Talking Shop: Alpine Sun Ski & Sport
Ryan Summerlin July 29, 2014
Name/title: Frank & Gigi Dominguez /Owners Alpine Sun Ski & Sport /Owners Adolfs Event Center & Tavern
2. Business/business location: Alpine Sun Ski & Sport & Adolfs Event Center & Tavern. Both businesses are located in the historic Adolfs Building in Old Town Winter Park, 1008 Winter Park Drive Winter Park, CO 80482.
3. How long have you been in business?:
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport, 30 years; Adolfs Event Center & Tavern 1 ½ years
4. How did you get started in this business?:
Frank had been managing a ski shop in Winter Park and Alpine Sun Ski & Sport was for sale. Frank had always wanted to own a ski shop and we decided to purchase Alpine Sun Ski & Sport in 1984. Alpine Sun has been located in Old Town Winter Park since 2000 and right next door is Adolfs Bar. In 2012, a restaurant was planned but the owner decided not to open so we made the decision to open Adolfs as the Adolfs Event Center & Tavern. We now have the opportunity to have both business locations in the Adolfs building in Old Town Winter Park.
5. Business mission statement:
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport — To be the best specialty ski shop by providing excellent customer service and quality products at affordable prices. Adolfs Event Center & Tavern — To provide a unique, rustic, casual special event center venue that is fun and affordable.
6. Success in the mission:
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport — We are very proud of the fact that we have been in business for thirty years. Our commitment to customer service has proven to be one of strongest assets. Our staff is very knowledgeable about the ski industry and provides a quality experience to our guests. Our prices have stayed very competitive.
Adolfs Event Center & Tavern — This year we have doubled the number of events as compared to our first year. Our customers are enjoying the events and find our prices to be reasonable and affordable.
7. Challenges to the mission:
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport — Small business is constantly challenging. The ski business is very challenging because it is seasonal and weather dependent.
Adolfs Event Center & Tavern — Starting a new business is a big challenge. Currently, we are working on marketing and getting the word out that we are a new event center venue in Grand County.
8. How do you cope with Grand County’s seasonal surges?
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport — We have developed a summer seasonal business. The ski shop is closed during the summer season so we have a tree & weed service, Alpine Sun Beetle Blasters. We have found it very important to take advantage of the strong revenue times so the shoulder season are not such a struggle.
Adolfs Event Center & Tavern — When we are not doing events we offer Après’ Ski during the ski season and the patio is open during the summer season. We have found being open is important even during the tough shoulder season times.
9. What do you think is the biggest business barrier in Grand County?
The seasonal nature of the resort business is the most challenging. Another big challenge is the small year round population in Grand County.
10. What do you think is your biggest business barrier on a state and/or national level?
Overcoming the negative press that is communicated during challenging weather conditions during the winter, for example too much snow or to little snow.
11. What can government here do to help?
Do everything in their power to be small business friendly!
12. How does your business give back to the community?
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport — We donate to a variety of nonprofits in Grand County. We have supported special events, silent auctions, and volunteered our time. We have both served on non-profit boards and currently Frank is President of East Grand Fire District Board. Gigi just recently completed a board term with Advocates.
Adolfs Event Center & Tavern — We are new but we have already given to nonprofits by participating in silent auctions and special events. We provide reasonable rates to non-profit organizations when they use our special event venue.
13. Give examples of how you are environmentally responsible:
Our theme for both businesses is to use what you have and reuse and create whenever possible. We have recycled used ski equipment. We used skis to make a dumpster enclosure, barrels and ski poles to make flower pots, and used snowboards as a canvas for wonderful paintings. The patio at Adolfs Event Center has timbers recycled from the Adolfs property for the railing and an outside bar area. Whenever possible we buy eco-friendly products, for example the cups we use for our smoothies at Adolfs. Our customers always commit on the recycled items and appreciate our efforts to be environmentally conscious.
14. How do you support other local businesses?
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport — Over our 30 years in business we have developed a strong referral network with lodging properties and other small businesses in Grand County. We plan to develop a strong network for Adolfs Event Center & Tavern too. We try to shop and support other local businesses as much as possible.
