Born in the Valley
Whether you’re a local motivated to support an area business or a visitor looking to bring home an authentic gift or souvenir, these Eagle County entrepreneurs have all the right stuff.
Whether you’re a local motivated to support an area business or a visitor looking to bring home an authentic gift or souvenir, these Eagle County entrepreneurs have all the right stuff.
Parce Rum’s Brian Powers and Mixologist Mark Summers
As an Irish-American living in Chicago, Edward Powers enjoyed nothing more than raising a glass with his three sons, Patrick, Brian, and Jim. So when the Powers brothers lost their dad to cancer in 2010, they converged at Patrick’s estate in Colombia to mourn Edward’s passing and commemorate his life. Sitting on the veranda overlooking the dense jungle of the Cuaca River Valley, they sipped rum and swapped stories about their father. “We looked out over those incredible views and said, ‘Let’s bottle this experience,’” recalls Cordillera resident Brian Powers.
They tracked down Colombia’s best rum masters, a father-and-son duo named Arthur and Brojen Fernandes Domecq, who’d been distilling their nation’s most lauded rums for 50 years, collectively. Thus Parce, the brand the brothers founded to commemorate their father, was able to produce true 8- and 12-year aged rums within just four years of Edward’s passing: the distillers had aged stock on hand to contribute to the Powers’ label.
But Parce (Colombian slang for “good buddy”) is like no traditional liquor on the market. It’s aged in Jack Daniels’s charred American oak barrels, which helps the rum drink more like whiskey or bourbon. “You can enjoy it neat or on the rocks, and with most rums you can’t do that,” Brian Powers adds. It can replace the whiskey or bourbon used in classic cocktails like the old-fashioned. Vail Valley mixologists have even invented cocktails exploiting Parce’s smoky notes: the “Parcita” (made by Mark Summers at The Rose in Edwards, who’s become something of a Parce brand ambassador) combines Parce rum with allspice, fresh grapefruit juice, and star anise. And yes, you can drink it as a shot: the best way, Summers advises, is with raw sugar on the rim of the glass and a cinnamon-dusted orange slice as a follow-up.
“Sales have been brisk,” says Powers, who’s placed Parce in such local retailers as Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards, West Vail Liquor Mart, Vail Fine Wines, and Avon Liquor. “I consider our product to be local, though we’re made in Colombia,” he explains. Many of Parce’s investors, for example, live in the Vail Valley, and Parce’s partnership with Contreebute (a nonprofit that counters deforestation in Colombia by planting a tree for every bottle sold) appeals to locals’ conservation values.
Having run a Denver ad agency, managed a tour for Clint Black, and worked for his family’s pipeline products company, Powers enjoys making Parce his full-time focus. “I think dad is very proud,” he says. “I honestly think he’s had a hand in this since its inception. It’s a Powers family thing.” parcerum.com
When the last recession put the kibosh on Claude Seeman’s spec home business, the builder sought greener pastures—in a still. He and another longtime Vail Valley local, Jeff Leonardo, launched 808 Distillery last June, after constructing a production facility on Seeman’s property in Eagle. Leo’s Limoncello won a gold medal at the first contest 808 entered (the Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival in October), and by Christmas they’d sold out all of their stock. Not to worry: 808 plans to release Red Canyon Rum in mid-March 2015. Stock up at Eagle Liquor Mart, Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards, and West Vail Liquor Mart. 808distill.com
Die-hard skiers Ryan Thompson and Christian Avignon named their distillery to honor the division of World War II–era skiing soldiers that once included Avignon’s uncle (a medic at Camp Hale). Their five liquors, distilled in Gypsum and aged in handmade barrels, are best sampled (and purchased) at the company’s cozy tasting room overlooking Mill Creek in the heart of Vail Village.
