Some Summit County businesses won’t survive the pandemic. Here’s what 3 of them had to say | SummitDaily.com
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Some Summit County businesses won’t survive the pandemic. Here’s what 3 of them had to say

Walter Caamaño, owner of the Caamaño Boutique in Breckenridge, speaks with customers Wednesday, Oct. 28, as he prepares to close the store.
Photo by Taylor Sienkiewicz / tsienkiewicz@summitdaily.com

DILLON — While most businesses were able to reopen after the springtime shutdown, some won’t make it through the pandemic.

The Summit County business impact survey, which was conducted by the Summit Prosperity Initiative, estimated the economic impact from COVID-19 at $143 million for the summertime months of June through August. That number grows to an estimated $464 million in lost revenue over the six-month period from March through August, according to the survey. Summit County previously estimated the economic impact at $321.5 million in early October.

Although tourism seemed to be unexpectedly strong this summer, businesses still reported a loss. Compared to 2019, June 2020 revenue declined an estimated 40%, July was down an estimated 30% and August revenue was off an estimated 35%, according to the survey. Those survey responses are in contrast to reported sales tax collections for Summit County’s towns, which began trending up in June with much stronger collections in July and August.

“Despite the positive story that is coming out of the summer months, there is still that backstory that we are down $464 million estimated in revenue for the year and then the other fact that 20% to 25% of the workforce has left,” Summit Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Blair McGary said. “And so you think about how difficult hiring was prior to the pandemic and then knowing that 20% to 25% of the workforce has left, that presents challenges for businesses moving into these slower months.”

Walter Caamaño, owner of Caamaño Boutique in Breckenridge, is leaving the store behind after 35 years due to rent increases and financial hardships associated with the pandemic.

Caamaño owned the store with his wife, Mary Zink Caamaño, who died in 2012, and had hoped to pass the store on to his children. Caamaño said that like other businesses, the shutdown was difficult as he worked to pay rent as well as suppliers from whom he had ordered prior to the shutdown. When he reopened in June, Caamaño saw some traffic to the store, but that changed when Walkable Main took shape.

“I didn’t see the traffic on this end of town like it used to be,” Caamaño said about Breckenridge’s pedestrian-only Main Street. “Instead of being on Main Street, I had that feeling that I was on Highway 9.”

Caamaño said he felt that boutiques like his have not been protected. He added that it is impossible to compete with big-box stores that have popped up around town in recent years. 

“Little by little, you are going to see how the small boutiques are going to close, and that is sad, but that is our reality unless we make a decision to say, ‘Well, as we protect our restaurants, we (should) protect our creative boutiques,’” Caamaño said.

Caamaño said he has received heartwarming reactions from customers who are upset that the store is closing. While the store will definitely leave Main Street Station, he said those responses have encouraged him to look into opening elsewhere. Caamaño said he has been “immensely happy” in Breckenridge and is sad to say goodbye. 

A closing sign is displayed in the window of the Caamaño Boutique in Breckenridge on Wednesday, Oct. 28.
Photo by Taylor Sienkiewicz / tsienkiewicz@summitdaily.com

The Speakeasy Movie Theatre is also closing up shop this fall after 20 years in business. The Speakeasy Movie Theater — the company that operates The Speakeasy in Breckenridge — sent out a letter explaining that the theater is closing its doors after hoping for the past seven months that the COVID-19 situation would change. The letter, signed by film programmer Karin Litzmann, notes that health regulations are necessary but that the company can’t afford to keep the cinema empty. 

“Our space, while very cute and charming, is also quite small,” Litzmann wrote in her letter. “Occupancy restrictions limit us to 10 people in the theater. Even then, sitting in an enclosed space with poor ventilation for hours seems reckless.”

While the physical location is closing for now, Litzmann added that the company hopes to become a virtual theater for the upcoming year. 

After a decade in business, Ready, Paint, Fire! also had to close down after a final farewell in September, when owner Bethany Smith said the square footage was a problem for the studio. COVID-19 restrictions meant only about eight people were allowed inside at a time, which Smith said would not pay the bills to keep the Main Street studio open this winter. While the art studio stayed open over the summer, Smith said the shop was barely breaking even and was operating under difficult conditions with rigorous cleaning and other coronavirus protocols. Smith said she hopes she and her family can return to the studio when operations are more feasible.

At the Summit Chamber, McGary said renewal numbers are down slightly but that new members are joining. The chamber works to help the local business community by advocating on its behalf at the local, state and federal levels. The chamber also has been holding weekly coffee meetups, is leading business groups and has launched the Summit Biz Rebuild Program, which aims to help those affected by the pandemic.

McGary added that the business community is in a bit of a holding pattern right now with uncertainty surrounding rising coronavirus case numbers.

Breckenridge Finance Director Brian Waldes said the town is keeping a close eye on new public health orders and that officials are worried about any restriction rollbacks that could push additional businesses to close.

“If we do have another total shutdown, or shutdown similar to March, we’re going to be as responsive as we possibly can, similar to what we did in March,” Waldes said about $1.5 million in grants that were approved by Breckenridge Town Council.

A big concern, Waldes said, is that businesses depend on the winter for big money-making months. Without a fair amount of business this ski season, those businesses might not be able to make rent or pay their employees.

“We’re very concerned about local businesses,” Waldes said. “That’s a major concern for council and for staff, as well. … We have like 15 No. 1 concerns right now, but that’s one of them. It’s helping these guys if the situation gets that dire, helping them make rent and just stay there until we can open back up in the event of a closure.”


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