Cynthia Pillsbury, co-founder of Oliver Guide, a travel sharing resource, was motivated to do something once she saw the toll the pandemic was taking on the Vail Valley’s local businesses at the height of mid-April’s quarantine, when resort villages and town centers looked more like ghost towns than bustling tourism meccas. “I wanted to create some link between supporting local businesses and supporting the people in our valley who needed the most,” recalls Pillsbury (second from left, above).
A month later when businesses began opening up, she founded It Takes A Vail Valley, a coalition of local businesses that encourages shoppers to spend their dollars locally while supporting the community’s most vulnerable residents. “Businesses create a product, whether it's a scarf kit from Maker+Stitch or hand-dyed napkins from Salt Lake Home, and mark it up to include a donation to The Community Market,” Pillsbury explains.
The Community Market is a food bank that operates more like a grocery store for food insecure locals in Eagle County, with outlets in Gypsum and Edwards. Since March, demand for The Community Market’s services has increased exponentially. Business closures and layoffs “impacted the Valley's businesses, and as a byproduct, the people who live here and depend on the resort for their livelihoods,” Pillsbury adds.
Several businesses have joined the initiative over the last few weeks. Alpine Arts Center in Edwards sells painted pottery decorated with an “It Takes a Vail Valley” stamp, generating donations that can feed a family for one week. In Vail Village, Perch carries a hand stitched, 100% cashmere Lingua Franca “It Takes A Vail Valley” sweater; the sales from each sweater— $44 of the $380 retail price will feed a family for one month. Eagle-Vail's Hygge Life (business owner Alexandra Gove is a co-founder of the coalition) is offering a $150 Hygge Box that includes a candle with holder, a copy of Gove's coffee table book (Dwell, Gather, Be: Design for Moments), a summer scarf, and a bar of locally made chocolate ($44 from each box sale will be donated to the Community Market to feed a family for a month).
Pillsbury took the initiative to Instagram to garner wider interest and support. “I live here, so I follow a lot of the local brands, but someone who is a summer resident or a second-home owner is not following every retailer,” she says. “Through our Instagram, this initiative has been a nice way to educate second-home owners about The Community Market and local retailers.”
The Instagram feed includes colorful shots of products featured by member businesses, from Valbruna’s Amòre “It Takes A Vail Valley” T-shirts ($11 per shirt will be donated) to discounted pillows and $5 masks by Slifer Designs. Tessa Clogs has made “It Takes A Vail Valley” limited edition design clogs (also sold at farmers markets in Minturn and Vail Village), and customers who spend $50 or more at The Bookworm of Edwards will be given an ‘It Takes A Vail Valley” decal.
A variety of shops and brands are also carrying the “It Takes A Vail Valley”-branded trucker cap ($35, with $5 donated to The Community Market) made by local company Ski Town All Stars, including Perch, Squash Blossom, 714 Home, Salt Creek Home, Skipper & Scout, Ptarmigan Sports, and SuperB'sPatisserie. These custom hats retail for.
“The lesson from all of this is that not everyone up here is well-off and has resources,” Pillsbury reflects. “We have to think about who really makes this valley work: essential workers, people who are working in the hotel rooms, busboys—the people who are really struggling the most.” And “It Takes a Vail Valley” shows no signs of slowing down. Pillsbury says she receives messages from new retailers asking to join every week.
“I want this initiative to be around as long as it needs to be around. I care deeply about this valley and the small businesses that make it what it is,” she adds. “The valley is not just a ski map—it’s the restaurants, shops, and people who make it special.”