286 Bridge St., Vail Village. 10thWhiskey.com
The hood of Diane Boyer’s anorak is lined with soft, delicate fur that dances in the slightest breeze. But Boyer—like the women’s skiwear she makes—is devoted to performance, not just pretty trimming. A former pro racer on the moguls circuit, Boyer still shreds, and on powder days you’ll find her leading the charge through Vail’s Back Bowls, not sitting in the Eagle-Vail office she occupies as Skea’s owner and lead designer.
“I work hard, and I play hard,” quips the 58-year-old. The mantra explains why her signature jacket, the fur-embellished Daria puffy, also features a powder skirt and pit zips—functional details often absent from high-end skiwear. As Boyer puts it: “You don’t see pit zips on Moncler.”
Fashion houses such as Chanel currently influence her designs, but she credits her aesthetic training to her mom, Jocelyn, who founded Skea with her husband, Georges, in Greenwich, Conn., in 1972, then five years later relocated the business (and the family) from Vermont’s Stratton Mountain to Vail to be in the heart of Colorado ski country. “She has amazing color sense and incredible style and grace,” Boyer says of her mentor, who just turned 90. When Boyer took over the company in 1995, she modernized its offerings but kept her mother’s emphasis on styling. “Skea clothing is designed by women who ski,” she explains. “Women who ski like to look like women.”
Though Skea is a female-centric company, Boyer is proud of her ability to thrive in the male-dominated ski industry. She was the first female chairman of the board of SIA (Snowsports Industries America), where her confidence and business acumen, not her ski cred, earned her respect. “Nobody knows how you ski when you’re sitting around the board room discussing something,” she says. Boyer also serves on the board of directors for the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail Village. And although Skea’s reach includes the entire U.S. and Europe, the company acts locally by supporting the Shaw Regional Cancer Center (Georges died of prostate cancer in 1996) and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
Eventually, Skea designs may also incorporate her daughters’ input. Boyer’s youngest, Katharine Irwin, is a speed racer on the US Ski Team, while her eldest, Jocelyn, is an MBA candidate at the University of Denver. Both wear Skea, she’s proud to say, noting that her brand appeals to women of all generations. “Skea is about a passion for the mountains and an active lifestyle,” Boyer says. “That speaks to all of us, whether we’re 20 or 90.” skealimited.com
As a full-time Vail ski instructor, Craig Woods appreciated the performance advantages of synthetic base layers (which wick sweat away from skin faster than wool) but sought a more environmentally friendly alternative to the typical petroleum-based fabric. So he worked with local Vail designers and Denver fabric suppliers to create Bambool Thermics, a collection of base layers that blend the warming properties of merino with the moisture-wicking, stink-foiling characteristics of bamboo. “The feel of the fabric is just so soft and comfortable,” says Woods, who runs the year-old company along with his wife, Jessica, an attorney. Available locally at the Vail Vitality Center. bamboolthermics.com
Kim Gustafson was 54 when he retired to become a Vail ski instructor, and though he loved the slope-focused lifestyle, his knees threatened mutiny. In 2004, he teamed up with biomedical engineers from the Steadman Clinic to design Opedix compression tights, which use elastic bands (instead of clunky mechanical braces) to support creaky knees. Devotees report reduced knee pain, less fatigue, and faster recovery times, and the line has expanded to include junior sizes and the new DUAL-Tec 2.0, which combines support for the knee and the lower back. opedix.com
Swedish-born Tessa Manning has lived in the Vail Valley for 23 years, but she found it painful to live without the clogs she grew up with. “They’re perfect after skiing, because the support they give tired feet feels really great,” says Manning, who has filled her Swedish Clog Cabin shop in Lionshead with Scandinavian-made clogs, some of which she hand-paints with vibrant floral designs. Now, she’s also cobbling her own shoes: Manning’s handmade “Ultimate High” model, with a flattering yet still-sturdy heel. 500 E Lionshead Mall, Lionshead. tessaclogs.com
Judy Holmes’s creativity takes many shapes and forms, which is why the professional landscape photographer spends a lot of time at her sewing machine. During one such stitchery session at her Beaver Creek home (she also resides part-time in Maine), Holmes crafted a neck warmer made of soft, fuzzy synthetic mink—and now a collective of home-based New England stitchers makes cozy winter accessories sold throughout the Northeast, as well as around town at Beaver Creek’s Base Mountain Sports and at Pepi’s in Vail Village. gusstuffusa.com
Though he established corporate headquarters in Jackson, Wyo., four years ago, Cirque Mountain Apparel owner and founder Alex Biegler is a Vail Valley native. So is Sylvan Ellefson, a professional Nordic ski racer who graduated with Biegler from Vail Mountain School in 2005 and now serves as his VP of sales and marketing. So there’s a good reason the mountains depicted on Cirque’s backcountry-inspired line of hats, T-shirts, face masks, and hoodies look more like the Gores than the Tetons. Find Cirque locally at Christy Sports, Charlie’s Tees, and Beaver Creek Sports. cirquemtn.com
Kendall Custom Skis
On any given night, you’ll see lights shining from inside the historic Red Cliff schoolhouse where Kendall Cobb handcrafts his custom snowboards and skis—at 2 a.m.
