Economic Recovery in Manitou Springs Progressing Slowly

Local Businesses Hope to Benefit From Less Restrictions and Warm Weather

Gabriel Paulson

 As Manitou Springs and the Westside emerge from the holiday season slowed by COVID-19 restrictions and variances begin to lift, recovery is progressing slowly.

In fact, despite the recent mild weather, many local businesses struggle to remain optimistic with the beginning of the  slow season.

As restaurants try to return to business as usual, with the lifting of the Level Red (at severe risk) designation by the state, some, such as Manitou’s Armadillo Ranch and Old Colorado City’s Happy Belly Tacos, still remain closed until further notice. Others, such as Town House, Uncle Sam’s Pancake House and Border Burger Bar, which offered outdoor dining, managed to stay afloat during the shutdown. But that was partially due to the mild weather in the region in the weeks leading up to and following the Christmas holiday.

“We are still not at the levels we normally see during that period of time,” the owner of Townhouse Sports Grill, 907 Manitou Ave., said. “We are entering the slow season and are doing the best we can to maintain staff levels. The streets have been full of people and that shows promise for many of the businesses and it is nice to be able to open for indoor dining again, even if it is only 25 percent. But that is better than nothing. Hopefully we will return to full capacity by the summer.”

Masks are still required when moving around inside the restaurant and before being seated.

Farther down the street, at the Loop, workers look forward to reopening the dining room. “Business has been slow for the past few weeks, which are the busiest for us during the holiday season,” one of the Loop employees said. “Carry out and delivery have been the option, but it is always good to be able to get customers through the door and we are going into the slow season.”

Tough Times For Shop Owners

Retail business owners remain optimistic now that customer capacity has increased under Code Orange guidelines. But many are now facing tough ways to survive through the slower spring months.

At Mushroom Monday, 937 Manitou Ave., business has been slow since Thanksgiving weekend, which is usually one of the busiest times of the year for the gift shop. “There are two seasons for businesses in Manitou, on average,” the owner said. “Our two busiest times are during the summer and during the Christmas holidays. This year, summer fizzled because of so many cancellations of events, especially the Emma Crawford Races and Christmas was slower than usual. Making it through the spring will be difficult.”

At La Henna Boheme, 801 Manitou Ave., difficult times have been normal. “We have managed through the Waldo Canyon Fire and the pandemic closures earlier in the spring, but Christmas can make us or break us. It is Christmas sales that help keep us going through the spring,” the owner said. “It has been a rough year. We can hope the weather will stay mild and people will pass through town and stay and shop all of our businesses. We are unique and sell things you can’t find anywhere else, but sales keep us alive. I remain optimistic going into the new year.”

Coffee shops are looking forward to the ability to serve customers inside again. At Red Dog Coffee, 739 Manitou Ave., now serving chocolates and ice cream from the recently closed Pikes Peak Chocolate and Ice Cream, grab and go business has been steady, but employees have missed the buzz of customers inside the store who linger to shop for gift items or just to enjoy the atmosphere along with their drinks, one of the employees stated. “We tend to get more customers when they can stay and enjoy their coffee or other drinks, especially when the weather is colder. We have missed that vibe the past few weeks, especially during the holidays.”

Even Christmas in Manitou, 726 Manitou Ave., struggled during the holidays. “We are open year- round, offering a Christmas experience regardless of the time of the year,” the owner said. “Despite the busy streets after Thanksgiving, our business was down almost half of a typical Christmas season. At both of our stores.” The owners also own Glass Blowers of Manitou, down the street on Canon Avenue. “The other businesses are in a similar situation. Recovery is slow, but is coming along. If the weather remains mild, things can improve and increasing capacity in our stores is a plus. Many customers come by and see a few people in the store and move along rather than waiting to come in. That has been the biggest downside during this period of time.”

One positive factor has been the focus this year on small businesses during the pandemic. “So many have been shopping small and shopping local during this period,” the owner at the Olive Tap. 906 Manitou Ave. said. “Many people shopped small this Christmas because of the pandemic and they avoided the larger chain stores, which helped a lot with many of the business owners here in town. This holiday went very well for us. That and the weather has really been a plus. Things are looking up and it is easy to be optimistic as spring approaches.”

A fixture of Old Colorado City since the 1970s, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, also slowly maintained business during the Christmas season. Normally one of their busiest times, foot traffic in the store was down nearly half the normal rates, despite closing two locations in town during the pandemic. “January tends to be our slowest month and sales were down throughout December,” one of the owners said. “If we can make it through the spring, I think recovery will happen. It is a slow process, but we have managed to maintain our status as an essential business through it all.”

Some businesses were not as fortunate. Radiantly Raw, the organic chocolate shop on Manitou Avenue is going out of business. Plus, shuttered stores and restaurants near the library indicate the economic impact of the pandemic. While in Old Colorado City, three new businesses on Colorado Avenue show promise for economic recovery as Colorado begins to reopen the economy once again. Manitou still has a local mask ordinance in place for indoors and within six feet of others when outdoors.