Due to a state health orders, we have had to cancel the Live Best of Grand Premiere Party previously at the Foundry in Fraser, CO. Don’t forget to grab a copy of the Best of Grand Special publication in the Friday, Oct. 30 edition of the Sky-Hi News or stop by our office at 424 E. Agate Ave. in Granby to pick one up.
Sky-Hi News announces 2020 Best of Grand award winners
In the spotlight: Emily Haberkorn – Best Teacher
Emily Haberkorn’s students don’t usually raise their hands in class, but that’s because many of them are just figuring out what hands are.
Haberkorn teaches infants ages eight weeks to 18 months at Grand Kids Learning Center. This year she was voted best teacher in Grand County.
While schooling such young children might sound strange, Haberkorn explained that the work she does imparts some of the most basic knowledge to her students.
“Everyone’s like, how are you a teacher if you work with infants?” she said. “Well, I do teach life things that you need. Someone taught you how to eat and how to use a spoon. Those are things people don’t think about.”
Haberkorn has up to eight babies a day in her classroom, but no day is the same because all her classes are “baby led.”
“With that range of ages, we do everything from just eating and sleeping to some art projects to just play,” she said. “We try to get outside as much as we can.”
One of Haberkorn’s students is her 4-month-old daughter, Austyn. Haberkorn said having her own baby has made her all the more aware of the trust parents put into her to take care of their young ones.
Haberkorn has been in the county for over 20 years and spent a long time in the resort industry. While she spent a while wanting to work with kids, she didn’t have the means to go back to school and further her education in that area on her own.
Grand Kids provided an opportunity to be a part of that and is helping her with college classes, along with a scholarship through the Lions Club.
She’s now been teaching at Grand Kids for three years, with most of that time spent in the infant classes.
“One of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life is work with kids, babies especially,” she said. “They’re so genuine. They’re the sweetest little things.”
She added that it was an honor to be considered the best teacher in Grand County this year among so many talented educators.
“Up here, we have some really great teachers and everyone truly does care about our community,” Haberkorn said. “I do love my families and it shows that my families love me.”
In the spotlight: 85Fifty – Best Food Truck
The best food truck in Grand County sits adjacent to the bar with the best beers on tap and on the second best patio.
The unity between 85Fifty and Fraser River Beer Co. makes for an ideal experience. Inside a colorfully painted trailer, 85Fifty offers a diverse menu with flavors that can’t be found anywhere else in the county.
The Korean beef sandwich is everyone’s favorite, but fusion foods like the Korean mushroom Philly and a jalapeno elk bratwurst are some of the delicious dishes pub-goers often enjoy with their drinks.
“We have stuff on the menu that’s just not on other menus,” owner Androw Miller said. “That was the whole point, to try to set up something that was a little different.”
85Fifty opened in May 2019. When Miller was given the opportunity to start the business, his mind went to the child he and his wife were expecting.
“I just wanted to do something to try to set my daughter up,” Miller said. “You know, try to better her quality of life.”
Even with the pandemic, Miller said that business this summer has been better than last. He credits that to the growing reputation of 85Fifty and being able to stay open during the stay at home orders by adapting to the to-go methods required by COVID-19.
“That was kind of trying, but with the way the food truck was set up, we were able to stay open and stay in business, which was good,” he said.
Miller has enjoyed having strong support in the community and loves that 85Fifty has become so appreciated. For Miller, the best part of the venture has been the ability to work for himself.
“It’s kind of the dream,” he said. “I work a lot, so it’s one of those things where it’s a lot — but at the end of the day it’s still pretty rewarding.”
In the spotlight: Two Pines Supply – Best Bike Shop
A young multi-sports store has become the best bike stop in Grand and one of the best sporting goods stores in a county full of recreational opportunities.
Two Pines Supply opened in May of last year and has seen two busy summers selling, servicing and renting just about any piece of outdoor equipment.
“The only thing we really don’t do right now is kayaking because we don’t have space,” owner Chris Olivier said, adding that he hopes to add that as soon as it’s possible.
Ranging from bikes to hiking and camping gear to maps and snacks, the store has a little bit of everything for the outdoor lifestyle.
Olivier and his wife had been looking to settle down in the county, a place Olivier had enjoyed recreating in all his life. The couple started the business after spending time in various parts of the biking industry and realizing that some of their favorite products weren’t available in Grand.
That’s part of what makes Two Pines’ offerings so unique.
“We carry brands that we believe in,” Olivier said. “The brands we carry in the store are what we use in the outdoors.”
Customer service is another important part of the store’s business model. Olivier explained that whether a customer is buying a $10,000 mountain bike or just one snack, he wants them to have the same, excellent experience.
