Mt. Crested Butte performing arts and events center getting close to financial goals
by Mark Reaman
No one is expecting the latest donation to the Biery-Witt Center (BWC) to put them over the $27 million goal line that ends the pledge drive, but it is innovative, intriguing and an out-of-the-box idea to help the Mt. Crested Butte performing arts and events center—and it involves beans, brew and java.
Al and Wythina Smith are stepping back from the Mt. Crested Butte Camp 4 Coffee location in Mountaineer Square and the BWC will be operating the shop, with all net proceeds going towards the project. The Smiths get to spend more time with their family and the BWC gets a unique revenue stream to help add to the growing pledge base for the building.
“I got on the Downtown Development Authority about ten years ago and thought we might break ground for the building six or seven years ago. I forgot things take a while in this place,” commented Al Smith. “Wythina and I fully understand the importance of the Biery-Witt Center to the future of the community. I don’t remember how this idea came about but Wythina and I had talked a lot about the need to pull back and spend more family time together. I knew Biery-Witt was looking for opportunities and so we approached [BWC executive director] Woody [Sherwood]. The business makes money and we knew if they ran it they should be able to make money rather than ask for it.”
The process wasn’t easy. Given that the BWC was a 501(c)3 non-profit group, there were tax ramifications to consider.
“As a non-profit we have to respect the IRS rules,” said Sherwood. “We ended up establishing a separate corporation that will be the operating entity and all proceeds will flow to Biery-Witt.”
“I didn’t have any idea how involved it was to get a non-profit involved without jeopardizing the 501(c)3 status,” added Al. “But we worked through the issues, and good news is it closed Friday. We had lots of heart and soul poured into the location. We will continue to provide the coffee and the name and it will ease some burden for the family.”
Sherwood pointed out, “Combined with this donation, the town of Mt. Crested Butte, our naming and founding donors, and new donors have come together to raise over $9.2 million this year, leaving $3.2 million to be raised,” he said.
“More than $23.8 million has been committed to the project since its inception,” said Sherwood. The new Camp 4 Coffee collaboration provides incredible momentum for the Biery-Witt Center capital campaign, putting the organization so much closer to achieving its goal of building a state-of-the-art performing arts and events center that will serve to stimulate and diversify the economy, while enriching the lives of both area residents and visitors.”
This collaboration is a significant kick-off to the BWC corporate sponsorship element of the capital campaign plan. “We really appreciate this generous initiative by Al and Wythina. This represents major support for the BWC project from a prominent member of the business community. We hope it shows the way for partnerships with many other businesses in the valley that will benefit from this new economic driver,” said Biery-Witt Center co-president Bill Ronai. “Once the performing arts and events center is operating, it will help shrink the shoulder seasons and that will help everyone’s business.”
Sherwood said most of the same employees will be up at the shop and they are interviewing some experienced people to run the show. “Our goal is to continue operating Camp 4 with the same professional staff,” he said. “We have licensing agreements with Al and they will be providing the coffee. There might be small operating changes down the road but not much difference will be seen right now.”
“Our goal is to help get this thing built,” said Al. “We are keeping our fingers crossed. It has been a good dream for a long time. Ideally, when this gets off the ground and there will be a Camp 4 in the facility and people can go to a great show and get a great cup of coffee.”
“This groundswell of community support we are receiving is making a tremendous difference as we move forward; it is very gratifying and we are most appreciative,” concluded Biery-Witt Center co-president Tom Biery.