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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, January 03, 2018 1:30 pm

Pence's vacation might have cost small business $20,000

GENE MARKS | Special to The Washington Post

All small businesses face their own unique challenges.

So it is little surprise that safety and weather conditions would be top of the list for Bruce and Pam Wood, the owners of the Above It All Balloon Co., located near Aspen, Colorado.

But even the Woods can't think of everything.

They learned this hard lesson recently.

For the past 25 years, customers of the Above It All Balloon Co. have not only enjoyed scenic floats across the Elk Mountain Range of the Aspen and Snowmass areas but -- on landing -- a delicious champagne brunch, chocolate-covered strawberries and a personalized flight certificate as a souvenir of the experience. It's a local favorite and a great business.

But unfortunately, as the Woods were recently reminded, running a business such as theirs in an area known for drawing celebrities, VIPs and politicians can have its risks.

That became the case this past week when Vice President Mike Pence and his family took up residence nearby . . . along with his security detail.

Because of the Pence family's stay, temporary flight restrictions were imposed to cover a three-nautical mile "national defense airspace" area over their vacation residence. The restrictions prohibited the Woods' company from operating, and caused them to cancel a number of previously booked morning rides on its fleet of six balloons. The cost -- about $15,000 to $20,000, plus the loss of employee tips.

"It's been very disappointing," Pam Wood said in an Aspen Times report. "This is our busiest week of the winter."

It is, unfortunately. But in the Pences' defense, this isn't the only time that politicians have interfered with activities in vacation areas that they visit.

Traffic jams and road restrictions often result in a loss of business for local merchants. The Obama family also routinely visited Aspen, but because they stayed a little farther away, the operations at Above It All Balloon Co. were not affected.

Was there a backup plan? Unfortunately, time didn't allow Wood to rearrange flights from a different location.

Regardless, the long-running business will likely recover.

"It's one of those things where it could have been weather or a politician. Winter has its ups and downs, and we hope it will fill in at some point," Wood told the New York Daily News.

Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based consulting firm. He writes regularly for The Post's On Small Business blog.