at the Top
RICHARD DeCLARK HAS BEEN IN THE FLAVOR business since he was 12
He started working for his father’s Continental Flavors in 1970, doing “anything
and everything, mopping the floor, you name it.” He soon graduated to flavor
research and development and spent the better part of the ’70s and ’80s crafting fla-
vors for Fortune 500 food and beverage companies.
Richard DeClark tinkers with formulas at R&D Flavors.
U N I T E D . C O M 139
Now 48, DeClark sold the family business in 1990. in the form of a second home. He swapped Fort Smith,
After a no-compete clause expired in 1995, DeClark Arkansas—where he owned and ran a group of radio and
decided to launch a new company, R&D Flavors. But he TV stations—for the Rocky Mountains in 1984.
didn’t want to launch it from Orange County, California, “One day I just decided that I’d had enough,” says
where he and his wife Janet were raising three sons, then Hernreich, a co-owner of the National Basketball
ages 3, 5, and 8. “We got tired of the hustle and bustle,” Association’s Sacramento Kings and the owner of the
says DeClark, “and we could move anywhere.” Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers. He handed over
So they did. In one full swoop, the DeClarks the reins of his radio and TV business to a top lieutenant,
sold their California home and moved to Edwards, moved into his half-finished second home near Edwards,
Colorado. Richard then set up a home-based laboratory and never looked back.
for flavor formulation. “When I first moved to Vail, I didn’t want to go into
Family came first in this decision, says DeClark, and he real estate,” he recalls. “I fought it for 10 years.”
already had a good feel for the Vail Valley through a vaca- In 1990, Hernreich founded Remonov Capital with
tion condo he owned in Beaver Creek. the hope of becoming a mere “land-flipper,” but it quickly
Today, he has no regrets. “It was a great place for the became much more than that. By 1994, Remonov went
kids to grow up,” he says. into development in Edwards and built much of the
In the Vail Valley, stories like DeClark’s aren’t unusual. town’s core.
With modern technology and transportation, entrepre- “There was nothing there,” Hernreich recalls. Today,
neurs of all stripes have realized they could set up shop Edwards is built out, and Hernreich is better known local-
just about anywhere. When it comes to picking the per- ly as a developer than a national pro sports magnate.
fect anywhere, plenty of movers and shakers have chosen “We had good timing and good location,” says
the Vail Valley. Hernreich. “Some people believe in serendipity, I depend
DeClark’s is an increasingly common progression here: on it.”
During a vacation, out-of-towners fall in love with Vail Beyond the Kings, the Rattlers, and Remonov,
and decide to buy a condo or a second home. Over the Hernreich juggles a full slate of geographically diverse
years, their visits grow in frequency and duration. Before investments. Is it easy to run his far-flung businesses from
they know it, their primary residence becomes their sec- the Vail Valley? “Absolutely,” he answers. “I think Edwards
ond home, and vice versa. Then they take the plunge and is the best place in the world to live. You can do anything
move to the valley full-time. here that you could do anywhere else.”
Bob Hernreich’s introduction to the valley was also Dr. Malik Hasan also knows the beauty of the Vail
Kris Wittenberg (with husband, Augie, and daughter, Addison) lives and works in Eagle.
124 H E M I S P H E R E S M A G A Z I N E . C O M
Valley as a national headquarters. He served as chairman
and CEO of HealthNet, a large, national health mainte-
nance organization, from his Beaver Creek home between
1995 and 2000, using videoconferencing to have virtual
face-to-faces with managers all over the country.
“The time zone was very helpful,” says Hasan, now the
chairman and CEO of Denver-based HealthTrio. “You
can start early in the day with managers on the East Coast
and have plenty of time for the West Coast at day’s end.”
Hasan began vacationing with his family in the Vail
Valley in the 1980s, but the Hasans liked the area for its
verdant summers, not its ski-crazy winters. In the early
’90s, they closed on a house and renovated it to double as
a mountain getaway and the nerve center for a national
“When you’re out of the city,” says Hasan, “you have
complete control over your own time.”
