Some industries are forging ahead – or even thriving – in the face of the virus
The new coronavirus has dealt significant financial blows to most Ouray County businesses, keeping tourists, the lifeblood of the local economy, at bay and forcing shops and restaurants to severely curtail services or temporarily close altogether.
But not all of them are struggling.
Liquor stores, deemed an essential business by the state, are watching sales soar, as other outlets for alcohol have been forced to pull back and residents seek an escape from stress and uncertainty. Other industries, like retail marijuana, construction and delivery, are humming right along.
“It’s a uniquely desirable commodity in times like these,” Ouray Liquors owner Matt Genuit said of alcohol.
Genuit said business has been solid, and he is trying to be accommodating and understanding of the town’s needs. He believes being able to shop in his store provides locals with familiarity and comfort, but he has also added services like phone ordering for delivery or pick-up.
Typically, Ouray Liquors' quietest time of the year is in March and April, with this year the obvious exception. Summer is always the store’s best season, and winter business is growing every year.
Genuit believes every bit of Ouray’s retail alcohol sales are coming from his store due to the limits on operations of local restaurants.
Karen VandenBranden, owner of High Spirits Liquor in Ridgway, said she feels “lucky we can stay open.”
She said she and her employees have taken precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 including the installation of a plexiglass shield at the checkout and the use of masks and gloves.
VandenBranden said the higher-than-usual amount of business she has seen this spring is similar to what happened during the economic downturn of 2008. She is hopeful for a normal summer and that the Ridgway Concert Series will be able to proceed as normal, as that is High Spirits’ “bread and butter.”
Kenny Spangler, manager of San Juan Liquors, said business is “trucking right along.”
Spangler estimates his store is getting twice as much business as normal for this time of year, and he is optimistic that in the summer “we are going to be just fine.”
Another comfort in times of stress, cannabis, has continued steady sales, though not at the rate of liquor, according to Nate Balducci, marketing director of Rocky Mountain Cannabis.
Balducci said sales are staying “airly consistent to previous years.”
Balducci feels “incredibly blessed to be considered essential in these times” and expressed thanks to his employees and customers.
Rocky Mountain Cannabis has transitioned to online and call-in orders and are only allowing two people in the check-in lobby at a time.
Larry Coulter, owner of Coulter Construction in Ridgway, said he feels “blessed” that he and his crews are staying busy. He currently has four job sites in the county.
The bulk of Coulter’s work consists of building new homes and updating existing ones in Ouray County. His focus on working within the county is benefiting him significantly, as local construction companies whose work is in Telluride are out of work right now.
Eric Dickerson, owner of Dickerson Construction in Ridgway, who also works in the county, said his business hasn’t fallen off.
“In general we are doing pretty good,” he said.
Kathy Walker of Allison Construction said the company is up and running. She said people are still calling and inquiring about having work done and do not seem to have any fear of spending money.
Deliveries in demand
“People definitely seem to be pointing and clicking,” said Mark Monroe, a local driver for FedEx.
Monroe said he is definitely delivering to Ouray County more than normal for this time of year, “but it’s not crazy.”
Monroe said customers are taking a lot of precautions. He helps out by texting people that he has left their packages for them. The company no longer requires signatures, so there is no physical contact.
Charlene Freeman, a local UPS driver, said overall, her deliveries have not increased in the county.
“I was surprised,” Freeman said of the lack of a major increase in package deliveries.
Freeman said as residential deliveries have increased with people staying home and ordering online, business closures have resulted in fewer deliveries to local businesses, keeping the amount of packages to deliver roughly the same.
She said she feels safe from exposure while in her truck, but puts on a mask when entering post offices or other public places. She caters to special requests, such as from people who ask her to leave packages 10 feet away from their doors, and she will not make people sign for packages.