Navigator Awards: Giving back to build a community
October 31, 2015
Bob Dapper cowboys up
Steamboat Springs — For those who were not in Steamboat Springs in the early 1970s, it is worth having a conversation with Bob Dapper, this year’s Business Person of the Year.
BUSINESS LEADERS OF THE YEAR
1999 — Julie Green
2000 — Rod Hanna
2001 — Mike Lomas
2002 — Andy Wirth
2003 — Scott Ford
2004 — Steve Dawes
2005 — John Kerst
2006 — Chris Diamond
2007 — David Baldinger Jr.
2008 — Rex Brice
2009 — Chuck Porter
2010 — David Nagel
2011 — Grant Fenton
2012 — Karl Gills
2013 — Jim Schneider
2014 — Ed MacArthur
YOUNG PROFESSIONALS OF THE YEAR
2009 — Stacy Huffman
2010 — Ryan Marsden
2011 — Sara Ferris
2012 — Stephany Traylor
2013 — Chris Tamucci
2014 — Sarah Fox
BUSINESSES OF THE YEAR
1999 — TIC
2000 — Native Excavating
2001 — Ore House at the Pine Grove
2002 — SmartWool
2003 — Ski Haus
2004 — PostNet
2005 — F.M. Light & Sons
2006 — Off the Beaten Path bookstore
2007 — Prudential Steamboat Realty
2008 — Christy Sports
2009 — BAP!
2010 — Yampa Valley Bank
2011 — Alpine Bank
2012 — Colorado Mountain College
2013 — Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare
2014 — Yampa Valley Medical Center
Originally from the Northeastern United States, Dapper was a ski racer who attended the University of Denver. Before making the permanent move to Steamboat, he would come up here during winter breaks from school.
“If you were here during the ’70s, everyone did everything,” Dapper said. “It really took the community to make things work — no fractions.”
The Steamboat Ski Area, which opened a few years earlier on Jan. 12, 1963, was still in its infancy.
Dapper worked as a ski instructor in the growing ski school.
“There might have been 20 of us,” Dapper said.
That meant they helped out wherever needed, which included evacuating the gondola, assisting ski patrol and filling in lift operators.
During seasons when snow was lacking and snowmaking had yet to be installed, Dapper was one of the community members who helped shovel snow from the trees onto the trails so skiing would be possible for guests.
He was hired at the ski area by Loris “Bugs” Werner, who had been skiing on the mountain that bears his family's name for more than 60 years. The two men are still close friends today, and Dapper recalled many powder days skiing in the trees with Werner, who Dapper said was a great influence on him.
Werner said Dapper is a humble man, who has worked mainly behind the scenes and will not share his accomplishments unless someone asks him.
"There are very few people who have as much enthusiasm and ambition as Bob does," Werner said. "When he decides he wants to do something, he does it and does it well. He does the work of seven or eight people. He's continually on the go."
Dapper worked his way up to assistant ski school director before being hired 1986 by Sport Stalker, which would later merge with Christy Sports. Today, Dapper is the director of mountain operations for the company, which has more than 40 locations in the Rocky Mountain region.
Keith Liefer, partner and chief operating officer for Christy Sports, called Dapper a unique character and a promoter.
"You couldn't ask for a better person to promote your business or promote your cause or event," Liefer said. "He's passionate about Steamboat. He promotes Steamboat everywhere he goes."
Dapper is well connected and well respected, Liefer said, and he is not afraid to share his opinion.
"He's a great person to have on your side in business and by your side as a friend," Liefer said.
Outside of work, Dapper competed in endurance sports, including the 1988 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
He also beat cancer, helped create the Steamboat Pentathlon and secured a donation to build trails on Howelsen Hill. He served as Steamboat’s soccer commissioner, was the race director for the Steamboat Marathon and serves on the Routt County Crime Stoppers board.
Dapper was also instrumental in the founding of the Mountain Village Partnership, a group that brings together the business community at the base area.
“Bob is a riot to work with,” MVP president Katie Brown said. “He’s always straight up about things. He doesn’t beat around the bush.”
This past summer, he led out the USA Pro Challenge cyclists from the base area in Steamboat style — riding his horse, Dusty, and holding a gun.
“He is what Steamboat is all about,” Brown said.
She said Dapper lives by the Code of the West, which means talking less and saying more, and knowing where to draw the line.
The list of Dapper’s community contributions is significant.
“I’m enthusiastic, and if you get me believing in something, I’m going to take it and run,” Dapper said.
Dapper is most proud of the work he has done with the Humble Ranch Education and Therapy Center.
Physical therapist Cheri Trousil started the program 16 years ago.
“My personal belief is that healing happens outdoors,” Trousil said.
Trousil said Dapper helped from the beginning, when she lacked the business experience to lead a nonprofit organization. Dapper mentored Trousil to help the program realize success.
“He embraces so much of what Steamboat is,” Trousil said. “He really cares about people, for sure.”
Former Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern said Dapper has always been there for Steamboat, and the Navigator Award could not go to anyone better.
“He’s what I would call the quiet leader,” Kern said. “He’s always in the background and involved with an incredible amount in the community.”
Dapper is forward thinking and thinks every idea has some merit. He hopes the next generation of Steamboat leaders is ready to take the reins.
“The course will always be as good as the people that are steering it, but so far, so good,” Dapper said.
