Talking Shop… Dee Kitchen with the Ute Trail Motel
Ryan Summerlin January 14, 2014
Dee Kitchen, owner of the Ute Trail Motel, 120 US 40, Hot Sulphur Springs
How long have you been in business? Since 2007
How did you get started in this business? I Believe God put me in the right place, with the right people, at the right time. I started working for Mr. Goetze at what was then The County Seat Grill in May of 2000. He had recently purchased the restaurant and was already owner of the motel. An opportunity came up for him and his family to relocate to Denver and I was given the option of leasing The Ute Trail Motel from him. After less than a year, I was given the option of purchasing the motel and I am thankful for that.
Business mission statement: I want to provide my guests affordable rates so that they, especially young families, can come and enjoy what Grand County has to offer, including the Hot Springs. I like them to leave feeling relaxed and rested.
Success in the mission: I think we are doing OK. I receive a lot of compliments from the guests that stay with us.
Challenges to the mission: When a guest is dissatisfied we do what we can to fix the problem.
How do you cope with Grand County’s seasonal surges? This is always a challenge. We rent some of the rooms at a lower monthly rate from December to May. We also offer specials on our Web page. However, I have had to work at The Depot restaurant part-time every winter to help me through slow times.
What do you think is the biggest business barrier in Grand County? The towns farthest from the ski areas have less business in the winter months. We need more tourist attractions on this end of the county so that we can stay a little busier all year.
What do you think is your biggest business barrier on a state and/or national level? I think there should be limits set on how high utilities can be raised. When the economy was dropping it seemed like all the utilities were being increased. When I started this business my quarterly water bill was $199. My last water bill was $1,633. This is because the town was mismanaged for so many years. Unfortunately, we are all — residences and businesses — paying dearly for it now.
What can government here do to help? There should be a limit set on how high utilities can be raised in a set time period. We lost a lot of our businesses because of this. Some were providing a necessary service for our town, like our laundry mat.
How does your business give back to the community? I try to support local organizations. I give gift certificates for fundraising. I give local residents discounts on room rentals when they have family and friends visiting.
Give examples of how you are environmentally responsible. I recycle aluminum cans. I try to conserve energy by turning down heat and unplugging appliances in rooms that are not being used.
How do you support other local businesses? We run specials, coupons and discounts with local businesses throughout Grand County. We list most of the local businesses on our Web page. We also recommend local businesses to our guests and shop locally as much as possible.
How do you feel about direct competition? We are a small town and try to support one another. When one of us is full with lodging we call each other to try to keep customers in town.
How do you market yourself? Last year I joined The Hot Sulphur Springs Chamber of Commerce. Jim Hildred designed a great Web page for the motel through Go Daddy. I recently signed up with booking.com and ran a BOCO deal in Boulder. We also have a lot of referrals from our regular guests.
What’s the main thing you have you learned in your years in business? Being honest and consistent is very important. Admit your mistakes and try to make them right if possible.
Where do you go for help when you need it? I have help from my family and friends, but I always pray first, God is my provider.
Who is your biggest business influence/mentor? I understood the need for customer satisfaction from my first employer. I learned the business side from Mr. Goetze, the previous owner of the motel. I can call him whenever I have questions.
What do you think is the most significant economic driver in Grand County? The beautiful parks, lakes, rivers and wildlife which bring tourists to our area, especially in the summer and fall. The ski areas in the winter, and our hot springs year-round.
If you could go back in time and start up your business venture all over again, what would you do differently? Not too much. I have learned from some mistakes made in the past and keep learning each day.
What’s the best compliment you received fro m a client/customer/guest? “Thank you for your warm welcome and hospitality. Wishing you a joyful holiday season.” That is one of the little notes that my guests left for me. Just having the guests come back is another way we know that we are doing something right.
What do you consider to be your biggest mistake in business? Not getting advertised on the Internet sooner. The Web page helped to increase our business.
What organization(s) is (are) most useful to business owners? The chamber of commerce meetings are very informative and sometimes provide guest speakers. The local newspaper informs the community of events.
How much of a role does technology play in your business? It helps with advertising, communication and bookkeeping.
What are the technology challenges in your business? I am not great with computers, and very thankful to have Jim around to help me.
What’s the general key to making a guest happy? Making them feel welcome, giving friendly service and being available to answer questions.
Is their any certain trend you’ve noticed in consumer habits lately? Yes, people are shopping around for the best deal and saving money by bringing food with them.
What are some tricks such as signs or window displays that you’ve noticed work in attracting customers to your front door? Christmas lights in the winter, and our large 1959 neon sign lit up year-round.
What are some ways to keep up staff morale? I compliment them on a job well done. I let them know I appreciate them with bonuses and dinner gatherings.
What are some ways you train your staff on an ongoing basis? Communication is the key.
If you could give advice to a novice entrepreneur, what would it be? Make sure you enjoy what you are doing and it fits your lifestyle. That way you can put your whole heart into it and be happy.