Shawn Gillis moved to Salida, Colo. with his fiancé in 1999. He has experienced first hand the growth of the economy there.
It took over three decades, but Salida morphed its struggling business climate into a popular outdoor destination and diversified its economy in the process. As the Chaffee County seat created a vibrant tourism base, it expanded other industry sectors as well, and the city of around 5,000 looks poised to weather future economic storms. The process encompassed effort from various community members and groups.
Gillis owned a bike shop in Flagstaff, Ariz. and decided to start one in his new home. Early on the business, called Absolute Bikes, consisted of selling medium level bikes and doing a lot of repairs. The rental business was non-existent.
Gillis remembers about 40 percent of the downtown buildings being vacant, which was an improvement over what it had been in the 80s. Today’s downtown Salida has very few vacancies. Gillis’ team of over 20 sell high-end bikes. The rental business is strong, and they take a steady stream of visitors on guided tours. The intense effort to get to and maintain such success is not forgotten by the business owner.
Gillis expects community members will continue to work toward positive solutions and progress.
“You can always throw money and uninformed labor to solve a problem, but that is nowhere as efficient as throwing a volunteer and hard work at solving it,” he said.
He shares how the community was able to build two new schools for Salida during an economic downturn. (3:55)
He reminisces on all the vacant buildings he counted when he first started there and compares that memory to what it’s like now (6:14).
He talks about the process of marketing Salida as a vacation destination (13:53).
Shawn also shares the key things he has done to help him find success as a rural business owner (23:21)