“People probably thought someone had left the lights on,” jokes Cobb, who’s worked various day jobs (currently he’s the building engineer for Sheraton Mountain Vista in Avon) to support his ski-making habit. “I like to tinker,” explains Cobb, 47. “That’s the designer’s manifesto: nothing is immune from being improved upon.”
After graduating from Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio Cobb worked in industrial design, but the 100-hour workweeks let him ski only a few times a year, when he escaped to exotic winter places such as the Vail Valley. Inspired by Warren Miller’s well-worn mantra about moving to ski towns (“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do”), Cobb ventured west, settling in Edwards and bussing tables at Cordillera’s TimberHearth Grill.
But he sought a passion-driven occupation, and when he heard of a vacancy in Red Cliff’s schoolhouse artists’ studios, he saw the chance to get cracking on the ski-building venture he’d been mulling. He had no industry-specific equipment or knowledge, but two decades of dabbling in design had given him the mental edge he needed to launch a business and a brand.
Finding commercial ski presses prohibitively expensive, Cobb built his own presses, which use pneumatic pressure rather than heat (as is the norm in ski-building). “Other companies make more skis before lunch than I’ll make all year,” says Cobb. “But I wanted to be super-efficient. My three presses use no heat or power.”
He also built an elegantly designed piece of equipment known as a “sublimation heat transfer press” to iron computer graphics into skis’ topsheets. “The ones I could’ve bought cost $60,000 and had to be shipped from China,” he says. “So I made one here, out of beetle-kill pine from this zip code, and didn’t ship it anywhere.”
Now, Cobb has everything he needs to make custom powder boards, which average $1,800. He can tailor the shape, sidecut, camber, and flex of his skis and snowboards to suit riders’ preferences, and all materials are sourced from within the U.S.
