Winter Park Chamber honors Deno Kutrumbos with Pioneer Award
November 13, 2014
Deno Kutrumbos was named the 2014 Pioneer Award winner during the Winter Park-Fraser Chamber of Commerce annual banquet on Friday night, Nov. 7. Following is the entire prepared presentation, parts of which were delivered by his son, Nick, in accepting the award.
Deno moved to Hideaway Park in 1973, when the ZIP code was 80450 and sales tax was 3 percent (he sure misses that).
Bob Singley and Deno befriended each other in 1972. Bob was invited to speak at the Univeristy of Tampa's ski club while Deno was teaching at the university. Deno visited Bob in Hideaway Park that winter and stayed at Beaver's Lodge. That is when Deno's bond with this unpretentious area began.
Shortly after Singley called saying Darvin Erhenmann, the owner of the Swiss House of Fondue (now Deno's), offered Deno the position of kitchen manager for the '73 ski season. Compensation was $600 a month, and he accepted. Back then you could have a few beers and a couple kamikazes and still pay the bills.
At that time the Swiss house was closed on Wednesdays and opened at 4 p.m. during the ski season. Deno talked Darvin into opening on Wednesdays with an all you can eat pasta bar and limited menu. He started Sunday brunch with eggs Benedict and eggs sardue, which hardly anyone had ever heard of (FYI, a Benedict replaced with an artichoke heart and creamed spinach). He also opened the restaurant for lunch and his compensation was a big fat zero.
Deno talked Darvin into getting a television to show the Broncos on one of three stations, making the Swiss House Winter Park's first sports bar. From the proceeds of working at the Meadow Creek Dam in '74 for four months straight, no days off and much overtime, Deno was able to build his log home and purchase the Swiss House two years later.
Deno had an interest in the old Winter Hof property, now Cooper Creek Square. Ron Jones can tell you the rest of that story. In 1982 for 14 years, Deno was the owner/operater of the food and beverage concession at the developing Silver Creek Ski Area, bringing in Bob Singley as a working partner. In 1983, he built Deno's on the Ridge at Meadow Ridge, selling two years later to the Orin Benton/Butterwick group. He acquired the Winter Haven property in the late '80s and then the Shed in the '90s, selling in 2007. Due to his restaurant accomplishments Deno was inducted into the Colorado Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2007.
His micro-macro economic philosophy, "the goes inies must exceed the goes outies," to retire a 12 month debt service in a seven-month economy is a fun challenge. In the '70s and early '80s during the summer and off seasons, many businesses did not open. Deno was on the first recreation district board, knowing the need to stimulate a summer economy. The board was the vehicle that developed the Pole Creek golf course. Although unpopular at its conception, upon completion it was the recipient of Golf Digest's course of the year, and the honor was embellished by the community. The success of Pole Creek spawned the development of our other area golf courses, resulting in a summer destination golf resort. Deno was the founder and creator of the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival at the ski area benefiting the NSCD.
The restaurant and hospitality business in a seasonal resort is extremely demanding. Deno has been fortunate in surrounding himself with loyal, hardworking staff with a strong work ethic. He would like to personally thank some notable former employees: Eddie Kiernan, Sherry Shelton, Rich Karlin, Debbie Lewis, Dick and Eileen Zieff and Chef Al. A special thanks to his Mom Yia Yia, who lived above the restaurant literally keeping her eye on the place and also Nick and Ted's mom Betsy who helped run and supported Deno for over 40 years.