15. How do you feel about direct competition?
Direct competition is where the game of business begins. The key to success is to create your own unique sale advantages. We do not fear our competitors and if everyone is successful we will have a stronger economic community.
16. What business products or services do you get outside of Grand County?
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport — All of our hard goods and soft goods are purchased from outside the county. Many ski industry products are made in Europe and other countries and the sales representatives live in the Rocky Mountain region. We do shop locally for basic supplies for the ski shop and office.
Adolfs Event Center & Tavern — Some of the start-up products we needed for the event center were not available in Grand County, furniture, large kitchen items, etc. We do purchase our food products in the county and we use local caterers for our events. Our beverage sales representatives reside in Grand County. Our televisions and sound system were purchased and installed by a local company. All of the remodeling and improvements at the Adolfs building have been done by local sub-contractors.
17. How do you market yourself?
Alpine Sun Ski & Sport — Direct customer referral is our strongest marketing tool. We have developed and continuing to develop strong partnerships with lodging properties and other businesses that refer directly to the ski shop. We are also a member of the Winter Park Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce. Our website is a great marketing tool and we have a face book page. We have a printed brochure and business cards.
Adolfs Event Center & Tavern — Once again direct customer referral is our best marketing tool. Our events are a great resource. Guests attend an event and then they will book an event or refer our venue to family and friends. We are members of the Winter Park Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce and we also have a web site, face book page, brochure, and business cards.
18. What’s the main thing you have you learned in your years in business?
You have to have guts and patience. You have to be willing to take a risk and demonstrate the persistence and endurance to develop your business.
19. Where do you go for help when you need it?
We have professional resources including accounting, marketing, and legal services. Our staff has attended classes and seminars provides by the Chamber of Commerce and Grand County Economic Development. We also rely on our sales representatives for product purchasing. We network with other small businesses in Grand County in order to provide a quality experience
20. Who is your biggest business influence/mentor?
Frank has been an entrepreneur for over 30 years. His greatest idol is John Wooden, the most successful NCAA basketball coach in history. Wooden was quoted as saying, “If you do the right things you will have success.” John Wooden’s quote is a great one to live by when you own a small business.
21. What do you think is the most significant economic driver in Grand County?
The unique experience that Grand County provides to guests is a strong economic driver. We have world class skiing, golf, hiking, biking, and recreation that is second to none without all the over developed commercialization that exists in other destination resorts in Colorado. We still have a rural feeling but we can provide everything any guest would want for their vacation.
22. If you could go back in time and start up your business venture all over again, what would you do differently?
Frank has enjoyed all aspects of owning a small business. His passion is skiing and he has had the opportunity to live in paradise and enjoy the industry he loves.
23. What’s the best compliment you received from a client/customer/guest?
When a customer says those are the best skis I have ever been on in my life, or we loved having our event at your fun venue. We are also excited to hear when a customer refers a friend or family member.
24. What do you consider to be your biggest mistake in business?:
There are no mistakes in business just opportunities to learn.
25. What organization(s) is (are) most useful to business owners?
The most useful organizations are professional organizations that provide services specific to your industry.
26. How much of a role does technology play in your business?
Technology plays a major role in both of our businesses. The ski shop web site is so important for advanced equipment reservations and e-mail is vital to effective communications with customers.
27. What are the technology challenges in your business?
The ski industry technology is moving really fast and consumer education is challenging.
We are constantly trying to keep up with the IT industry.
28. What’s the general key to making a customer/client/guest happy?
Quality customer service!
29. Is their any certain trend you’ve noticed in consumer habits lately?
Consumers want instant information via their phones and internet.
30. What are some tricks such as signs or window displays that you’ve noticed work in attracting customers to your front door?
We pay for the blue CDOT signs on the highway. We also use sandwich board signs for specials, hours of operation etc. We paint the letters and designs on the large windows in the event center when it is event appropriate.
31. What are some ways to keep up staff morale?
We schedule regular outings for our staff including full moon ski trips, dinners and fun recreational outings. We also plan an end of season gathering or trip. We provide two or three hour ski breaks for our staff when they are scheduled to work. Ski shop employees are eligible for professional shop forms for product purchases.
32. If you could give advice to a novice entrepreneur, what would it be?
Be patience and enjoy the ride!