‘Colorado’s Favorite Front Porch’ set to swing back into business | SkyHiNews.com

‘Colorado’s Favorite Front Porch’ set to swing back into business

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News

TONYA BINA/SKY-HI NEWS

Visitors to Grand Lake will again have the chance to swing on Colorado’s Favorite Front Porch.

The James family has committed to re-opening the dormant Grand Lake Lodge in Rocky Mountain National Park after a multi-year attempt to sell the business.

The main lodge, put on the National Historic Landmark registry in 1993, has been dusted off for guests to resume taking in views of lakes, shopping in its gift shop and sipping beverages, according to Lodge owner Reed James.

With a scheduled July 22 opening around the corner, James was plowing through a long list of preparations on Wednesday.

Electrical, sewer and water were brought back on line after a three-year stint of being shut off, and phone lines were being connected as James answered a series of calls on his cell phone, lining up employees and coordinating tasks.

As many as 20 workers will be employed at the Grand Lake Lodge this summer, but by next summer, the Grand Lake Lodge is expected to be back in full operation, James said, employing again as many as 125 workers a season.

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“It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a wonderful opportunity and I’m grateful to be a part of it,” said veteran “Lodgling” Bob Scott, who this week stood in charge of product purchasing for the Lodge gift shop to satisfy the souvenir needs of countless Rocky Mountain National Park motorists.

Scott has served 40 years at the Lodge and has returned to become the Lodge’s premier “Mr. Hospitality,” joining 25-year Lodge maintenance employees John Laake and Craig Breder.

Outside this core group of employees, James said it’s been a challenge recruiting help in summer’s mid-season.

“Because we don’t have our all-star cast of managers and employees that we’ve had in the past, the family is scared, but excited,” James said.

‘Back on the horse’

“We decided to open her up and take a hold of our destiny versus waiting,” James said of the soft opening this season in advance of a full opening next season.

After being under contract six times out of about 60 buyers in the past five years, the Lodge remains listed on the market with Fuller Sotherby’s.

In the midst of the recession, the James family endured a challenging selling climate as buyers and investors pulled out one after the other – one in 2007 affected by the national liquidity crunch just six days from closing.

During these times under contract, James said, buyers had requested that the lodge remain closed and the James family found it easier to entertain buyer contracts while not expending energy as hands-on owners.

“It has been a roller coaster trying to figure things out, but then life has been a roller coaster for everybody the last three years,” he said.

In November 2009, family members began discussing the option to reopen.

“All a seller can do is drop their price and drop their price,” James said, “but you get to the point where it’s not worth it dropping your price anymore and you got to get back on the horse.”

Honoring clientele

Opening in mid-summer on a limited basis helps to get departments established so that next season’s full opening will be more seamless, James said.

Considered the town’s largest sales-tax driver in the past, the Grand Lake Lodge has a few weddings booked for this summer, with catering by Stone Creek Catering, Grand Lake.

Starting Labor Day, the Lodge plans to take reservations for 2011 reunions, parties and weddings.

Any possible sale of the resort would have the condition of honoring event commitments, James said.

It is not certain whether all of the cabins will be reopened next year as the James family works on a “new business plan” for the resort.

The owners also are exploring new ideas for the restaurant, which is slated to begin offering appetizers soon.

“The goal is to have the lodge beautiful, and to have people enjoy it,” James said.

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