He can even customize the graphics, though the skis he made for himself use a clear topsheet to reveal the maple and poplar wood core. His favorite pair is a rockered, reverse-sidecut twin-tip ski that measures a whopping 130mm underfoot. “It’s almost like driving a go-kart, it’s so fun in the powder,” says Cobb, who admits it wouldn’t make a good everyday ski. But Cobb likes specialized designs. “Skis are like golf clubs,” he maintains. “You can’t play the whole game with a putter.” kendallcustomskis.com
Bishop Binding Company
When the original Bomber Bishop binding entered the market in the 2000s, it convinced skeptics that they actually could achieve real power and control using a telemark binding. Production lapsed, but in 2012 Edwards mechanical engineer Dave Bombard revived it by partnering with the binding’s Silverthorne-based inventor, Fin Doyle, to release the Bishop 2.0, which advances the all-metal binding’s reputation for durability and downhill performance. Next, Bombard plans to introduce a tour-friendly Bishop for backcountry exploits. available locally at Alpine Quest Sports. bishopbindings.com
Having watched Chris “Mongo” Reeder disassemble every backpack, jacket, and piece of gear he ever bought in order to fix their failings, his dad bought him a commercial sewing machine, which the raft guide/ski patroller used to found Mongo Gear in 1995. He started with throw bags and other pieces of whitewater safety gear, then expanded into fishing. (Cabela’s sold his innovative fishing vest/pack hybrid until it was copied by competitors.) Now, Mongo sells specialized backpacks to ski patrols, works as a full-time Vail ski patroller himself, and partners with his wife, Lisa (who, like Mongo, has spent decades on the U.S. National Rafting Team), to run Timberline Tours, an Eagle-based raft and Jeep outfitter. mongoproducts.com
Wanting to teach his two sons (ages 12 and 14) how to run a business, Barry Weston founded Weston Snowboards, which initially featured beetle-kill pine cores. Turns out beetle-kill isn’t a great core material (it’s too knotty), so Weston subbed in paulownia (a silky Japanese hardwood) and bamboo, using reclaimed fir and pine instead to renovate the century-old Minturn building that now serves as the company’s HQ and flagship store. (It also hosts quarterly art shows: local designers contributed some of the boards’ most popular graphics.) And new products cater to both young and old enthusiasts: “A huge percentage of the stuff we sell relates to splitboarding,” Weston says. “But the No-Board [coming fall 2015] is incredible in powder—it brings the thrill back to those of us who’ve been snowboarding since the beginning.” 106 Main St., Minturn. westonsnowboards.com
Tired of buying longboards that were worth far less than he paid, Vail homebuilder Harry Jorck decided to support his two sons’ longboarding habit by making decks himself. The hobby eclipsed his “real” job, and now Jorck handcrafts 500 Simplicity longboards each year and has expanded into stand-up paddleboards. “Business has doubled every year,” says Jorck, who sells direct to consumers rather than through area retailers to preserve his sanity. “I just wouldn’t be able to keep up.” simplicitylongboards.com
Liberty’s emergence 12 years ago helped pioneer the boutique-ski trend, and now, “We’re the biggest of the small guys,” says chief operating officer Chris Sears. Skis are produced in Liberty’s own southern China factory, situated near a growing region for the particular type of bamboo the company uses in its cores. But the testing and prototyping gets done on the slopes surrounding Liberty’s home base in Avon. “We’re about that alpine mountain experience, and you can’t stay rooted in the mountains from some anonymous city suburb,” Sears says. Available locally at Vista Bahn Ski Rentals and Base Mountain Sports. libertyskis.com
BREWERIES & WINERIES
Crazy Mountain Brewery
“I feel sorry for folks who have to put on dress shoes every day and go into an office,” says Kevin Selvy, CEO and brewmaster of Crazy Mountain Brewery in Edwards. These days, Selvy wears either brewer’s boots or flip-flops, but he knows from fancy footwear.
Back in 2007, Selvy’s job as a sleek-shod San Francisco stock trader allowed him just one hobby: home brewing. He made beer in his backyard and gave it to neighbors, friends, and friends’ friends—one of whom happened to work at Anchor Brewing, the San Francisco producer credited with launching the microbrew revolution. Selvy soon found himself in a job interview with Fritz Maytag, the godfather of craft brewing, who offered him a three-month, entry-level position that wasn’t guaranteed to turn into full-time work. Obeying passion rather than reason, he gave his two weeks’ notice at the firm, and his employers promptly escorted him out the door.
In the brewhouse at Anchor, his six-figure annual compensation from the trading floor shrunk to a paltry $23,000, without benefits. “Essentially, it was like going to grad school,” says Selvy. “I was learning so much by apprenticing with Fritz Maytag, and you just can’t put a price on that.” The three-month trial turned into a permanent job at Anchor, where he met his future wife, Marisa, in 2008 while on break in the tasting room. “We fell in love over craft beer,” says Marisa, who had stopped to tour the brewery on vacation with friends from Los Angeles. “We saw each other from across the room and kept stealing glances for half an hour before he got the (liquid) courage to come over and say hello.” The Colorado native (born and raised in Parker) impressed her with tales of skiing and fishing as a boy, and his desire to return home to open his own brewery one day; as beers together turned to years together, that dream became a shared reality.