A marketing entrepreneur, Kris Wittenberg has a simi-
lar perspective on getting out of the city. After growing up
in Denver and taking regular trips to Vail, she moved her
promotional products company, SayNoMore! Promotions,
from San Francisco to Eagle in 2002. “My husband and
I wanted to move somewhere where we could afford a
single-family home,” she says.
Just like that, they left their $2,500-per-month rental
in California and bought a house in the Eagle Ranch
community. In Colorado, SayNoMore! has grown by leaps
and bounds, scoring deals with such clients as American
Express and Ritz-Carlton. It now has six employees. Don Cohen made a quality-of-life decision.
“It’s very easy to work with national clients from the
Vail Valley,” says Wittenberg. “The airport is literally five that underpin the Vail Valley’s evolution into an entrepre-
minutes from my house. E-mail is my best friend. And neurial hotbed: a top-notch local airport, a solid telecom-
samples can be [sent for overnight delivery] very easily munications infrastructure, the presence of the major over-
because the FedEx office is also just five minutes away.” night delivery companies, and easy access to Denver. “You
Don Cohen, executive director of the Edwards-based can have your warehouse and support staff down there,” he
Economic Council of Eagle County, points to several factors notes, citing the relatively inexpensive real estate market.
The Best of Both Worlds
The great outdoors has proved to be the lure that ulti-
mately hooked many an entrepreneur on Vail, with
plenty of them moving to town for easy access to the ski
slopes and hiking trails. But Vail is unlike many resorts
in the Rockies in that its location on the doorstep of the
Continental Divide hasn’t hindered its access to modern
Don Cohen, executive director of the Economic
Council of Eagle County, relates a story from a snowshoe
race in Vail. “There is a woman in the race on her cell
phone, loudly negotiating a business deal,” he laughs.
However, not everyone wants to mix business with
outdoor pleasure, Cohen adds. “I turn my cell phone off
when I go fly-fishing.” —EP
U N I T E D . C O M 125
Cohen moved to the area in 1993 and continued to
lead his Denver-based communications company from the
mountains above. Soon after the move, Cohen realized
his regular trips to Denver—which is 100 miles east and
2,870 feet closer to sea level—were nothing in compari-
son to many other entrepreneurs who were spending the
majority of their time in the valley. “I found guys who
were doing much longer commutes—Chicago, LA, New
York,” he says.
When an entrepreneur moves to Vail, it’s invariably “a
It’s in the Design quality-of-life decision,” adds Cohen. “It’s usually not an
economic decision, because it’s more expensive here. It’s
Beth Slifer saw a need for a high-end interior design firm
heart over head. But I think you’ll hear all of us say it’s
when she moved to Vail in 1983. Back then, utilitar-
the best decision we ever made.”
ian cabins and ski camps dominated Vail, but high style
From a population of only 50,000, Vail-area entrepre-
was ready to start ascending the pass, and Slifer’s firm,
neurs cast a disparately wide net that encompasses pro bas-
Edwards-based Slifer Designs, had a lot to do with it.
ketball, health-care management technology, and flavors
“There was truly a need,” says Slifer, who moved to
savored by taste buds all over the world.
Vail and married local real-estate legend Rodney Slifer in
Back in the R&D Flavors’ lab, DeClark has recently
1983. “By the time I got my business on its feet, things
been tinkering with formulas for cookies-and-cream-
started to boom in the late ’80s.”
flavored milk. After working hours, flavors remain a fam-
She hasn’t looked back since. Today Slifer Designs
ily business in the DeClark household.
employs 65 people and works on projects for both home-
“I’ve done some interesting science fair projects with
owners and hospitality clients. An internal “green team”
my kids,” DeClark says. “We made orange-colored grape
recently emerged to promote sustainable design and
soda to determine the stronger sense: sight or taste?”
development, helping to shepherd in environmentally
conscious building codes in Eagle County. —EP
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