Locals 2012: Tracy Barnett
June 29, 2012
Whether picking up tire-flattened soda cans and other trash from Lincoln Avenue or waking up with a start at 3 a.m. with an idea to improve the downtown business district, Tracy Barnett can't shake free from her devotion to Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.
"I love Steamboat, and having been a business person downtown, I've always just wanted to make things better," says Tracy, a small-town Minnesota girl who now has called Steamboat home for nearly 40 years.
She first arrived in the Yampa Valley in 1975, a fitting destination for someone who grew up loving all things Western — horses and history in particular. Fate brought her and longtime husband, Cooper, together when Tracy's parents bought a California home from Cooper's parents during her senior year of high school. Cooper was a student at Yampa Valley College — now Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus — at the time.
The young couple later was living in a tent and taking care of a Lake Tahoe campground when the two packed up their car and made the permanent move to Steamboat. Tracy got a job at the front desk at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, and Cooper returned to his former job at the old Sidestep restaurant. Tracy soon found herself working in the food service industry, as well, and when the opportunity presented itself in 1985, the Barnetts bought Mazzola's Majestic Italian Diner from previous owner Curt Weiss.
They owned the Lincoln Avenue eatery for nearly 20 years before a health issue took Cooper away from the business and got Tracy thinking about her next move. It was at that time in the early 2000s that Tracy and several other business-minded folks helped to organize a local chapter of the Main Street movement that seeks to revitalize, preserve and grow downtown business districts in cities and towns across the nation. Before long, the Barnetts had sold Mazzola's, and Tracy was hired as Mainstreet's first manager.
For almost a decade now, Tracy has made it her mission to improve downtown Steamboat's historic shopping and dining district. Hardly a day passes when she doesn't spend time walking Lincoln Avenue and stopping to talk with business owners and shoppers. She's been the driving force behind the successful summertime Mainstreet Farmers Market, and she's always looking to tackle the next big challenge. At the top of her list: Yampa Street.
"It has to be the way we go next," Tracy says. "But it has so many challenges to improve it while maintaining its funkiness."
The Barnetts' two adult children, Brady Worster and Casey Barnett, call Steamboat home, as well, and often can be found alongside their mom helping at the Farmers Market and other Mainstreet events.
Tracy's dedication to a clean, safe and visitor-friendly downtown first kicked into high gear when she owned Mazzola's and would walk Lincoln Avenue at 4 a.m. to pick up trash in front of businesses. Her "Auntie Litter" nickname still holds true as does her grab-the-bull-by-the-horns approach to work.
"If you don't do anything, nothing gets done," she says. "And it takes passion. If you want to get something done, find someone who's passionate about it and let them run with it."
The downtown Steamboat Springs business community might not know how lucky it is to have found Tracy — or that she found it.
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