year can just take a look at the numbers. Not only are occupancy rates on the rise, but vacancy rates for commercial properties are on the decline, with the lowest retail and restaurant vacancy rate in four years.
Currently Breckenridge hosts 761,549 square feet of retail and restaurant space, with a vacancy rate of 2.61 percent as of Jan. 2.
"It's definitely the economy having turned around," said Jack Wolfe, whose real estate business Wolfe and Company tracks commercial property sales, leasing activity and bank-owned transactions.
This effect has impacts on two different levels, Wolfe said. "Level one is you have entrepreneurial people feeling better about making and investment and doing start-up businesses and secondly, on the customer side, the customers coming to Breckenridge have been spending money."
Because of this, sales for restaurants, bars and retail have increased. In 2012, restaurant sales through October are ahead of 2011, a record year, by 15.2 percent. Retail sales for 2012 through October are ahead of 2011 by 10 percent and very close to the record year of 2007, before the economic downturn.
The economy isn't the only influence at work here, said Wolfe. "I don't think there's one silver bullet as to why."
While it's true that last year's poor snow season had an affect throughout Summit County, it seems that the summer, which started earlier than usual, was quite successful.
"It's a great debate going on right now," Wolfe said. "I think there's a general feeling (that) the snow is extremely important, there's no question about it. ... We're seeing more and more effort being put into the summer."
The early end to the snow season and the heat and smoke of statewide wildfires pushed people into the mountains. A wide variety of summer outdoor activity opportunities bring people into the county for more than just winter.
Trends within the town of Breckenridge appear to be swinging toward an increase in restaurants and retail. Twin Moose Yogurt Company, for example, which opened in February, took over a space that had previously been a brokerage office.
Diversity has also been apparent in the retail shops that have opened in Breckenridge recently. New shops Flourish and Shine Mine have an emphasis on Colorado-based, handmade jewelry and art. Several other newer shops also offer unique items with potential niche markets.
"I really like the diversification that's occurring," Wolfe said. "We're starting to see a break from the traditional simple family-oriented stores like T-shirt shops and things like that. When you see French Kiss doing so well ... and Worldly Traveller, I just love seeing that type of retailer coming in. It's a gap in the market that we had that's being filled really nicely."