Main Street retailer has stuck around for the long haul
December 19, 2014
Robert Dugins loaded his whole world into his 1976 Audi Fox Sedan, and he stepped on the gas and drove east, leaving behind the blue waters of Lake Tahoe, Calif., for the biggest gamble of his life.
He couldn’t have known back then what the future would hold. Of course, while there was no way to map it out for sure, he knew what he hoped it would bring. Along with every possession he owned, he carried with him in the sedan visions of success, dreams that he could earn a living, at least, with the business he was about to open.
But he couldn’t have known that three decades later, he’d spend an afternoon sitting in a tight office overlooking the sales floor of one of his two stores, reflecting on the 30-year anniversary of his decision to move to a small ski town in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. And he couldn’t have known that all his hopes would come true.
"Fortunately, it worked out," said Dugins with a chuckle. He owns Dugins West and Dugins West Too, clothing and souvenir stores on Main Street, and is celebrating 30 years of being in business in Park City. "I had no idea. We thought it would work, and it did work. But my partner and I, we had a $20 bill and tore it apart and said, ‘What if we could make it 20 years? That would be great.’ And we did."
Despite eclipsing his first goal by a decade and establishing his stores as Park City mainstays, Dugins is humble about his accomplishments. His tone, a slow Alabama drawl, is reserved, and he exudes an "aw shucks" attitude when talking about his success.
Sure, he had a great business idea, he says, but he also has had dedicated, smart people working for him. And he happened to come at the right time to just the right place — a town on the verge of blossoming into one of the country’s top ski destinations.
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"(Thirty years) just means I’ve been in a wonderful place for a long time," he said. "I’ve really enjoyed my time here, and I’m fortunate the business worked for us. Our timing was good, and I think it’s a wonderful place to live."
Dugins didn’t start out on Main Street. His first store was nestled at the base of Park City Mountain Resort, and he only expanded to Main Street when that store was successful. He later opened a third location — a second on Main Street — before leaving the resort altogether toward the end of the last decade.
"When I first moved here, the resort was the place to be," he said. "Main Street wasn’t as lively or built up as it is now. Over the years, Main Street got stronger, and I felt like at the resort, we were hanging around all year for about six weeks of good business."
Though Dugins at the beginning may not have banked on his business still thriving 30 years later, there may be a simple explanation of how: It’s in his blood. His grandfather and father owned a shoe store in downtown Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he worked in the backroom. He didn’t want to continue in the family business after graduating college, but he wound up in retail anyway.
"It’s funny to look back after all these years that I came right back to what (my father) did," he said.
And as for the future? Perhaps 35 years in Park City would make a nice, symmetrical number at which to finally call it quits.
"After that, I may still have the business, but I hope I’m out of the day-to-day (operations)," he said. "I’d like to have other people running it."