He emphasized that for some recreationists passing through the area, Two Pines might be their only stop. The store wants to make sure that every person passing through walks away happy with the service and with Grand.
“For a lot of these people, we’re the only touch point they have with the county,” Oliver said. “We’re making sure people have a positive experience while they’re here.”
In the spotlight: Resort Management Group – Best Property Management Company, Best Lodging
With a background in hospitality, Mike Claney quickly cozied up to the idea of starting his own business when the opportunity was presented in 1998.
Twenty-two years later, that business — Resort Management Group — has won best property management company and tied with Devil’s Thumb Resort for the best lodging company, as Resort Management Group operates dozens of condominium associations and HOAs, about 60 timeshares and almost 100 rental units across Grand.
About half of the properties are in the Granby Ranch area while the other half reside in the Winter Park and Fraser Valley area. Together, they give guests a wide variety of options, ranging all the way up to a luxurious home at the base of Mary Jane that goes for up to $5,000 a night at Christmastime.
Before owning his own business, Claney worked in the hotel industry, teaching him a set of skills that served him well when he was working for a board that graciously gave him the chance to start his own business in the late ‘90s.
“That hotel business was very important,” Claney said of him coming into the business. “It taught me a lot of the basics about how to operate properties and what was important in guest service.”
With a focus on the customer experience and surrounded by some “great people,” Claney quickly grew the young business to cover HOAs and properties that operate like hotels.
Then in the early 2000s, vacation rentals came onto the scene, and Resort Management saw an opportunity to latch onto the booming new market.
Now, Resort Management Group exists as a full-service property management company that’s a one-stop shop for anyone’s property management needs, including everything down to training and employing its own housekeepers, many of whom have been with Claney for five years or more.
Measuring the business’s growth, Claney could point to the heightened number and amazing quality of the company’s rental units, but he thinks looking at the people who’ve grown with the business, some of whom were working for Claney even before he started it, might be the best way to truly see just how far they’ve come together.
In the spotlight: Dr. Mike Brooks – Best Pet Service
Between treating dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, cows, horses, bears, deer, bobcats, raccoons, mountain lions, badgers, foxes, elk and raptors, Dr. Mike Brooks is no stranger to animals and their veterinary needs.
Brooks, who owns and manages Brooks Veterinary Services, has always had a passion for animals and has wanted to be a vet for as long as he can remember.
“One of the first memories I have is picking up an injured falconer’s hawk on my way home from school in first or second grade and I really wanted to help it,” Brooks said with a smile. “I graduated CSU in 1984 and was here one week later and haven’t been anywhere since.”
That passion is clear to Brooks’ clients, both human and four-legged, in his everyday practice. Whether it’s a late night emergency or an early morning delivery, Brooks tries to be available as often as he can.
He said he’s honored this year as the county’s best pet service, a category where his practice beat out other vets and amenities for furry friends.
“I think Grand County has a wonderful set of veterinarians and it means a lot, especially given the time, evenings, weekends, I’ve given, so I sure appreciate the nod that people are noticing some of that effort,” Brooks said.
Aside from large and small veterinary services, Brooks also does surgery, dentistry work, nutritional counseling and sells medications and food. He works with Colorado Parks and Wildlife occasionally.
Outside his office, Brooks volunteers his time at local schools, talking to classes about his work or supervising dissections.
He attributes his success in part to his ability to provide a range of services to a variety of animals, while also working as more than just a vet.
“Being adaptable and being able to do a lot of things yourself … just kind of being a jack of all trades and whatever needed to be done, I did it myself pretty much,” he said of being a small business owner. “We hope to be as responsive as we can be … so I think availability is key.”
In addition to his Renaissance man skills, Brooks knows the importance of communication and empathy in his line of work. Over the course of his career, he said he’s had more special cases than he could recount.
“The dedication of my clientele and people in general have for their animals, it’s amazing the investment they have and there’s too many memories to mention,” he said. “Helping people and helping animals are my most special memories.”
After an initially scary start to the year, Brooks is optimistic that things are only picking up. He noted Grand County has been discovered, expanding the community in exciting new ways.
In the spotlight: Bolen’s Cleaning and Maintenance – Best Cleaning Service
When a small business serves Grand County for 25 years, it’s no wonder the community votes them the best cleaning service in the county.
Bob Bolen started Bolen’s Cleaning and Maintenance Services in 1995. The business initially only worked on carpets and upholstery, but Bolen soon noticed a real need in the area for window cleaning.
That in turn brought about other sorts of cleaning services thanks to their tall ladders. Along with carpets and windows, the company cleans anything from tiles to ceiling fans.
“Over the eras, it’s just grown,” Bolen said. “Because of really good employees, it’s been a great business.”
April through November is when most of the cleaning gets done, so during that time Bolen has eight employees on his staff. He said that those workers tend to return season after season.