In 2009, in the depths of the recession, the couple sunk their life savings into Crazy Mountain Brewery, which they cobbled together in the back lot of an Edwards strip mall. “The Vail Valley had always been a second home for me growing up,” explains Kevin. Besides, Marisa adds, “Edwards was one of the last places in Colorado that didn’t have a production brewery within a hundred-mile radius.”
The timing turned out to be fortuitous: “Right after we opened, the U.S. craft beer industry went through the roof, and we were well-positioned to rise with it,” says Marisa, the brewery’s vice president of marketing. Now, Crazy Mountain is distributed to 16 states as well as Europe and Asia. More important, Kevin Selvy, as chief executive, feels a sense of accomplishment that he never experienced as a stock trader. Crazy Mountain is his passion and her passion, rekindled daily over pints in their very own tasting room. 439 Edwards Access Road, Edwards. crazymountainbrewery.com
Vail Brewing Company
Although still a work in progress at press time, start-up Vail Brewing Company promised to begin tapping its small-batch artisanal ales at an Eagle-Vail tasting room in February 2015, but its website already was hawking a line of suitcase-ready branded glassware and T-shirts to complement your own six-pack. 41290 B-2 & B-3, US Hwy 6. vailbrewingco.com
Receiving a home-brew kit for his birthday kicked off Matt Wirtz’s beer ambitions: with his roommate, Andy Jessen, he founded Bonfire in 2010 and started pouring Two Hands Wheat, Demshitz Brown, and the brewery’s flagship Firestarter IPA. Now, the downvalley brewery operates a cozy (and dog-friendly) 20-handle taproom in the heart of Eagle’s old downtown and enjoys statewide distribution. Bonfire even hosts a ladies’ beer club: the Hopflowers gather at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of every month for sipping and socializing. Swag (e.g., a black powder-coated stainless steel Bonfire pint glass) available at the taproom, and online; beer by the can at most valley liquor stores. 127 W Second St., Eagle. bonfirebrewing.com
7 Hermits Brewing Company
Home brewers Matt Marple and Matt Mueller knew they had a knack for beer when their imperial IPA won a local contest. So they brought in a food guy, Tyler Aldrich, who designed a menu around flatbread, and in 2013 the trio opened 7 Hermits (named after a series of local peaks) in Eagle Ranch. The place rocks with live bands performing most weekends, and the scenic patio teems with mountain bikers in the summer. Prefer screen time? A 120-inch television broadcasts games. Bonus: the purchase of a pint earns your four-legged friend an hour of supervised playtime at the doggie day care next door. Select bottles (namely, Paul Imperial IPA) available for purchase locally at Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards. 717 Sylvan Lake Road, Unit B-1, Eagle. 7hermitsbrewing.com
Vines at Vail
California grows the grapes, but Wolcott produces the wine: at 4 Eagle Ranch, winemaker Patrick Chirchillo draws on a family heritage of Italian winemakers to make respectable malbec, moscato, and various blends. (A five-flight tasting costs $8; don’t miss the Pinnacle, combining cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, and petite syrah.) Want a bottle, but don’t want to make the drive out to Wolcott? Call ahead (970-471-0420), and one of Chirchillo’s helpers will deliver Vail Valley vino direct to your door. 4098 Highway 131, Wolcott. vinesatvailwinery.com
FOOD & DRINK
Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea
Having lived and breathed artisan coffee for 25 years, Chris Chantler has seen plenty of bad things done to good beans. The worst offense, he says, is turning them into charcoal—de rigueur, in his view, for a certain Seattle-based conglomerate.
