Small Business Spotlight: Lemon Lodge Ski Bar

"We appreciate the personal help the CEF staff provided to walk us through the loan process and get over the finish line. We are grateful!"
– Melanie Hexter, Owner
Colorado Springs, CO | Woman-Owned Creative Industries Start-Up Business
Owner: Melanie Hexter

Q&A with Owner, Melanie Hexter

Give a high level overview of your business. What products or services you offer, where you're located, etc.
Lemon Lodge Ski Bar offers Colorado's only Olympic-caliber ski and snowboard simulator in a rustic lodge setting. Located in downtown Colorado Springs, our guests enjoy unique wine cocktails, delicious Lodge-style foods and ringing cowbells for the skiers and snowboarders. Our instructors teach all ability levels, tourists and locals, ages 7 to 77 and all skills transfer to the slopes.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Launched in 2018, Evergood Adventure Wines makes wines from lemons, not grapes! "Adult lemonades" sold at 200 locations across Colorado, our OG wines are Skier Pee and Snow Bunny. With names like that, it only made sense (duh!) to open an experiential wine bar WITH a ski and snowboard simulator.

Describe your typical customer and what you love about your customers.
Locals love to get ready for the snow season via lessons, leagues, kids' classes and morning gym shred sessions. Tourists are amazed to ski year-round and indoors thanks to our rental boots. Just wanna eat, drink and watch? Ring cowbells in the alpine tradition of cheering!

How did your journey lead you to Colorado Enterprise Fund?
The cost of the simulator, updating an older location to resemble a rustic Lodge with an awesome bar and kitchen, and acquiring the key staff came at a huge cost. County and city staff suggested we pursue CEF, knowing our concept would be a great addition to downtown Colorado Springs.

Describe your difficulties in obtaining funding for your small business and how that impacted you and your business.
When you leverage your house and personal assets, it comes at a significant risk. Many lenders will loan to an established business but won't take a risk on a new concept. We faced rising construction costs and difficulty finding contractors so we appreciate help getting "over the finish line."

What was your experience like in working with CEF?

Application was thorough but not overwhelming. We experienced a few glitches but appreciate the personal help staff provided to walk us through the process. Grateful is a great word to describe our appreciation.

How did the funding you received from CEF make a difference for you, your employees, or even your community?
Literally a difference maker! We've hired three managers (GM, bar and asst) and 14 other staff (FOH, BOH and the all- important ski instructors). The next-gen ski simulator, customized and imported from Germany, literally cost more than our first house so we needed all the help we could get.

What advice would you give to another small business owner going through the loan process?
It's work! Ask, seek and knock for funding in obvious and unexpected places. Stay away from credit cards if possible; go for low-interest loans or grants.

What is something you're looking forward to in the next 3-6 months in your business?
As fall hits, we anticipate adding kids' classes during weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. For adults, we'll add morning gym hours (get in laps before work) and competitive leagues in the evenings. Since we just opened, we look forward to hitting our stride and growing our reservations.


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