He highlighted longtime employees Aaron Green, who has been with the company for 15 years, and John Wilkes, who’s been there for 10, as part of Bolen’s success. He added that they set the tone for success along with all the employees under them.
“I give credit to the employees,” Bolen said of his company’s accomplishments. “They’re a great bunch of people.”
Bolen was enthusiastic and appreciative of the recognition as one of the Best of Grand. Along with his employees, he is grateful to the customers he’s gotten to know over the years.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized,” he said. “Customers in the community are the ones that vote on this. It’s very special.”
In the spotlight: Java Lava Cafe – Best Place to Work (under 20 employees)
In its 11 years open in Granby, Java Lava Cafe has come to be known by its familiar faces and consistently delicious breakfast and lunch options.
Owner Christy Downing said that’s by design, as her cafe strives to follow the Golden Rule everyday – treat others as you’d want to be treated. This goes for customers, staff and anyone else who walks through the door.
This year’s Best of Grand honors that dedication with a first place win in the best place to work with fewer than 20 employees.
“Family always comes first and we’re very flexible here,” Christy said.
A huge reason for the great work environment is that the staff is like family said Gina Macchione, who has worked with Christy since even before Java Lava opened.
“I love the people I work with – we work really well together and we work really hard,” Gina said. “Christy is like my sister at this point in life.”
Both Macchione and Angie Holmes, a Java Lava staff member since the start, also emphasized how much they enjoy getting to know their customers, whether they’re morning regulars or visiting for the first time.
“We try really hard to take care of the people who come in here and even if we don’t know them, we treat them like they’re our family,” Angie said.
Aside from the long-term staff, Christy also tries to employ local students. As a former coach, she likes to be able to provide young workers the opportunity to learn the business.
“They learn to run food, bus tables, run the register, make coffee drinks, if they show interest in cooking, we try to do that as well … it’s an all around learning experience,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll take this with them beyond high school.”
As the cafe continues to grow with the community, Christy said her goal is to maintain the quality of service and food that Java Lava has a reputation for.
In the spotlight: Charlie’s Frozen Treat Shop – Best Dessert
Every year since Charlie’s Frozen Treat Shop opened in 2017, the business has won Best of Grand accolades for offering the best dessert in the county. This year, the frozen treat parlour adds best ice cream to its growing list of awards.
Jeanne and George Jackson shared that winning is both exciting and humbling, since they believe the competition in the dessert category is strong across the county.
“It was a surprise (in 2017) and ever since then, every subsequent year, it’s been very exciting because we do our best, but we’re in a category with those big restaurants and we’ve had their desserts and they’re pretty good,” Jeanne said.
Charlie’s, named after the family’s black lab, goes beyond the typical ice cream shop with offerings including gelato, custard, sorbet, Italian ice and, of course, ice cream. Also on the menu are hand-dipped ice cream bars, homemade cookie ice cream sandwiches and dog-friendly smoothie cups and treats.
“The frozen treat concept encompasses everybody, so we try to make it something for everyone to enjoy,” Jeanne said. “You’ll have some families come in and they’re an all chocolate family, but other families will order four or five different things.”
This year, the store added handmade shakes and malts to the menu, which have been a big hit.
“We’re always changing flavors,” George said. “We always try to have a non-dairy option.”
Adapting to 2020 for Charlie’s meant temporarily offering online ordering and delivery during the Safer at Home phase of the pandemic. Those services may return this winter depending on regulations, George noted.
Luckily, one of the perks of running a frozen treat shop is that it’s a really fun job even in tough times, Jeanne said.
“We don’t hardly ever have a bad day at the ice cream store,” she said.
In one instance, George placed the order for the toppings, accidentally asking for giant gummy bears instead of the usual size. Jeanne said one look at the excitement from kids at seeing the triple-size bears meant the mistake turned into a permanent topping bar feature.
In their time open, only one ice cream flavor wasn’t popular – vegan blueberry frozen fruit.
“There’s been a lot of support and love from the community, especially our locals and second homeowners,” Jeanne said.
The future of Charlie’s is all about continuing to build up the business and community relationships, Jeanne added, so that she and George can keep the business in the family and serving Winter Park.
Sky-Hi News announces 2019 Best of Grand award winners
More than 160 Grand County business owners and community members braved an early season snowstorm for the Sky-Hi News’ Best of Grand awards ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Headwaters Center in Winter Park. Food was provided by the Granby Garage, Elevation Pizza, Lulu City, Squeaky B’s, Tabernash Tavern and Pepe Osaka’s Fishtaco. For complete results, check out the online version of our Best of Grand special publication, grab a copy in the Friday, Oct. 25 paper, or stop by our office at 424 E. Agate Ave. in Granby to pick one up.