Updated: July 30, 2010 at 12:00 am
When it comes to retail hubs, Manitou Springs’ boutique shops and cafés will never be confused with the big boxes and chain restaurants along Powers Boulevard in Colorado Springs. And when it comes to lifestyles, Manitou’s quaint older homes and Victorians stand apart from Briargate, Stetson Hills and other suburban areas in the Springs.
But for the Haas family, of Manitou Springs, the town’s look, feel and size are just right — and have been for more than 30 years. During that time, the family has established a thriving retail enterprise that now spans four businesses.
Brothers Tim and Terry Haas began leasing the nearby Garden of the Gods Trading Post in 1978 from the family that built it, said Tim’s son, who’s also named Tim (although he’s not a junior).
Even though they didn’t own it, the elder Haases expanded the Trading Post five times over the next several years before buying it and the surrounding land in 1996, said the younger Tim Haas. Four years later, the Haases nearly doubled the size of the store, which is home to Colorado- and Native American-themed gifts, souvenirs, rugs, jewelry, paintings and pottery. The Haases also remodeled the Trading Post’s cafe and added space for meetings, conferences and weddings.
In 2005, the Haases bought the Manitou Outpost in downtown Manitou Springs, which has some of the same merchandise as the Trading Post, Tim Haas said.
In February, the Haases bought the Navajo Gallery and Gifts in downtown Manitou. And in early May, they launched Mountain High Sportswear, an apparel store.
The Haas family businesses, which are owned by Tim Haas, his father and uncle, employ a total of about 110 full- and part-time workers at their four stores.
Tim Haas, 38, who was working in a California bank before returning in 1996 to join his father and uncle, said sidewalk improvements, the burial of utility lines and the creation of a Business Improvement District — among other downtown upgrades — provided the impetus for the family to expand its retail operations.
“So much has happened to improve the downtown in the last seven or eight years with the formation of the Business Improvement District and creation of a tax in order to help the downtown revitalization,” Haas said. Without those initiatives, he added, “we wouldn’t have purchased one store, let alone three.”
Question: You have four businesses in Manitou Springs or very close by. Why do you have such an interest in Manitou?
Answer: Manitou Springs has made tremendous strides in the last few years. The Garden of the Gods Trading Post is certainly our primary business; however, with the revitalization of downtown Manitou Springs, a tremendous opportunity has been created. Manitou’s unique character, coupled with the many improvements, has made it a great place to invest.
Q: As chairman of Manitou’s Economic Development Council, how would you assess the state of Manitou’s business climate and downtown Manitou in particular?
A: Although it took many years, and many volunteers, to move the downtown-revitalization project forward, its timing probably couldn’t have been better. The creation of a Business Improvement District, along with the passage of a citywide sales tax measure, allowed the city to begin its improvements. This spurred private investment exceeding $30 million at a time when most areas were seeing declining development. As a result, Manitou Springs has fared better than most areas in our state and nation during a very challenging time. Thus far this year, revenues are higher than projected by the city.
Q: Whether in Manitou or Colorado Springs, new retail businesses can be iffy propositions because of the poor economy. Why open a new store at this time?
A: The tourism industry in this area has never fully recovered from the effects of 9/11. Our businesses have been fortunate to continue to grow, but it has been at a much slower pace. In 2005, we purchased the Manitou Outpost and were pleased with the results. During this past fall, we began negotiations to purchase the building site for Mountain High Sportswear. In my opinion, the opportunities in Manitou Springs now and in the future made the price very reasonable. At the same time of this negotiation, I was approached by the owner of the Navajo Gallery and Gifts and informed of his desire to sell his business. We were fortunate to put together a deal that was fair for both parties and allowed us to expand our presence in downtown Manitou Springs.
Q: Your businesses occupy existing store sites. Why not a new site in a new shopping center?
A: Manitou Springs is one of the largest national historic districts in the nation. The unique character of the town makes it very appealing for visitors and locals alike. In my opinion, that far outweighs the benefits of locating in a new shopping center
Q: The Trading Post obviously relies on tourism; how much do your other businesses rely on tourism?
A: Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs are, and probably always will be, tourism-driven.
Over the last few years, however, more marketing dollars have been directed at our local community. I believe this has been successful for the Garden of the Gods Trading Post as well as Manitou Springs in general. Our newest store, Mountain High Sportswear, will cater more to the local outdoor enthusiast and will have promotions throughout the holidays.
Q: How would you assess the state of tourism so far this year in the Pikes Peak region, based on your experience at the Trading Post?
A: This year started slowly but has steadily improved. For those of us in the tourism industry, Memorial Day to Labor Day represents a majority of annual revenues. If the current trend continues, 2010 will end significantly better than the last few years.
Questions and answers are edited for brevity and clarity. Contact the writer at 636-0228