“The farmers work so hard growing the coffee, it seems like a crime to French roast it,” explains Chantler, co-owner of Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea. The Minturn company warehouses burlap-bagged beans roasted at an elevation of 8,000 feet, which yields better results than at sea level, he asserts. In addition to 36 varieties of beans, Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea (as its name suggests) also offers 64 loose teas, brewing accessories, and plenty of advice on how to make the perfect cup. It also conducts a bustling mail-order business.
It doesn’t, however, serve coffee. “If you ask nicely, and we have a pot brewed, you can have a cup,” Chantler says with a smile. And then some: what draws coffee geeks to this inconspicuous strip mall in Minturn is the opportunity to participate in a formal “cupping,” in which beans from Asia, Africa, and Central America are roasted, ground separately, and spooned into six or more porcelain bowls with a measured amount of perfectly heated water. “It’s cowboy-style,” Chantler says in his rounded British accent. But one sip tells you this is a giant leap above campfire coffee.
Chantler, born in England and raised in Kuala Lumpur, admits he didn’t know his arabica from his robusta until he got to college and met Illinois-raised Craig Arseneau, a 1984 graduate of Denver’s Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management who became a coffee connoisseur after working for an international nonprofit supporting small coffee growers. During a ski trip to Vail in 1989, the duo decided to make coffee their first business. They leased half of a one-hour photo shop and opened the Daily Grind, Vail’s first coffee shop.
The first day’s proceeds were just $45, but Chantler and Arseneau eventually opened six cafés, then sold them to focus on roasting. Vail Mountain now supplies coffee and teas to coffee houses, hotels, and retailers in and around Colorado, as well as some 300 restaurants (including Sweet Basil, La Tour, and Mountain Standard). “Coffee is the final taste at the end of a meal,” Chantler says. “You want it to be a crowd-pleaser.” 23698 US Hwy 24, Minturn. vailcoffee.com —John Lehndorff
Cornerstone Chocolates & Confections
After dazzling diners as a pastry chef at The Lodge at Vail and Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, Felicia Kalaluhi opened her own business selling extravagant candies and custom-flavored chocolates. The elegantly assembled assortments—ordered by phone or Internet and available in four-, eight-, or even 60-piece boxes—can feature renegade flavors like gingerbread, orange gianduja, and jasmine tea. Celebrating a wedding or birthday? Kalaluhi is the valley’s Cake Boss, making magic with as many as seven sponge cakes (from red velvet to ladyfinger), two dozen fillings (from white chocolate mousse to tiramisu), four layers (hazelnut crunch to apricot jam), and eight infusions (espresso to grand marnier). Yum! cornerstonechocolates.com
Lulu McCay doesn’t need a website to promote Brew, the small-batch coffee roasting business she founded in her garage four years ago. Because whenever she fires up the roaster, a delicious aroma McCay likens to French toast wafts through her Edwards neighborhood, and lures customers to her door. Former Eagle County sheriff Joe Hoy is so addicted to Brew that his favorite Italian roast bears his name (“Joe’s Blend”), and is still served at the county jail. But you don’t have to get locked up to try Brew; find it locally at Village Market in Edwards ($7.99/8 oz.), or just follow your nose. 970-306-5823
Chef Thomas Salamunovich has cooked alongside French chefs Paul Bocuse and Lucas Carton, each of whose restaurants boast three Michelin stars. After moving to Vail in 1993, he made Sweet Basil a magnet for globe-trotting gourmands. Larkspur, the fine-dining restaurant at Golden Peak’s base area that he opened in 1999 with his wife, Nancy Sweeney, has also enjoyed renown. But after discovering that its house hamburger accounted for 40 percent of Larkspur’s sales, Salamunovich diverted his estimable talents to humbler fare: Larkburger opened in Edwards in 2006, and the fast-casual eatery has since multiplied to 13 Colorado locations.
“Actually, we’re bent on total global domination,” jokes Adam Baker, a Vail Valley restaurateur who launched Larkburger along with Salamunovich and Sweeney. World conquest seems an ambitious goal, given the glut of options ranging from Sonic to Smashburger to Benderz, the gourmet burger outlet that recently opened as an annex of Avon’s Northside Coffee & Kitchen. Yet Larkburger manages to offer something still fairly distinctive: basic burgers, expertly prepared. Says Baker, “We will never lose our culinary backbone.”
