Enjoy Colorado - An Information Store?

While at Fort Carson, trying to understand the changes going on in America, reflected in its young people I had studied Toffler's 'Future Shock', McLuhan's  'Medium is the Message' and Naisbit's 'Megatrends' 

Toffler was projecting the great - and unsettling - changes going on in America.

Thanks to John Denver's 'Rocky Mountain High' song, just released in 1972, hordes of people started flocking to Colorado. Many to get away from Big Cities, Big Government, and Big Companies. It unleased the dream of living in the beautiful Rockies, especially the 'natural' places - not just the highly commercialized and packed urban ones.

In addition to the 'normal' tourism for which Colorado was already well known, it was attracting younger people who wanted to visit the 'out of the way' places, even abandoned 'ghost towns.' And somehow make a living there.

McLuhan was describing the separation of the 'content' of information from the 'medium' that carries it - whether as books, papers, maps or photographs or movies.

 I already had seen while working in the Secretary of Defense's office the earliest 'Xerox' type copying machines - which could reproduce a section of a map, in one copy, with great fidelity. And presumably cheaply, with an affordable - for small business - machine.

And I knew that big, costly 'main-frame' Computers that government and large companies used were getting smaller - and I hoped, cheaper. They excelled at handling and sorting large volumes of 'Information.' Toffler even talked about 'Electronic Cottages.'

So I created "Enjoy Colorado" - a 'Retail' Information Store.


Wife Patsy and I in front of my first business

Two of my 'Travel Advisors' filling orders for their custom, paid,  'travel information.'

The Market?

I noted that when people came to Colorado, or planned on a 'vacation' they were limited in their knowledge by guidebooks, or gas station maps, or promotional publications which were paid for by commercial business advertising. But even, by 1973, gas station maps were costing money - they were seldom 'free' any more. And if a group or couple or family wanted to hike to a place where they could take the best photographs of Pikes Peak - where would they get the detailed 'information' about that place and what it would take to get there?

So I wondered what if I directly 'sold' Colorado "Information" - but tailored to the specific desires and criteria of a client for what he or she wanted to see, visit, find, or do? And provided to him or her that information packaged on the spot by Xerography and a binder made up of only what is needed. Or even provide that information 'orally' by one our our 'Travel Advisors' if not over the counter, then by telephone.

But the key being an effort to determine exactly what the client wants - either a kind of subjective 'experience' as well as a specific place, service, item, or scene. And to provide all that is needed to realize that goal.

Do you want to 'go fishing' or 'catch fish?'

Or although many a person, or family, wanted to go to Colorado for a traditional 'vacation' BUT others wanted to be directed, as one man specified, 'through towns that have no more than 1 lawyer per 1,000 population.' That man looking for a dreamplace to live and set up a practice.

In other words, the Colorado Information was to be gathered to be produced for the traveller 'to order.' And it was important to determine - via our expertise and experience - what the customer subjectively really wanted - which is not always just for what he asks for.

The Gathering of Colorado 'Information'

Now I had decided that the 'Capital' asset for the Company would be the 'Information' Itself. The 'knowledge' of Colorado, not just the objective 'data' about the state, but the 'aesthetic' appeal of its offerings. Quality of the experience.

The key was that much information would be of 'natural' - outdoor - places, like 'camping places' which had no commercial offerings. No 'commissions paid to us. 

But I had to gather a lot, myself. And when we got rolling, hire people who knew - from having been there AND experienced what is there - for sightseerers, photographers, hunters (antiques to game), or opportunities.

For starters I purchased one copy of every USGS Map Sheet for every square inch of Colorado, and a map case for all of them which would permit rapid identification, narrowing in, and then extraction of the right sheet - or even small sections of sheets - whose information which could be crisply copied. I had produced by the Gousha company, special overall 'Enjoy Colorado' logoed maps of Colorado that were of the highest readability and quality. And in some cases extracts of oral tapes with a narrative to guide the customer.

All headed toward 'multi-media' packages handed to the 'customer' that addressed exactly what he wanted  

Then I personally spent over 5 months travelling over the state 'gathering' information for our Enjoy Colorado data base. And while I 'gathered' objective information in map, drawing, photographic, textual form, I also recorded my 'subjective' reaction to every place. Heading toward having my 'travel advisors' - who may themselves be experienced - even 'expert' - fishermen, rock or mountain climbers, photographers, artists, 4-wheeler explorers - also record their subjective reactions to the places they researched.

Out of that approach evolved our company motto "Access to Experiences"

That all was a very, very ambitious, but long term, goal. Which would take a lot more operating capital than I had available to my enterprise in 1974.

