The champions of Old Town: Dominguez family works to revamp old Winter Park
December 1, 2017
When Frank and Gigi Dominguez moved to Winter Park in 1980, the town was unrecognizable. Frank paints a colorful picture of a rural, up-and-coming resort town with a single two-lane highway heading into the resort, no sidewalks or stop signs and a relatively unsophisticated ski culture. But as fixtures in the community for nearly 40 years, they've seen the community, and the culture surrounding it, evolve in front of their eyes.
"It's been fun to be a part of this community and the history of the ski industry," said Frank. "Because when we came here and started here, everybody was still skiing with leashes, straight skis and leather boots. So to be involved with an industry that's demonstrated such change, and what it's evolved into has been pretty incredible."
The Dominguez' are the proprietors of Alpine Sun Ski & Sport and Adolf's Event Center and Tavern, as well as champions for a new and revitalized Old Town Winter Park.
Both Frank and Gigi are Colorado natives, growing up in the Denver and Arvada areas respectively, and frequenting Winter Park Resort. Gigi learned to ski at an early age, taking the ski train up to Grand County and joining the Eskimo Ski Club in 1965. She attended the University of Colorado where she studied recreational therapy. As part of her studies she began working at the National Sports Center for the Disabled, or NSCD.
"Obviously I grew up being a skier, and my family all skied," she said. "It was a big part of our lives. And then when we moved here, and based on what I studied in college working with people with disabilities, and having that job at that time in the ski industry I kind of fell into it. It was an opportunity to pass on a passion, to work with people there, to be a skier and to help others become a skier. It was just such a great thing, and I love the ski industry."
Gigi worked with the NSCD for nearly 30 years, in part as a volunteer, and it was working in a disabled program in 1978 when she met Frank, her future husband. Frank's stint with the NSCD was considerably shorter. He taught for four years, from 1976-80, at which point he had also gotten a job managing Summit Ski Rental, across the street from Alpine Sun Ski and Sport.
The two married in 1980, and officially moved to Winter Park where they've been active members in the community since. Frank served two terms on the Winter Park Chamber Board in the 80s and 90s, and has been on the East Grand Fire Protection District Board of Directors for the last 17 years.
They purchased Alpine Sun Ski & Sport in 1984, it originally opened in 1980 where Le Feet Lab in Downtown Winter Park currently stands, and moved it to the current location in Old Town in 2000. Located less than a half-mile from the resort, the store serves as the community's full service ski and snowboard rental shop, provides tuning and sells clothing and accessories. And with 34 years under the Dominguez name, it boasts the title of Winter Park's longest running family owned and operated ski shop.
"It's now been 18 years in Old Town, and we have quite the little community here," said Frank. "It's given us the opportunity to grow the shop to where it's not a big shop, but it services quite a few in this neighborhood and the base village.
"We're not a cookie cutter program that some of the other areas might have. We're still rural. We service the guests and we do it as well as anyone."
The Dominguez's son, Jordan, currently works with his parents managing the shop. Their other son, Gregory, is an ex employee who currently works in the Bay Area as a regional learning manager at a tech company.
An (unplanned) family business
While creating a family business wasn't planned in any way, the Dominguez family said it has helped them in their business.
"It's really motivating for us," said Gigi. "It's also really comforting for customers that there's a legacy part of it, that it's family oriented. People like that. We had a customer not long ago say it's kind of like coming home. It's been really positive."
Five years ago the Dominguez family purchased Adolf's Event Center and Tavern, originally founded by Adolf Luthy, a Swiss immigrant who worked on the Moffat Tunnel in the late 1920s. After Luthy moved away in the 1950s the tavern had several owners and names, but the Dominguez' decided to purchase it to add some stability to the area and inject some of the history back into the establishment.
"Because we knew the history of Adolf we kind of expanded on it," recalled Frank. "That was the original name from the 40s through the 70s. In the 80s and 90s it changed different restaurant names. But Adolf's is what everybody who's been here over the years identifies with it.
"So we tied Adolf back to it. There's different pictures and history all over the tavern, the wood floor from the original ski shop. Because of us being here, people have contributed what's over there. So we've been able to bring history back into that building and into the business."
Today Adolf's serves as an aprés ski tavern, open from 3-6 p.m., for those coming off the slopes. The tavern also serves as an event center, hosting weddings, reunions and a myriad of other activities. Gigi also claims that Adolf's is the longest continually operating après ski tavern in all of Colorado ski country, going on its 78th year in operation.
While the Dominguez family has made a name for their businesses in Old Town, they're essentially the only ones. When they're not running the ski shop or tavern, they're the vanguards behind an effort to revitalize the Old Town area. Gigi is the spokesperson for the Old Town Neighborhood Enhancement Committee; a group promoting increased commercial businesses in the area, as well as neighborhood enhancements in the form of new signage, streetlights, banners and more.
"There's some great residential development going on, and with quality units," said Gigi. "Some of the nicest places to stay in Winter Park are right here in Old Town. And people have great access to the resort, but the commercial side is limited. We're here with the ski shop, and we have the event center and tavern, which is great. But if there could be just a few more things down here that would really service the neighborhood or people visiting Old Town that would be great.
"We are the neighborhood ski shop, and the neighborhood tavern. And now we have Bare Nails, which is a nice little addition. We're kind of creating our own commercial entities as much as we possibly can."
While the Dominguez family works to improve their neighborhood any way they can, they're perfectly happy with the life they've created together, and the businesses that continue to thrive under their stewardship.
"We do it because of who we are," said Frank. "And now my kids know that if you're not happy doing what you're doing, don't do it. But we're happy with what we're doing, so we do it."
"It's such a big deal to love something that you do, that you get to do," added Gigi.