Throughout 35 years of fine dining, Salamunovich had “made a ton of fancy, high-end hamburgers,” he admits. But he’d tired of truffle burgers and foie gras burgers and craved the classic American sandwich. The signature Larkburger tops Black Angus beef with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. But in Salamunovich’s hands, basic somehow becomes transcendental, e.g., Larkburger buns: steam-softened inside and crispy outside (“one of the greatest flavors in the world is caramelized wheat,” says Salamunovich). Dedicated ripening cabinets transform dull commercial tomatoes into flavor-packed morsels. And instead of ketchup or any sweet, mayo-based sauce, Larkburgers get smeared with tangy lemon-pepper dressing.
“It’s the steak au poivre concept,” Salamunovich explains. “The acid from the lemon and mustard complements the richness of the meat.”
If that sounds like gourmet chef-talk, well—it is. “Larkburger is not a 180-degree swerve from fine dining,” says Salamunovich, who maintains that excellent culinary technique translates to every kind of application, even a lowly peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “You’ll get an appreciably better sandwich if you put the peanut butter in the center and spread it out toward the edges, rather than making random swipes across the bread,” he stresses.
Burgers, too, benefit from a deft hand. Eating a Larkburger, however, requires two of them. Says Salamunovich, “You’re eating with your hands, so there’s a real connection with the heart.” And clearly, Colorado hearts Larkburger. 105 Edwards Village Blvd., Edwards; larkburger.com
Raptor Hot Sauce
Gourmet food stores sell scads of hot sauces, but few can compete with Michael Connolly’s Raptor Hot Sauce, which has won nine national awards (and counting). Buy it and other products by Red Canyon Spice (the company Connolly founded after chef stints in Cordillera and Adams Rib Ranch) in Vail at Lionshead General Store and in Edwards at Village Market. redcanyonspice.com
Moe’s Original Bar B Que
Since 2002, when three Alabama natives named Ben Gilbert, Mike Fernandez, and Jeff Kennedy opened their shoebox-size barbecue joint in Lionshead, Moe’s has been a refuge for cash-strapped locals seeking affordable, finger-licking, belly-busting meals. Turns out people just about everywhere appreciate the same: rapidly expanding, Moe’s now operates 34 locations in 10 states—and expects to open 8 to 15 more by the end of 2015. Says Gilbert, “People come to Moe’s Original Bar B Que for the great food and Southern hospitality, but it is the great value that keeps then coming back.” moesoriginalbbq.com
By serving fast food that’s actually healthy and made from scratch, Yellowbelly bravely went where few affordable eateries have dared to tread: into the heart-healthy realm of beets, kale, steroid-free chicken (fried or roasted), and even pan-seared “smashed potatoes” instead of fries. Given the valley’s fitness-frenzied reputation, it’s no surprise that the West Vail landmark has developed a cult following, and the new Boulder outpost has proved to be just as popular among Front Range cyclists and triathletes. yellowbellychicken.com
The Golden Bear
Most people’s instincts tell them to run from bears. But decades ago, when Lee Kirch was living in Santa Fe and saw the little gold bear that her then-husband was crafting as part of a contemporary fetish necklace for a client, she felt an overpowering urge to hold it close. She snatched it from his jewelry bench and asked him to drill holes to let a chain run through the top of the charm, rather than inserting a loop that would spoil the bear’s sleek, rounded lines. Right then and there, Kirch took off the cross she’d always worn and replaced it with the golden bear.
Shortly afterward, in 1975, the couple relocated from New Mexico to Colorado, where they opened a jewelry store in Vail Village. At Kirch’s urging, they called it the Golden Bear and started selling her favorite pendant. Others adored the fetish as much as she did: visitors noticed the little bear hanging from locals’ necks and bought them as souvenirs of their trip. Wherever it was spotted—be it London, the Caribbean, or New York City—the golden bear signified Vail and marked its wearer as a valley visitor or resident.