Business of the Year navigates tricky business
There are lots of bellies to feed in Steamboat Springs, and by December, this year's Business of the Year will have more than 200 employees, making it one of the larger employers in Steamboat.
"We exist to create fulfillment in people's lives, and I believe that truly," said Rex Brice, who owns the Steamboat Restaurant Group with his wife, Bettina Neset.
That includes creating fulfillment for his employees at its five restaurants, and at the sixth set to open in December.
"We employ the best people," Brice said. "We employ people who love what they do, and it shows in the service. It shows in the food."
Elizabeth Salazar manages Mazzola’s Majestic Italian Diner and said her bosses help employees think about their dreams and futures.
"We keep a lot of our staff for a long time because of them," she said.
Brice started working in restaurants cleaning dishes when he was 14 years old at Swensen’s Ice Cream in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
After attending culinary school, Brice had a list of places he wanted to visit, and Colorado was one one of them. In 1993, he got a job as sous chef at Harwigs.
"When I landed in Steamboat, that was it," Brice said. "I gave up on the rest of my list."
After going back to school to learn more about the business side of restaurants, he started working at Mattie Silks in Ski Time Square with the hopes of buying it.
At the time, Brice said Steamboat was kind of a culinary black hole not known for its cuisine.
While running a coffee shop in Ski Town Square, Brice continued researching a restaurant to buy, and Mazzola’s became his first in 2004.
No one said the restaurant business is easy.
"I bought it, and I cried for 18 months," Brice said. "We changed the whole concept and changed the menu.”
Tod "JJ" Johnson had worked at the restaurant since 1989, and Brice kept him on.
"We had people who wouldn't come because we changed it, and people who wouldn't come because they didn't know we changed it," Johnson said.
Mazzola’s would rebound, and Brice and Neset would expand their business. They opened Rex’s American Grill & Bar in 2006, Big House Burgers in 2008, Lil’ House in 2010 and Laundry in 2012. The couple is currently remodeling the former Rio Grande downtown, and the Salt and Lime Mexican restaurant is slated to open in December.
Brice does not describe the growth of the business as aggressive.
"It's as opportunities presented themselves, and that is it, period," Brice said. "All of the stars kind of have to align for it to make sense."
Neset credited the success of the business to the employees.
"They're really good people that care about what they do," Neset said.
Former Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association board president and businessman Kerry Shea praised the Steamboat Restaurant Group and their ownership for their support of numerous community initiatives.
"They're humble people," Shea said. "I think they're hard working. They're genuine. You couldn't have two better representatives of what it means to be a local in Steamboat."
Young professional builds confidence in leadership
This year's Young Professional of the Year says he knows what it is like to step into the lion's den.
Glen Traylor had secured the Ski Butlers ski and snowboard rental delivery franchise for Steamboat Springs, but it was no longer a novel idea, and there was some serious competition. Door 2 Door Ski Rental and Black Tie Ski Rentals were both founded in Steamboat and well established, with locations throughout the United States.
"We knew that was going to be a fight," said Traylor, 34. "I literally had people coming up to me and saying 'good luck.'"
Traylor and his future wife, Steph, started Ski Butlers in 2010 out of their garage with about 105 pairs of skis and snowboards.
"In the first year, it was just Steph and me," Glen Traylor said. "We did it all."
Over the past five years, the Traylors hired employees, the business has grown into a new space on Mid Valley Drive and now has an inventory of 650 pairs of skis and snowboards.
"As a young business owner, the perspective we really had to take was take care of the community first, and the community will take care of us," Glen Traylor said.
Soon after moving to Steamboat, the Traylors got involved with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's Young Professional Network. With the membership at 20 people, it was clear the organization was not fulfilling its potential. Former Steamboat Chamber CEO Tom Kern asked Glen Traylor to take over as the group's leader, but Traylor hesitated.
"Tom Kern saw something in me that I didn't," Traylor said.
Kern said he knew Traylor had "under-the-skin leadership potential."
"I told him that people need to step up because at some time, the torch was going to be handed to them," Kern said.
Kern said Traylor brought very little ego to the table when it was his turn to lead. People naturally followed him because of his humility and his desire to let others take the credit.
"People follow leaders," Kern said. "People don't follow bosses."
When Traylor was informed he had been chosen to receive the award, he initially did not want to accept it because he thought others were more deserving.
"He does this for no recognition," Kern said.
In addition to the Young Professionals Network, which today has more than 150 members, Traylor is a Rotary member. But people point to Traylor's biggest accomplishment as his role in leading Yampa Valley Gives.
As a member of Leadership Steamboat's 2014 class, Traylor pitched the idea of organizing a giving day, similar to the one he knew of in Park City, Utah.
Traylor was hoping the inaugural event would raise $80,000 for local nonprofits. Donations ended up exceeding $400,000.
"It's just short of miraculous what they were able to do," Kern said.
In addition to growing his business, Traylor plans to keep giving back to the community.
"I feel l like I've grown in my confidence in taking on tasks and driving them to their finales," Traylor said.
In June, the Traylors received the Philanthropist of the Year Award from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.
Grant Fenton, Traylor's friend and the 2011 Business Person of the Year, said Traylor is a great representative of the community, who has a unique ability to bring people together.
"That's a fantastic attribute to have," Fenton said. "The desire to really do impactful things is more based on a personal nature. Certainly there is a benefit to business, but the reason people do it individually is they care so much."