It’s not likely that life in Redstone has ever been described as fast-paced — at least not since the mining era. But typically, this time of year, tourism picks up and the Boulevard is filled with locals and visitors. Take a walk downtown today and you just might have the entire street to yourself.
The Redstone Community Association (RCA) is a nonprofit that “bridges the gap between residents and commercial businesses,” says RCA President Gentrye Houghton. Redstone is part of unincorporated Pitkin County so is not technically a town — hence the formation of RCA. Houghton has stayed up to date with evolving health orders and has Zoomed in for Pitkin County COVID 19 response meetings as a representative of the enclave.
Redstone does not have a winter tourist season but it picks up in the late spring says Houghton, “We start to see visitors around Mothers Day and then a little more around Memorial Day…but our big kick off is always the Fourth of July.”
In years past, the Independence Day celebration has brought in as many as 3,000 people to the small village in the valley. People gather on the Boulevard, locals host parties that pour onto the street and everyone enjoys the “mass wonderful chaos,” says Houghton. Prior celebrations have included fly overs, parades, pie sales and a local ducky derby down the Crystal River.
This year, for public safety, all community events on the Fourth of July have been cancelled . Other events, including the Magical Moment Concert series which generally takes place every Saturday during the summer, are still under consideration.
Businesses here rely on tourism. With a population of roughly 100 full time residents within Redstone proper, the economy would not be able to sustain itself without patronage from visitors.
At least one establishment, the Redstone General Store — considered a staple in the community — did not make it through to the other side of the lockdown. According to Houghton, COVID 19 “was the last nail in the coffin” for an establishment already struggling partially due to increased taxes for businesses in Colorado.
The previous owners of the General Store ran it for nearly 15 years and most of their revenue, “came from ice cream sales,” Houghton laughs. She hopes that “someone comes in and takes it on and we don’t lose another business in town.”
A number of retail businesses on the Boulevard likewise heavily rely on tourism.
Propaganda Pie remained opened for takeout through the lockdown. Restaurants in Pitkin County were permitted to reopen for dining-in on May 27 with restrictions.
The Redstone Inn has been closed since the lockdown began. The Inn plans to reopen the restaurant and lodging on June 15. Other local lodges have already opened with some restrictions.
While Redstonians count on seeing the local economy bounce back, they are also worried for their community’s overall health; many of whom consider themselves to be higher risk.
“I’m torn between how much I want and need our businesses to thrive but also with what is responsible for our residents,” says Houghton.
“Normal years we welcome guests — tourists from all over and we love our downvalley neighbors who consider this their backyard also,” she continues. “This year we may be a little bit more cautious and ask people to have some patience with us and to also respect our residents by social distancing, bringing your mask and keeping dogs on leashes.”
One way to lend some support
Pastor Chris Moon of the Church at Redstone along with his congregation could not sit idly by while local business owners suffered. So they decided to take action.
The congregation put together a fund and developed a program to boost the local economy. They call it the Shop Redstone Initiative. The church sells certificates that can be used at 19 local businesses and those businesses get the profits now to help tide them over during this impasse.
For every $20 purchased in certificates a buyer is given $10 extra worth of spending at any of the participating businesses ranging from Avalanche Ranch Cabins and Hot Springs to the Redstone Art Gallery. The $10 difference comes out of the fund created by the Church and goes directly to the businesses involved.
The next in-person opportunity to buy certificates is from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 4 at the church. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase certificates remotely.
“The business community is really key to the life of a community,” Moon states. “We can’t turn our eyes from small business owners and how they may be fairing because they’re really important to our whole community.”