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Sense of community roots native New Yorker to Summit County

Andrew Gmerek

The first time Dina Graham left Colorado she cried.

She had been visiting on a ski vacation and when the time came to return home to Long Island, N.Y., she didn’t want to leave.

“I knew there had to be a better way,” Graham said. “I felt trapped in New York. I was working a ton and watching my life go by, and I knew I needed to be in Colorado. Six months later I had sold my florist shop and moved to Crested Butte.”

While living in Crested Butte, Graham said, she did the normal ski bum routine, living and working at a lodge and getting around without a car.

Eventually, she decided it was time to open another florist shop, and she picked Summit County as the place to settle down.

“I moved to Summit County because of the business,” she said. “I’d been working with flowers since I was 15 years old, and I opened my first store when I was 20. I wanted to open a store in the mountains, and I figured Summit County was the right place to be.”

This year marked Graham’s seventh season at her shop, Creative Flowers, located in the City Market shopping center in Breckenridge. The business, however, wasn’t her only reason for moving to the county.

“The opportunities here are endless,” Graham said. “There is such a strong focus on a healthy lifestyle. I kayak, ski, snowshoe and participate in just about every recreation the county has to offer. I also love spending time with good friends in such a beautiful place. There have been days when I’m out riding my bike on the Dam Road and the views are just amazing. I know there are times when I take it all for granted, like anyone who’s lived here for a few years, but on those special days when I take the time to look around, I know I’d rather be here than anywhere else.”

Graham also said living in Summit County as given her insight into more important things than just the views or outdoor activities.

“When I lived in New York I was a workaholic,” she said. “Moving here I definitely made sure I’d never do that again. I’ve learned to balance work and family, and even though it’s a challenge, it can be done, and it’s worth it.”

Keeping with working toward a balance in her life, Graham said this year she is changing the focus of her flower shop to include a stronger retail sales side.

“I’m shifting my focus from weddings to the retail store,” she said. “In a normal summer I would do 50 or 60 weddings, and that just doesn’t leave me enough time to spend with my daughter, Jackie. Besides, seven years is a long time to be doing the same thing, so this year I’m backing off.”

Graham describes herself as a person always ready to laugh, but the only thing she said she doesn’t laugh at is the recent increase in road traffic.

“Living in New York is expensive, so the expense of living here doesn’t bother me,” she said. “And even though I’ve made friends who have moved away, I look at it like I now have friends living in other great places I can visit. So the transient nature of the people in Summit County doesn’t bother me either. About the only thing I can think of that I don’t like here is the traffic. This winter was honestly a drag.”

As for the future, Graham is not planning on leaving anytime soon.

“Living here, I’ve found a connection with the community that I never experienced living in New York,” she said, “and it’s wonderful. I went to lunch the other day, and I must have had 15 people stop by my table to talk. When you go to the post office it’s the same thing. This is the kind of community that sets in your life, and you start thinking that no matter what, this is home.”


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