ESTES PARK - The images say it all. Sidewalks normally filled with tourists are walked only by a handful of shoppers. There are signs on some storefronts advertising sales prices while others read, "Going out of business due to the flood!"
Those signs are a result of other signs posted just outside of town that read, "Road Closed."
When flood waters cut through Estes Park on Sept. 12, they also destroyed US 34 from Estes Park to Loveland and US 36 from Estes Park to Lyons. In doing so, it made it difficult for tourists and shoppers to travel to Estes Park during months retailers traditionally expect strong sales.
RECENT COLORADO FLOODING STORIES
September is the second biggest month for retailers in Estes Park trailing only July. October is the fourth strongest month for sales.
Estes Park did sustain damage from the flooding, but most of the businesses were cleaned up and reopened within six days. They are now restocked and ready for business but haven't seen the shoppers return in big numbers.
"Essentially there is no one here. Between the flood and then the shutdown of Rocky Mountain National Park and the difficulty in getting here, it is like a ghost town ready to do business," Rainer Schelp, the owner of Estes Park Central - a luxury home rental company - said.
He knows firsthand the financial damage the flood has done to business.
"Oh it was huge. In Estes Park Central, we had $70,000 of bookings that just went away in a week," Schelp said.
It is estimated the loss in sales for retailers in Estes Park will reach $1.5 million as a result of the flood.
"We're used to seeing people teeming down the streets in the month of September and to not have those folks here is the most concerning part or discouraging part," Diane Muno, owner of The Christmas Shop, said.
Muno, who also owns two other shops in Estes Park says the town did an amazing job of pulling together and reopening for business.
"The part that we can't recover from is the loss of revenue," Muno said.
Rather than sit back and wait for the roads to be reopened, merchants in Estes Park have banded together to create a virtual online shopping mall. The products of 17 stores in Estes Park are now being sold on http://shopestesparkcolorado.com/.
"Here is a way for them to be able to still have their little piece of Estes Park from their favorite stores even if they can't travel here right now," Muno said.
Merchants are asking shoppers to support businesses in Estes Park by purchasing at least one item. Their goal is simply to give businesses in Estes Park a chance at surviving the winter.
"Many of the shops and businesses here were way ahead of schedule for having a really great year and the flood essentially took most of their profits away in one week. So now, many of the businesses are either going out of business or are in a very difficult cash flow situation going into the winter," Schelp said.
Their online shopping mall website will also provide something else people travel to Estes Park for: a taste of the spectacular scenery and wildlife. Videos from Nick Molle Productions are being posted to the site.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has crews working around the clock and seven days a week to reopen US 34 and US 36 into Estes Park. The goal is to have both roads open to the public by Dec. 1.
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