Sticking out hard times – and secrets to success |

Sticking out hard times – and secrets to success

SUMMIT COUNTY – In a business world where profits depend largely on weather and tourists who come to enjoy it, success is more a roller coaster ride of a journey than a destination.

Despite tough times in past years, bankruptcies and foreclosures haven’t hit Summit County as they have Silicon Valley, and local business owners said this week it’s a function of their own tenacity and good products. What’s more, some entrepreneurs said, hard times mean even better opportunities.

In Breckenridge, a snapshot of the history of businesses is displayed on the walls of Downstairs at Eric’s on Main Street. Co-owner Eric Mamula and his partners bought the restaurant 13 years ago and have seen many businesses come and go. Mamula said Wednesday he collects the signs of defunct businesses (many friends bring them in after a business closes its doors) not so much as a sign of his own success, but as a record of history in the town.

Business in a ski community, Mamula said, is not always what owners expect. The general economy – with consumers spending less and less likely to travel – has an effect on business. But then there’s the weather, which nobody can control. And toughest of all, business in Summit County is seasonal, which requires foresight and planning for the months when cash flow dips.

“Some people don’t know what they’re getting into,” said Mamula, who grew up in family-owned restaurants and planned on going into the airline industry (but is now relieved he didn’t). “I knew the intensity of work that went into what we do. I didn’t say, “I’m going to hang out, drink beers and talk to people.’ You’ve got to clean grease traps and all the other unsavory parts of the business. Some guys, that’s not what they want to do. They want all the fun.”

One way to ensure some entrepreneurial success is by buying an established business and maintaining the level of service the previous proprietors developed. Jones and Harris was a successful interior design firm for 28 years when Buck Finley and his wife bought the business in 2001. For two years, Finley, Jones and Harris has enjoyed the repeat business the original firm captured.

Finley, who also owns Colorado Premiere Real Estate, said business owners have to adjust their thinking based on economic conditions, but customer service should always be a pillar in the business foundation.

“You stay in business that long by taking care of customers and providing them with a service or product they need,” Finley said.

The interior design business is currently for sale. Finley said the sale is part of “changing plans and doing different things.” Even though Summit County has seen better boom days, other business owners are also looking at diversifying and new opportunities.

A sour economy isn’t always bad news, said George Tousey. Tousey and his wife took over Frisco’s Deli Belly’s five years ago and opened a sister deli in Breckenridge two years ago. The deli ventures continued a restaurant career that started at Copper Mountain: the Touseys owned the B Lift Pub for 12 years and Farley’s for 10 years. And, this June, Tousey and partner Jim Jacox will open a new business, Hit This, a sports complex offering batting cages, golf and arcade games in Dillon.

Tousey’s business career has taught him several keys to success. With the Copper Mountain restaurants, he learned there are some things – other than weather – that are outside an owner’s control.

“We learned a lot about lease negotiations – let’s say that,” Tousey said.

With Deli Belly’s, Tousey focused on a consistent, affordable product served by dependable employees. You hang tough in hard times and your business will attract customers from other towns, he said – and that’s how the second, Breckenridge store opened.

Tousey said the sports complex idea has been growing for a year and the timing was right. The old Dillon movie theaters closed, and Tousey and Jacox saw an opportunity to serve the burgeoning softball crowd.

“The way the economy is, it’s an opportunity to try new projects,” Tousey said. “Interest rates are low. And, not that we want people to go out of business, but it happens. People go away, and there are good opportunities.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or

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