Describe your success story.
Koen and I met and fell in love in Vail and a year later we moved our lives to Amsterdam, Koen’s hometown. The Dutch use the word, gezellig, for which there is no direct English translation and is used to describe the coziness and comfort of an ambience, a person or a moment. Very similar to the Danish word hygge. Life in the Netherlands was my first encounter with the Northern European way of slowing down, being present and genuinely enjoying every day moments.
In 2013, I traveled to Copenhagen with a dear friend in search of Danish design and inspiration. There were candles everywhere – in windows, cafes and on every table; nooks with comfy pillows, timeless chairs, plenty of good food and wine and happy people. This is where I found hygge and where the idea for Hygge Life began.
In the summer of 2014, Koen & I bought an old 1971 Opel Blitz camper van, painted it blue, put our Hygge Life logo on the side and travelled Europe. We brought along a traditional poffertjes (Dutch mini pancake) cast-iron grill and made our way through France, Spain and Switzerland, selling poffertjes, Turkish textiles and other treats. This was our first Hygge Life venture. We were seeking & creating hygge with pancakes, soft textiles and our happy blue bus.
After participating in markets and pop-ups around the country, including the Vail Farmer’s Market, we opened our Eagle-Vail brick and mortar in August 2017. Hygge Life evolved into an online and physical store with a collection of European home goods inspired by hygge moments. Then, in 2019 we added a café to the space where we serve espresso drinks, tea and locally baked pastries. In 2019 I also published a coffee table, design book called Dwell, Gather, Be: Design for Moments.
Our mission to put hygge more into an experience spurred on a series of community Hygge Dinners, which we still host today. We continuously search for and curate a collection of home goods from artisans nearby and abroad that we hope will inspire people to adopt the Danish way of living well: the hygge life.
Why did you choose to do business in the Vail Valley?
We met in Vail over 10 years ago, so Vail is a special place for us. We love the tight-knit mountain town community and being surrounded by beautiful nature. The Vail Valley is a community that is able to support a business like ours while simultaneously fostering a healthy, active and fulfilling lifestyle for ourselves and our employees. When we walk outside our shop door and sit down on the café patio for a coffee with an incredible mountain view in front of us, we are filled with gratitude for the beautiful place we call home.
What are the advantages of doing business here?
The Vail Valley, being a world renowned ski resort community, brings in people from all over the country (and world) from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Because of this, a wide array of businesses can coexist – those that serve tourists, those that serve locals, and those that serve everyone. We love that our business is able to serve locals, 2nd homeowners and visitors alike. We have locals that come in every day for a coffee and friendly conversation, but we also serve 2nd homeowners who hire our home styling services and purchase furniture, lighting and décor for their vacation homes. We need both entities to survive and value everyone that walks in our door!
Are you involved in the community? If so, how?
We contribute to several non-profit organizations in the Vail Valley. We host enriching events for the community, including a series of community Hygge Dinners in collaboration with local chefs, photographers, florists and rental services. We are also launching Sauna Saturday’s in January 2023 where you can book an hour long sauna session for up to 6 people. We love bringing the community together to connect and experience hygge.
How do you acquire and retain your staff? What do you look for when hiring?
When hiring, we look for honest, authentic, friendly people that relate to the hygge lifestyle that we promote. We want our visitors to feel welcomed, seen, heard and appreciated, so we have built a team that is able to do just that.
We value time outside of work for ourselves and our employees so we offer a generous amount of paid vacation. Koen, being a Dutchman, was brought up in a country where 12-16 weeks maternity leave is normal as is at least 5 weeks of paid vacation (and a generous paternity leave). We also understand that it is difficult for locals to live and thrive in the valley so we do our best to offer generous salaries.
What advice would you give to someone entering our mountain economy?
The Vail Valley is a special place for businesses if you are able to find your target market and win their loyalty and appreciation. We find that the quality of traffic walking into our store is very high but the quantity is pretty low, especially compared to city locations. This used to frustrate us, but we have learned to accept and adjust to these small town traffic patterns and the intense seasonality. Since our traffic plummets in the spring and fall, we decided to close the store for 4 weeks each shoulder season which gives us and our employees a break while saving us from the discouragement of painfully slow days. This flexibility and seasonal closure is something that is only possible in a seasonal town, which has become an incredible opportunity for us to rest, travel, see family in Europe and seek inspiration elsewhere. Overall, we have learned to make decisions that work for us and our team, and we recommend that businesses do the same in order to succeed and thrive in this mountain community.
Learn more at: Hygge Life