No COVID-19 restrictions, fresh snow and dwindling omicron variant cases made for a busy Presidents Day weekend in Summit County.
Local business owners saw bigger crowds from Friday, Feb. 18, through Monday, Feb. 21, than during any other holiday weekend this season. For some, it seemed busier than even pre-pandemic numbers.
“This weekend was definitely elevated, more than any time this year or past years,” said Jay Beckerman, owner of Blue River Bistro in Breckenridge. “It was intense.”
The weekend marked the first holiday since the Summit County Public Health Order expired Feb. 11. The document placed COVID-19 mask and capacity requirements on local businesses, causing owners to make adjustments throughout the majority of the pandemic.
Overall, it seemed people felt more confident about dining and shopping than they had throughout the pandemic, business owners said. The addition of snow over the past week meant the county was crawling with people.
“We were all anticipating that,” said AJ Brinckerhoff, owner of Angry James Brewery in Silverthorne. “The last few weeks leading up to Presidents Day were really busy, especially on the weekends. There were an insane amount of people in town.”
Although the situation is good for revenue, business owners continue to find themselves struggling with staffing issues and inflation brought on by the pandemic.
Cindy Sharpe said she has struggled to find quality workers at her new store, Peak 1 Menswear in Frisco, which opened in December. She currently has one employee working the store five days a week. If she’s unable to work the other two days, Sharpe has no choice but to close the store.
“I’ve had many challenges finding quality people or people period,” said Sharpe, who also owns Cornflower Boutique and Gallery and Wyatt West, both in Frisco. “…Everyone is just trying to get people to work. It’s impossible.”
Sharpe said she’s raised her wages to encourage people to apply but that staffing remains a challenge.
Some business owners are also seeing higher-than-average costs for goods. Brinckerhoff said he has had to raise prices in response to inflated costs of grains, shipping and merchandise.
Modis owner Teryn Guadagnoli said inflation is her biggest challenge at the Breckenridge restaurant. She worries about customer satisfaction when prices are raised and some items have to be taken off the menu.
“That’s where we need the most understanding right now, everything is more expensive than it’s ever been,” Guadagnoli said. “We’re doing the best we can.”
While optimism, business owners are bracing themselves for crowds throughout the rest of the winter season and going into the summer. Beckerman said he views the next few months as a marathon rather than a sprint and will be focusing his attention on making sure Blue River Bistro staff members are feeling up to it.
“We want to make sure our team is healthy, physically off and mentally, getting the time they need to have a well-balanced life,” he said.
Guadagnoli said she’s hoping staffing and inflation issues will improve over the next few months, giving the restaurant the ability to meet demand.
Although cases are dropping and crowds are returning, some business owners continue to worry about being caught off guard by unexpected surges of the virus.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind that COVID could pop its ugly head up at any time,” Brinkerhoff said.