Posted: January 01, 2012
Colorado Business Hall of Fame: David and Renie Gorsuch
Former U.S. Alpine Ski Team couple have spent a half-century selling high-end clothes, furnishings and specialty items to mountain resort visitorsNora Caley
The 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, Calif., were exceptional events for David Gorsuch and Renie Cox.
Neither member of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team won a medal - Gorsuch came in 14th place in both men's downhill and giant slalom, while Cox came in ninth in women's slalom - but it was in training and racing that the couple met each other.
After the Olympics they married, settled in Colorado, opened a ski shop, and began a 50-plus year personal and business adventure.
"As we look back, the ski racing years and our experiences have influenced what our lives, our family and our stores have become," Renie Gorsuch says.
The couple opened Gorsuch Ltd. in Gunnison in 1962. They wanted the store to be not only a place to pick up skis and equipment, but also a retailer of fashion, home furnishings and other mountain-related items. "Gorsuch embraced both the sport of skiing and the mountain lifestyle and sold countless people on the beauty of Colorado's ski country," Renie says.
Four years later, the couple decided to move to Vail, a new resort that had also opened in 1962. It turned out to be a good move, as Vail visitors were the demographic that buy cashmere sweaters, après coats, chinchilla cuff gloves, and home furnishing such as antler armchairs, pewter salt and pepper shakers shaped liked bears, and quartz votive candleholders. Over the years, the Gorsuches expanded the business and opened stores in Aspen, Keystone and Beaver Creek.
The stores have had to adapt to changing times. Customers wanted to communicate with Gorsuch Ltd. long after their vacations ended, so in 1976, the company printed its first catalog and mailed 25,000 copies. Catalog sales performed well, and 35 years later, Gorsuch mails more than 3 million catalogs.
The ease in which they adapted to catalog sales may have helped Gorsuch Ltd. in the 1990s, when consumers began switching to online shopping. "We may have been ahead of the curve," Renie says. "We've had an online presence since the late 1990s."
The next generation is keeping the concept fresh. "We are very fortunate that our three sons, John, Jeff and Davy, have been involved with the business for the past 20-plus years and have brought new ideas and perspectives," Renie says.
She says the business has to deal with the same challenges other companies do. That is, banking. Although she says it's difficult to get financing to expand, Gorsuch Ltd. opened its 10th store, in Snowmass Village, on Thanksgiving Day 2011.
David and Renie are both members of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame.
"Renie was recognized as both an athlete as well as a Sport Builder because of her retail expertise," says Susie Tjossem, executive director. She explains that a Sport Builder is one who "made major contributions in areas of organization, promotion or development of the skiing and snowboarding sport in Colorado."
The stores accomplished this, according to the museum's website, because the catalog "introduced millions of people around the nation to the beauty of Colorado and mountain living."
The couple still enjoy skiing. "We do ski and love being on the mountain, any mountain," Renie says.
Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in business and food topics.