John Kole of One Stop Ski Shop has found the key to business success on Lincoln Avenue: hire a dog.
"We had the best retail winter ever in our new location, right smack dab on the sidewalk," Kole said. "People could look in and see Ted (the black lab) lying in front of the fireplace. It's amazing how many people came in because of Ted."
Kole's shop, which was in the Harbor Hotel last winter, wasn't the only downtown Steamboat ski shop that had a bountiful winter. Downtown sporting goods sales experienced a 20 percent increase in sales tax revenues in March compared to March 2005 revenues. Season snowfall that topped 430 inches probably had at least as much to do with the winter enjoyed by ski retailers as friendly shop dogs did.
Harry Martin of Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare at Lincoln Avenue and Fifth Street said that although his business had a good winter, March wasn't the strongest month.
"We were up 9 percent in March, but we did better in the early season (before Christmas) than we did late in the ski season. We were up 16 percent from the first of the year on," Martin said.
Martin said the strength of March probably was attributable to its consistency.
"It seems like the last four or five years, the last week of March was terrible," Martin said. "The thing I saw for sure this year was that it stayed strong for the whole month."
Tracy Barnett, executive director of Main Street Steamboat Springs, said overall March sales tax receipts in the downtown district weren't as strong as those experienced by the sporting goods stores. Overall tax receipts grew by 9 percent over 2005 numbers, to $339,619 during the last full month of the ski season.
It looks like the month was strong in most categories, other than miscellaneous retail, which was only up 4 percent," Barnett said. "On the bright side, up is up."
Miscellaneous retail accounts for the largest category of downtown businesses. It was outperformed on a percentage in March by downtown restaurants. Restaurants were up by 11 percent in the month compared to 2005.
Kole said he wasn't kidding about Ted's contribution to his winter sales.
He has had a ski shop in a pink house on Yampa Street for more than 10 years but opened a second shop in the Harbor in time for the winter of 2004-05. Sales at that location were good but not spectacular. Last winter, One Stop Ski Shop moved within the Harbor to a spot that allowed the front door to open off the sidewalk. Although the shop didn't move more than 40 feet west on Lincoln Avenue, the change to a street-front door instead of the old door that was set behind a courtyard proved to be providential.
"That made a big difference," Kole said. "We had one couple come in on the last day of their vacation because they saw Ted and wanted to pet him. They began talking to us, and $2,000 later, they were on their way home to Florida again."
Kole is in the process of moving both of his locations into one space in Waterside Village on 11th Street.
Next winter's tax receipts likely will tell a new story.
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