By Cary Ihme
On May 1, 2014, I walked in the front door of what used to be Dory Hill Campground, took a long look around and wasn’t exactly sure where to begin. I had that “deer in the headlights” kind of look. “Give me a project” were the words I uttered to my husband, Tom, but he was busy on hold with the phone company trying to switch the service over. I walked around the counter, opened a drawer near the cash register and started emptying the contents out onto the counter. Organizing and cleaning that drawer…that was my first project.
We decided to re-brand and our business would now be known as Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon. This was my husband’s dream, to own a campground, and it had finally come true. I was happy for him, but as the enormity of what we had just gotten ourselves into started to sink in, I couldn’t help but think his dream had just become my nightmare. As the wheels inside my head started to turn, a quote from one of my favorite movies, What About Bob, came to mind… “Baby Steps.”
There was so much to do and it was hard not to become overwhelmed. I found myself wondering how we were going to pull this off. The answer was one project at a time.
No book or class can fully prepare you for what owning a small business entails. It is like being thrown into the deep end of the pool when you are learning to swim. You will either drown, or you will learn to dig deep and survive. So far, we have survived.
On day one, we began remodeling the store. I had anticipated we would close for a couple of weeks to get the remodeling done. Tom had other plans. “We are open for business. If someone wants to come in and buy a bag of chips and a drink while we are working, we will let them.” And so we did.
On day two, the previous owners came up to give us some paperwork. We had less than two hours of training with them, part of which included reviewing an archaic reservation system with handwritten cards that consisted of over 40 steps in the process. My first reservation took me over 10 minutes to complete. I was left thinking that there has to be an easier way. From then on, it has been a complete whirlwind…
On May 2nd we had internet service. On May 6th our new signs went up. On May 14th new cabinets were installed. The store was completely remodeled within the first three weeks. In June, a new fence and new siding went up and we started remodeling the laundry room. In July we started using the new reservation software and began remodeling the liquor store. In early August the laundry room remodel was finished. In late August, Pickle Liquors was approved to move into its new location inside the main building.
In March 2015 we started replacing the entire septic system and filled in the pool. There were so many other projects between all of the ones listed above and we did all of this while we both worked our other full time jobs. (I don’t recommend this.)
There were so many things we didn’t know and as each issue came up, we dealt with them. Tom and I had to divide and conquer, but thankfully, we weren’t alone. We have an incredible support system. Family, friends, colleagues, community members, guests, customers, staff and vendors have all had a hand in helping us along this journey. It has not been easy. In fact, it has been the most challenging thing we have ever done. I hate to imagine what it would have been like without all of the support we have had.
The blood, sweat, tears, lack of sleep and constant challenges we have faced has left me with a new found respect for small business owners. We no longer have such a thing as nights, weekends, and holidays off. This job is 24/7.
The biggest challenge has been all of bookkeeping and behind the scenes operations.
The best part has been meeting new people from all walks of life and having more interaction with our community members. Many of our community members are surprised when they visit because they were unaware of the many services we have to offer: groceries, coffee, laundry, propane, liquor store, camping, RV sites, cabins, and tent sites.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to stop in and see all of the changes we have made, we would like to invite you to do so on Saturday, May 2nd around 1 p.m. We will be having a BBQ to celebrate our 1st anniversary. We will be serving free hamburgers and hot dogs while supplies last.
We would like to thank everyone who has had a part in helping us along the way. We still have many projects ahead of us, but for now we just keep taking it one project at a time, because we are still working on our masterpiece.
Masterpiece by Jessie J.
I still fall on my face sometimes
And I can’t color inside the lines
‘Cause I’m perfectly incomplete
I’m still working on my masterpiece
And I wanna hang with the greats
Got a way to go, but it’s worth the wait
No, you haven’t seen the best of me
I’m still working on my masterpiece
Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon
661 Hwy 46
Black Hawk, CO 80422