Posted: January 01, 2013
Colorado Business Hall of Fame laureates: Rod and Beth Slifer
Vail couple’s savvy helped a mountain town to blossomBy Lisa Ryckman
In the Vail Valley, Rod and Beth Slifer reign as the king and queen of real estate, flip sides of the same business coin.
He can sell you a high-country home – then she can do the high-style makeover.
The Slifers’ business savvy and commitment to their community have been instrumental in growing Vail from a tiny town to a wildly popular tourist mecca that attracts 1.75 million visitors each year.
"Right place, right time," says Rod, whose one-man real estate operation in 1962 was Vail’s first.
The couple met on a blind date while Beth was working in the administration of President Jimmy Carter. They continued a long-distance romance between Vail and Washington for five years, and Beth eventually moved to Colorado.
Beth arrived with a background in everything from banking to retail to politics, but she was unsure of her next step. She drew on her MBA for direction.
"One of the things they teach you at the University of Chicago is, don’t just do something in business; try to find something nobody else is doing, a niche to be filled," Beth says. "Because my mother was a very well-known decorator in Jacksonville, Florida, I knew what the business should look like, and nobody was doing it. I did a couple of places pro bono for friends. Word got around."
Fast forward 28 years. Slifer Designs now employs 50 people in Vail and a Cherry Creek retail store and is renowned for delivering projects on time, within budget and with satisfaction guaranteed.
Rod’s company, Slifer, Smith & Frampton Real Estate, now has more than 130 brokers and 17 offices. And despite the fact that he got in on the absolute ground floor, that didn’t mean building a business was easy.
"We worked seven days a week, worked constantly, for many, many, many years," Rod says. "I think everyone there in the early years, they were willing to take a chance and grow with Vail if it grew and work hard and play hard. Everybody was pulling in same direction and trying to make Vail succeed."
The Slifers have both done their part to make that happen. In 2008, Beth received Colorado Governor’s Award for Outstanding Colorado Tourism Effort, and in 2009 was named Citizen of the Year by the Vail Valley Foundation. Rod, who spent 11 years as mayor, points with pride to his part in building Vail, from Donovan Pavilion to the heated streets and parking structures. He’s also one of the founders of the University of Colorado Real Estate Center and Real Estate Foundation.
Giving back has always been a top priority for the couple. Beth points with pride to her participation in health education initiatives through organizations like Vail Symposium; Vail Valley Foundation advisory committees; and the UC Depression Center, founded to remove the stigma of mental illness and provide quality therapy to those suffering from depression patients.
Rod, a founder of the Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament, has been a prime fundraiser for the Eagle River Scholarship Fund, which helps needy Eagle County students attend college. He also serves on a dozen boards and has been named Vail Realtor of the Year, Vail Businessperson of the Year and one of Vail’s 10 Most Influential Citizens.
Lisa Ryckman is the online editor at cobizmag.com.