Ahead of My Time

As I seem recurringly to forsee, I even described the possible future services of Enjoy Colorado to a reporter sometime in 1975 when I said "There will be an ability for us to rent a device which will permit a traveller, first to point it toward the horizon's mountain range, ask where he is - and get an answer by radio telephone or satellite - and then in response to his request to find an off-the-track restaurant, transmit a map segment with directions right to his desired destination."

Of course by 2007 those were called personal GPS devices, with graphical smart phones, linked to the Internet and Mapquest.  None of which existed - yet.

My vision, was, as often, ahead of its time.







Slow Growth

I opened this business in leased property on the corner of West Bijou and Spruce Street, just west of an off ramp of Interstate 25 so it would be readily accessible to travellers driving either north or south through Colorado Springs.

On the plate glass front window were the large words "INFORMATION STORE" which caused people to do a double take, unsure exactly what such a 'store' sold. A smaller metal sign with 'Enjoy Colorado' hung on an antique-scroll frame on the corner of the building

Inside was a weather proof foyer opening into a large room with some Colorado mountain-scene photographs, display maps, and a counter where potential customers could sit across from a Travel Advisor. Who would determine what 'information' the customer was seeking, advise him or the family what the cost (based upon the advisor's time and materials- beyond the simplest maps and printed sheets ) would be.

I had retained, at first, two 'advisors'  - a fairly young man and a woman both of whom were very knowledgable about Colorado. And of course I filled orders myself too - both to service orders and learn  how potential customers requested Colorado 'Information' besides what was the range of information requested.

Of course this was an unprecedented type of service, for all potential customers were used to getting 'free' information - often simple gas-station maps,  or required to buy more comprehensive ones, or bought travel books or getting handfuls of promotional ad paid for materials, asking advice from Chamber of Commerce type people in the town, especially ones which had robust 'tourism' trade.

Thus some people who parked and went inside, tuned out the signs that explained the fee based 'service' and when they learned there was a cost, refused it and walked out. Others, intrigued, stayed to test us.

Somewhat to my surprise, local Colorado Springs people - many of whom had lived their entire adult lives in Colorado, became our clients too. For many of them had, over the years, visited every 'popular' tourist attraction, and were more interested in visiting out of the way places - sometimes getting there by jeep or by hiking. We were able to even produce a two sided, xeroxed, waterproof paper with specific highway map information how to get close to a fishing place, an extract of a county-scale map, then an extract of a USGS 1:50,000 map that would put the client within feet of the right side of a river. All on one, done to order, durable fold up pocket-sized sheet. Service usually cost less than $10.

The president of a television company who had a cabin in the mountains near Dillon, ordered a 'coffee-table' packet that would inform his guests of every 'attraction' and point of interest within 5 miles of his cabin.

I once bragged that I could send a visitor up Ute Pass toward the high mountains either as a 'geological' trip, or 'wildlife' trip, or 'historical' trip. Same route - different way of 'knowing' or 'experiencing' it.

One a man with a wheelbound wife who knew the state well, having travelled over all it as 'business' ordered information for a sightseeing trip with his wheelchair bound wife, around the state but with information that would permit her to 'see' from the back seat of their car, the 'sight' to be seen - such as the overlook of the Gunnison Canyon. And not have to leave the car to be wheeled somewhere. With places to stay that accomodated disable people.

And a man in Nebraska called who wanted to take his son alone on an 'exiting' but not dangerous vacation in the wilderness, so the son could look up to him. He had considered water rafting alone. We quickly determined he was not skilled enough to do that without substantial risk. We pointed him to the Wet Mountain Valley with the Sangre de Christo range on its west, accessible places to stay and leave his car, and trek along the foothills for several days, while camping. The detailed information cost him $25 - and he wrote to me saying it was the best and most perfect outing he had ever had.  

And as gold came off the national standard, many people wanted to search for gold, panning it out for starters. We had to produce both maps, and even sold new gold pans for many who did not know where to buy such things. Not often in chain stores.

The concept was working, but I had to figure out a way to 'retrieve' and 'produce' tailored custom ordered 'information' more efficiently than pay my 'travel advisors' having to paw through files, and filing cabinets, and maps.

I wondered if mini-computers - I had heard about - were going to be my future answer.

But after two years, and several bank loans later it was clear this business was not going to grow fast enough, especially during winter, to pay all the bills and at least two employees.

So I closed Enjoy Colorado down,  having learned what it would take to operate something like it later - and more broadly than just for travellers.


And the 1976 Centennial-Bicentennial beckoned me.


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