Some Grand County retailers benefit from rising fuel costs, while tourism bookings lag | SkyHiNews.com

Some Grand County retailers benefit from rising fuel costs, while tourism bookings lag

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

By Tonya Bina

Sky-Hi Daily News

Budget-guzzling gas prices may be taking their toll on the tourism market in Grand County.

Meanwhile, at least a few merchants are reaping the benefits of residents eschewing trips to Denver to buy goods locally.

“People are thinking twice about making the trip to Denver,” said Tom McConathy, owner of Country Home Outfitters and Country Ace Hardware in Granby.

“We are seeing strong sales and would attribute part of that to people shopping locally,” he said.

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Farther south, Jenny Harris of Fraser’s Ace Hardware says business is holding steady.

Consumers feeling the pinch with higher-priced groceries and gas approaching the $4-per-gallon mark are planning accordingly.

“I’ve always gone down (to Denver), but now I’m going down a lot less,” said contractor Mike Peterson of Granby in the Ace Hardware parking lot Thursday. “It takes $130 to fill up my truck; you bet I’m going down less.”

Peterson travels only sparingly to Denver these days to visit his daughter and pick up certain work materials. And while there, he buys his favorite beer, Sam Adams Lite, saying he hasn’t yet found it in local liquor stores.

Similarly, Troy Nelson of Granby, who also works in the construction business, is cutting back on trips over the pass. He is now making an effort to schedule trips to Denver only when there are many reasons to do so, he said.

But while gas prices are making many Grand County residents more travel conscious, the same can be said of Front Range visitors to the high country, adversely affecting other businesses.

“For bookings we normally get from people in the Front Range, we’ve definitely seen an impact,” said Anny Ortiz, guest service coordinator of Alpine Resort Properties LLC of Winter Park. “We haven’t had as many bookings from regulars.”

Sales and Marketing Director Diane Ehlert of Alpine says the company is also starting to feel an impact on out-of-state bookings.

“A lot of groups are not traveling as a result of airfares being affected by fuel surcharges, so (gas prices) are having a trickling-down effect,” she said.

Destinations West owner Diane Butler said her company also is “seeing a slowing in reservations,” but the picture may become much clearer in July when Denverites search for ways to escape the heat. The property management company has units in Grand Lake as well as the Fraser Valley.

“Denver residents may not be taking bigger vacations,” she said. “Perhaps they’ll take the driveable ones, but with gas prices, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Furniture sales are also off to a slow start, according to Janet Aley of Aley Baire in Granby and Sal D’Onofrio, owner of The Furniture Store, Granby.

But the reason is more than gas prices, Aley and colleague Sandra McAdam’s of Grand County Interiors speculated. Slower sales could point to either a slow-down in construction of new homes or local contractors getting fewer jobs due to a saturation of Denver contractors in the area.

Regardless, buying local saves on the growing cost of gas, steep delivery charges and time, Aley said.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.

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