The first variation was a “baby bear” for Kirch’s daughter, Marlo. “Her teachers fell in love with it, and soon her classmates were requesting Golden Bear cubs as birthday and Christmas gifts,” Kirch recalls. The obvious progression was a larger “papa bear.” Then came bracelets, earrings, rings, diamond-studded bears—and now, the line includes men’s accessories (such as cufflinks and money clips) and even glassware. Regardless of the object on which it appears, the iconic design remains the same. “It’s a registered trademark; thus, the shape is consistent, changing in size only,” explains Kirch.
In 2006, Kirch sold the business—and the brand—to Kristen Busse, 41, who’d worked for the company since 2000. “Lee was such a great mentor to me,” says Busse, who joined Kirch on buying trips, vacations, and workouts at the gym. “It’s a privilege to maintain the tradition and the quality,” she adds of her oversight of six master jewelers who hand-make all of the company’s bears in Vail Village. “We really feel like we are the symbol of Vail, and we take that seriously. It’s quite an honor.”
Busse, who also represents some of the nation’s most respected jewelry designers in her Vail Village shop, says the bear mingles gracefully with other iconic designs. “It doesn’t go out of style,” she says. “Most people find that once you have a bear, you love the design so much that you want another.” She herself owns 30 to 40 bear pieces, joking: “It’s a problem for all of us who work here.”
Kirch, who retired to balmy Santa Barbara, also owns “a den full” of bears, including the original she appropriated from her ex’s jewelry bench long ago. That one she never wears now: the 14-karat artifact hibernates in a safe. 183 Gore Creek Drive. thegoldenbear.com
Six years ago, Lionshead Jewelers collaborated with the resort and the town of Vail to create a pendant using the same nested “V” graphic that graces local manhole covers. Attractive as it was, “You can’t do manhole-cover jewelry,” admits Ahmad Akkad, the owner of the 15-year-old boutique who had to “sexy up” the charm by adding engravings of local landmarks. (The back side features a montage of mountains, the covered bridge, and the tower.) The first Vail Coin was plain silver, then came versions with oxidized black backgrounds and precious inlays (turquoise “sky,” mother-of-pearl “snow” on the mountains). This year debuts iterations in bronze, silver, and gold, commemorating the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. 555 E Lionshead Circle, Lionshead. lionsheadjewelers.com
J. Cotter Gallery
There’s something to be said about longevity: J. Cotter, one of the Vail Valley’s first custom jewelers, has occupied the same Vail Village location for 45 years. Owner and namesake Jim Cotter makes one-of-a-kind pieces, as do the artists he represents in his landmark atelier and a satellite gallery in Beaver Creek. “I don’t like to make too many of any one thing,” says Cotter, who prefers not to advertise the “Vail Heart” design he first crafted back in the 1970s. Nevertheless, like the Golden Bear and the Vail Coin, by word of mouth it remains a sought-after Vail talisman. 234 E Wall St., Vail Village. jcottergallery.com
The Hughes Collection
After 32 years, Tom and Diane Hughes closed their Vail Village shop, but they continue to serve their loyal following from a new store in Edwards. Tom’s charms (which include a ski boot, a covered bridge, and the signature snowflake that started Hughes’s unique collection of Vail mementos) remain as popular as ever. 137 Main St., Edwards. hughesjewelry.com
Karats of Vail
Dan Telleen moved to Vail in 1970, when he shifted gears from art instruction to jewelry-making (he handcrafts his pieces in a studio located directly above his Vail Village gallery). Telleen’s work has been exhibited in museums around the world, and he returns the favor, hosting trunk shows featuring the works of world-renowned jewelry artists such as Japanese pearl artisan Koji Kawamoto, who visited the gallery in January. 122 E Meadow Drive, Vail Village. karatsvail.com