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A good vibe returns to Durango with the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic

Holiday weekend visitors bolster spirits and bottom lines
From left, Tracy Johnson, Gail Brownfield, Ty Johnson and Rhonda Saires were in Durango for their eighth consecutive Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. They were supporting Kyle Johnson, who was competing in mountain bike events. (Patrick Armijo/Durango Herald)

Durango shops and restaurants welcomed cyclists and holiday visitors for the Memorial Day weekend.

But many business owners said as important as the ringing cash registers was the good vibe that came with holding an event in town after 15 months of COVID-19 forced closures.

“Iron Horse is great for business, but it’s even better for the town. It’s nice to see people out and about and attending normal events like the Iron Horse, a bicycle festival, which is what it really is,” said John Glover, general manager at Mountain Bike Specialists.

Tracy Johnson, Gail Brownfield, Ty Johnson and Rhonda Saiers were visiting from Albuquerque to support Kyle Johnson, who was competing in Iron Horse Bicycle Classic mountain bike events.

“This is our eighth Iron Horse,” said Tracy Johnson.

The group is familiar with Durango, coming to escape for mountain fun and to enjoy downtown Durango almost every year.

“More than the Iron Horse, we come back for El Moro’s Blueberry Bread Pudding,” Brownfield said.

David Zoberman, a lead server at Old Tymer’s Cafe, said business was steady all weekend, which he attributed not only to the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, but also to a youth baseball tournament, graduation ceremonies at Durango and Animas high schools and the usual influx of holiday visitors.

“The more events the better,” Zoberman said. “It’s business for us, but it also brings an excitement to town, and we haven’t had that in a while.”

Lee Pillaro, sales manager at Duranglers, said plenty of cyclists and their families had visited the fly-fishing shop. Hats, sunscreen and sun shirts were the merchandise of choice for cyclists.

“I got here at 7:30, and we’ve seen a few cyclists. The Iron Horse has definitely helped business,” he said.

Cory White, a sales associate at Durango Barefoot, says for the first time all year, he had customers waiting for him to open the store when arrived at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. (Patrick Armijo/Durango Herald)

At Durango Barefoot, Cory White, a sales associate, said he, too, had an early arriving Sunday morning crowd.

“When I got here at 9:30, there were people waiting for us to open,” he said.

Along with hats and T-shirts, White said visitors usually want postcards and stickers as mementos of their visit.

Aaron Seitz, co-owner of College Drive Cafe, said, “Town was smashing busy this weekend, but with the labor crunch, it’s hard to take advantage of it.”

Seitz said he isn’t worried about a dearth of visitors this summer. Instead, his main concern is filling vacancies so he can open seven days a week.

College Drive Cafe has been closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as it works to fill shifts in the kitchen and wait crew.

“I’ve seen tough labor markets before, but this one is out of control,” he said.

Seitz knew Durango had plenty of visitors from the order choices customers made.

“Tourists order different things,” he said. “We didn’t sell a lot of curry this weekend. The locals like the curry.”

Harrison Wendt, a barista at Taste Coffee in the 11th Street Station, said Sunday morning business was brisk with caffeine-loving cyclists getting their first jolt of the day.

“It’s starting to feel like there’s a more relaxed attitude with people,” he said. “COVID restrictions are lifting and people are feeling better.”


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