SOUTH FORK - The South Fork Chamber held its first Chamber Member ribbon cutting Wednesday, May 13. Attending were South Fork’s town manager Dan Hicks and most of South Fork Chamber board members.
The ribbon cutting, with ceremoniously giant scissors, welcomed new Chamber member Rio River Retreat, a group lodging retreat that opened for business in South Fork two years ago. Owners Dan and Melissa Jones moved to South Fork from Texas last May, after their son Autry graduated from high school. They leased out their used car dealership in Amarillo, packed up their things and moved into a vacation home they’d bought in town a few years back. “Dan’s family used to vacation in South Fork when he was growing up and he always said he wanted to live here one day,” said Melissa Jones.
The couple had also purchased the 3,300 square-foot, six-bedroom cabin on the Rio Grande, now known as Rio River Retreat. “We knew we wanted to do something completely different when we decided to move to Colorado. We needed a niche, something that was new and unique to this area,” Jones said. “That’s why we decided on the group cabin rental.”
Jones explained that there are over 150 vacation rentals in South Fork but none like their cabin on the river. “We are the only cabin that sleeps 21-plus.”
Jones said that just like other lodging rentals, they market Rio River Retreat on VRBO and ABnB. But they’ve expanded advertising to social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. “This form of advertising has allowed us to tap into niche markets---scrapbookers, quilters, photographers and church groups---that are looking for a retreat-type of lodging.” Using social media for marketing also allows direct booking, which means renters avoid the added fees often associated with online booking groups.
The couple have long had the heart to do something in the ministry, “like a church retreat or camp,” Jones said. “When we looked at the cabin, we knew from the moment we walked in that it was perfect for a smaller version or our dream.”
Jones said they have been blessed with the renters they’ve had---church groups, quilters, ski groups, wedding parties, family reunions and even couples renewing their vows. So far business has been good, she added. “We are typically booked six to nine months in advance.”
Ribbon cutting attendees were impressed by the retreat, which has a roomy first floor and large kitchen. Each of the three floors has cozy bedrooms in about every nook and cranny, and there’s a downstairs game room with foosball and pool tables and a big walkout door just steps from the Rio Grande river. Outside is a large deck overlooking the river, a firepit and chairs nestled by the water, picnic table, two barbecue grills and long benches by a small meadow that’s perfect for small events and group seating. They also have large tables available for crafting retreat projects.
Tiny Timbers Coffee Bistro provided cookies for the ribbon cutting, and the Jones’ offered additional snacks and drinks. The Chamber presented the couple with a framed certificate of appreciation for choosing South Fork for their business.
“Ribbon cuttings are a great way for businesses to introduce themselves to the local community,” said Chamber marketing coordinator Mary Grace Garcia. “They are also an opportunity to bring community awareness to new businesses through media attention.”
Rio River Retreat is located at 164 Wendar Drive, just across from the Willow Park gated community and next to Willow Cove. Read more about Rio River Retreat at RioRiverRetreat.com or southforkchamber.com.