Brower: Economies have changed quickly in Grand
Grand Enterprise Initiative
It was interesting and sad to watch.
When I first moved to Granby almost 40 years ago there was a different sort of economy that dominated the town’s main street. It’s an economy that’s greatly diminished now all because of one big public infrastructure project called the Eisenhower Tunnels on Interstate 70.
What has pretty much vanished is what I call the gas station and motel economic engine.
When I first drove into Granby there were nine gas stations within the 10 block stretch of what we now call downtown main street Granby. Nine. There were 10 if you include The Barn Store at the intersection of 34 and 40.
(Note: A similar metamorphosis took place in Fraser and Kremmling.)
Now there are three in what I call the close-in downtown of Granby, by including the Kum and Go.
Back then Granby had three massive gas station signs towering over the downtown. These were those Interstate-scale types of gas station signs on massive sign poles or scaffolds that towered over the town like hot air balloons.
Little did I know then that when I moved into town then I was going to witness the quick collapse of that gas station economy. And with each gas station that closed there was a local family story that was disrupted by the whims and machinations of the Colorado highway system.
You see, the twin tunnels at the top of the pass where I-70 makes its way into Summit County from Clear Creek County took a big stigma out of the drive that many people had about the drive into the mountains of Colorado. Before the tunnels were open there was the spectre of Loveland Pass or Berthoud Pass if a driver wanted to go west and ski, fish or hike. And just the idea of driving either one of those passes really sent shivers of fear and trepidation through the souls of drivers. To this day, I hear people swoon almost over the prospect of having to drive over Berthoud Pass.
Anyway, back then, as soon as those tunnels were opened, along with that nice new Interstate highway to the top of the hill, the vast majority of the traffic that used to come over Berthoud and through Grand County on Highway 40 suddenly started going the other way to the Twin Tunnels. Within a year the impact to the gas station economy in Granby, and the economy in general, was obvious.
In three years three gas stations closed. They just couldn’t make it. Alvae Boettler closed his down. Dave shut down his station. One guy closed and vanished overnight. Pete Robinson, God bless his soul, held on with something like a real service station for another 20 years. But even Pete’s 66, which was also at one time Pete’s Mobil, closed down.
And then there’s the motel businesses. Several of the old motels still exist, just outside the town of Granby limits to the west. They harken back to an age of motoring and excursion that typified the Sixties and Seventies. But there were several other motels of that ilk all up and down Granby’s main street when I moved here in 1979. The Q Z Motel, the Snowflake motel, the El Monte Motel, Bill’s Modern Court — just to name a few, are all gone. I even lived in the Snowflake Motel for my first three months in Granby, a sign of the economic evolution here from motoring visitors to housing employees, and then, well, oblivion for that motel.
And believe it or not there was a real subculture of the downhill skiing public in the Sixties and Seventies that made it a point to drive to Granby for the lodging so they could afford a ski vacation at what was then called the Winter Park Ski Area. Really. Granby had the motel beds for many Winter Park skiers.
The whole point of this is that economies can change very quickly, sometimes the result of two tunnels built in the mountains. But economies also evolve, sometimes in great ways.
Look at what we have now where those gas stations used to be: Retail store and visitors’s center, Granby Garage tap room and restaurant, excellent parking on main street, a savings bank, an auto repair shop. And in place of the motels? New electrical utility headquarters building, restaurant and retail space, expanded parking, long-term lodging for employees. And we’ve still got some great, classic motel lodging.
So we’ve evolved economically and managed to stay out of that area many call the “sacrifice zone,” the Interstate 70 corridor. Now, so many years later, we can count our blessings
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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