Vail Resorts takes over Beaver Run retail space
BRECKENRIDGE – Come April, longtime Kinderhut owner and operator Craig Root says he’ll be looking for a new job, along with up to 35 seasonal employees at his Beaver Run-based childcare and ski school facility at Peak 9.The upheaval Root is facing in his life isn’t something counted on. Nor is he looking forward to it. He enjoys running Kinderhut, along with his business partner Charles Merritt, especially the positive feedback from scores of local parents and Beaver Run guests who have used the facility during the past 15 years.But along with several other businesses at Beaver Run, Root’s lease expires at the end of the season. He’s been informed that Vail Resorts is the new tenant for the commercial space at the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center, as the ski company continues to expand its retail reach in Summit County.For Vail Resorts and the Canadian-based Beaver Run Development, it’s a strategic move. “We looked at what was the best for guests of Beaver Run in the long term,” said Rod Corbett, Beaver Run Development’s vice president. “Vail’s just the better option for us.” Corbett said there’s nothing negative about the current operations at the Peak 9 resort.”They’ve been good tenants and they’ve done a good job. The guests have been looked after 99 percent of the time,” Corbett said. The new deal may make sense business-wise to Beaver Run Development and Vail Resorts, but it doesn’t necessarily take into account the human factor, said Root.
“Certainly, I’ll be affected personally,” said Root, who has two young children. “To be walking away with nothing … starting in April, I’ll be looking for a job. I don’t want to sound bitter. Beaver Run has treated us well over the years.” Root is looking at other options for continuing the combined childcare and ski school operation, but calling the Beaver Run set-up unique, he said he doubts he’ll find a similar location that will work as well.Root said his operation paid Beaver Run $120,000 per year for his 4,000-square-feet of space, adding up to more than $1 million over the years. Beaver Run and Vail Resorts officials did not disclose the new financial terms of their deal.Root and Merritt see their operation partly as a community service. Along with childcare and ski school for Beaver Run guests, the pair operated a summer daycare program geared toward locals.”Our rates are $30 per day. That’s subsidized by the people paying $125 per day. We do it for the goodwill of the community,” Merritt said. “We’d like to walk out of here with more than a goodbye. We’d like to do a turnkey with Vail,” he added, explaining that they’d like to at least sell their inventory at the end of the season to walk away from the deal with a little bit of cash.
Undue pressure?Root, Merritt and Steve Lapinsohn, owner of the other Beaver Run businesses affected by the lease changes, all articulated the persistent rumor that’s been floating around for years – that Vail Resorts exercised undue pressure on Beaver Run Development to gain control of the commercial space.That charge was emphatically denied by Corbett and by Breckenridge chief operating officer Roger McCarthy.”The offer to lease that space came out of left field for us,” said McCarthy. “Rod Corbett asked us if were interested in leasing those other spaces … It’s certainly not something we went after,” he said, flatly denying the allegations that Vail strong-armed Beaver Run into acquiescence by threatening to move its ski operations away from the resort. Lapinsohn said he wasn’t comfortable with how Vail did business.”They were very aggressive in the way they came in and put us out of business. The bottom line is, the ski area wants to own it all,” said Lapinsohn, who owns several other shops in town in addition to his operations at Beaver Run.”I think it’s sad the corporation doesn’t see that the loss of diversity will hurt the town,” Lapinsohn said. “I think if they found a way to work with the little guys, it would benefit the whole town. People are going to lose their jobs and that’s just not right.”
Unfounded fears?While the total corporate takeover scenario is widely feared in ski towns, it doesn’t mesh with the reality of what has happened in places like Vail in the past few decades, said Kaye Ferry, executive director of the Vail Chamber of Commerce. “Whenever the ski company does something, there’s always a negative reaction,” said Ferry, who is also a Vail Daily columnist, a ski instructor for Vail Resorts and a former coffee shop owner in downtown Vail. “People are afraid they want to own everything,” she said.But in Vail, she said there hasn’t been a move by the company to “wantonly take over all the retail.”Rather, Vail Resorts looks to address specific business needs, Ferry said. Owning retail businesses at the ski resort base areas makes sense to Vail Resorts because it helps them provide what their customers want, including consistent and seamless service to their guests, she said, singling out factors like store hours.”I don’t think, quite frankly, that makes them the bad guys,” she said.
Ferry also said Vail Resorts does an excellent job of maintaining its retail and service facilities up to a high standard – an important factor in the ongoing battle to attract and keep big-spending destination visitors.McCarthy said Vail’s move into Beaver Run fits well with redevelopment plans for the resort. He said the existing snowboard shop, now owned by Lapinsohn, will remain a snowboard shop.McCarthy said it’s too early to say what might happen with the rest of the retail space. “I don’t know exactly what they do there,” he said of the Kinderhut operation and the other retail facilities. Business is business, but for some local residents, the loss of Kinderhut will hit hard. Park County resident Nancy McDowell has been taking her youngsters to Kinderhut for three years. Fridays have been a traditional ski day for the McDowell family, and her two older kids learned to ski at Kinderhut.”It’s not that there aren’t other daycare options,” McDowell said. “But I am not going to take my son anywhere that’s less than ideal,” she said, explaining that her 3-year-old son Ross has dealt with a serious medical condition that required extra-special care.”It’s like extended family for us. They’ve had the same employees for years. The employees bring their kids. They let Ross stay there one day a week for free,” McDowell said, lamenting the loss of what she says is an irreplaceable locals-oriented service.
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