Steamboat companies prepare for summer challenges

Staff at Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory on Licoln Avenue have had to be flexible during the post-pandemic era of business.
Spencer Powell / Steamboat Pilot and Today

For Steamboat Springs stores and restaurants, flexibility has been key to staying stable during the pandemic and the challenges that have come with it.

Amid supply chain disruptions, inflation, staff shortages and a surge in post-pandemic tourism, many local businesses have had to be on their toes to deal with these obstacles. Yet they remain defiant, they can handle hardships.

“We’re not going anywhere,” says Peter Gudolawicz, director at FM Light and Sons.

A constant concern is staff shortages, which shop and restaurant owners routinely attribute to the high cost of accommodation in Steamboat. Bill Hamil, owner of Steamboat Meat and Seafood Company, said three of his 10 employees live in Craig and collaborate on carpooling into town.

Hamil said he doesn’t quite have the staff to stay open seven days a week because his restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays, but he hopes to hire enough staff to at least start opening on Mondays. .

Many other restaurants in the city have reduced their opening hours or had to close a day or two a week due to a lack of staff.

Several restaurant and retail store owners said they hire high school students and young adults who live with their parents to cope, as the biggest challenge in hiring new employees is often finding candidates who live already in town with a stable living situation.

Higher shipping costs and limited supply have made it difficult to obtain certain products for restaurants and retail stores. However, the staff at Fuzziwigs Candy Factory have tweaked a few recipes to keep business going despite the shortages.

“We got really creative in the kitchen,” said Toni Amrein, who bakes the treats for Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory on Lincoln Avenue.

Audrey Zwak, store manager at Fuzziwig, said product orders can be inconsistent and unpredictable. For her, a solution came with more planning.

“I order three times what I need,” she said.

Yet it’s not just gasoline prices that have gone up. Hamil said shipping charges for his overnight lobster deliveries have gone from $2.50 a pound to $3.50 a pound in recent months.

Nick Sharp, director of operations for the Rex family of restaurants, said he hadn’t had much trouble stocking up on food, but noticed difficulty getting larger items such as chairs or refrigerator parts.

“There are challenges, nothing we can’t overcome, but some products aren’t as available as they used to be,” Sharp said.

Anticipating that costs will continue on an upward trajectory, Powder Day Donuts is launching a promotion allowing locals to pre-purchase six dozen donuts — locking in the price, so to speak — that could be redeemed over multiple visits.

Many people expect Steamboat to be busy this summer, but business owners aren’t sure if the trade will match last year when COVID restrictions and mask mandates were first lifted.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber reports that accommodation bookings for the next 60 days are down slightly from a year ago, but overall many restaurant and retail store owners remain optimistic about summer activities. .

Hamil says his dining schedule is almost fully booked through August, and he expects to be busy, given that last winter was busier for the Steamboat Meat and Seafood Company than even pre-pandemic levels.

This summer, retail stores and restaurants expect a steady stream of traffic from the Front Range, but expect to see less out-of-state traffic as gas prices and fares overheads have risen sharply, according to the Steamboat Chamber.

A common observation among business owners in Steamboat is the growing demographic of second home owners throughout the pandemic. At the Steamboat Art Company, staff noted that their store’s average checkout count had doubled due to customer shifts.

Melinda Miller, co-owner of the Steamboat Art Company, said the influx of upper-class second-home owners not only increased the number of goods sold, but also the types of goods.

“People want lots of bright colors,” Miller said, referring to the changing customer base. “People want things that make them happy.”

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