Reaching critical mass |

Reaching critical mass

Summit Daily/Reid WilliamsAirport Road in Breck has shown signs of becoming more than a commercial hodgepodge.

BRECKENRIDGE – About five months ago, Joan and Cam Moll converted some vacant space in a building they owned on Airport Road into a coffee and doughnut shop. Their investment was minimal: a coffee-maker, a beverage-filled refrigerator and some doughnuts they picked up at Daylight Donuts downtown.Their only advertising was a sign propped up on the side of the road that a snowplow destroyed the first day it was up.The store closed after two months.”I was thinking it was a really good idea to have coffee and doughnuts out there because there was nothing else like it,” Joan Moll said. “Some regulars came in every day, but it never took off.”Anything is possibleAirport Road, most of which is within Breckenridge town limits and has only a slim tie to the idea of planes and travel, is gradually filling in as a commercial center. Past the Breckenridge Recreation Center, Upper Blue Elementary School and some employee housing units, the road settles into a strip of miscellaneous businesses, offering a less-expensive option than the downtown area for businesses that don’t rely on walk-in traffic.

There are auto part and body shops, a car wash, accounting offices, a fireplace store, among other things. “It was to some extent a natural evolution,” said Breckenridge town manager Tim Gagen. “That was the one place they could fit in.”The Molls, although they didn’t invest much time or money, figured the area had reached critical mass, that the corridor had enough energy and people to support a walk-up, main street-style business. They were the first to give it a try.”We looked at it more as a fun thing, and if it took off it would be great. But it really didn’t,” Joan Moll said.But what if someone supplied the requisite money and effort? Could Airport Road, an area once considered a decent place for an airport runway, evolve into a secondary downtown area?Zoning-wise, almost anything is possible, Gagen said.’It could work’Debbie Austill, who has owned an accountant office on the road since 1998, thinks a restaurant would make it.

“The traffic here has definitely increased,” she said. “Look at all the people who are coming down from Peak 7 who would love to get coffee before work.”Two years ago she tried to convince her friend, Stephanie Bergstrom, to be the guinea pig. Bergstrom was looking all over Summit County for a place to open a breakfast spot, and Austill wanted her to be the first restaurateur to give Airport Road a try.”That’s why I looked at it then,” Bergstrom said. “Because there wasn’t any food out there and they’re all locals. They have to go somewhere.”She was deterred by the high cost of tapping into the sewer system and other start-up costs. Bergstrom eventually settled on a Main Street location, opening the Cool River Coffee House. While the rent on Airport Road may be slightly less than in the downtown core, the cost of outfitting a building as a restaurant for the first time is prohibitive. Most Main Street-area locations already have the infrastructure.”To be the first one out on Airport Road, you’d have to have some money behind you to hang on,” Bergstrom said. “Someone’s going to end up giving it a whirl. It could work. There’s a lot of people coming off Peak 7 coming into town. If you hit them up before they hit town, sure.”Joan Moll, the only entrepreneur yet to give it a try, said: “I think if you had more to offer – if it’s a deli, sandwich, soup sort of place – something like that could really take off.”Some advantages

Aside from slightly lower rents, Airport Road has some other advantages over the downtown area.”To be able to have your customers come and have a parking space is a big advantage out here,” Austill said.The future may hold more incentives. Colorado Mountain College is considering moving its campus from Harris Street to a parcel on Airport Road north of Upper Blue Elementary. The presence of students, teachers and other locals would dramatically increase traffic and energy in the area.Also, the town plans to beautify and put to greater use the area between Highway 9 and Airport Road. That effort would include creating open space and adding recreational fields, according to Gagen.What’s more, the town’s upcoming swap of Highway 9 and Main Street and its redevelopment of the south entrance to Airport Road could create more visibility for the corridor.And the fate of the space the Molls vacated with their failed coffee shop? It’s turning into a wellness center set to open in November.Jason Starr can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at

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