Ask Kirsten Fox of the Fox School of Wine about the importance of the travel industry to her Park City business, and you get a simple answer.

“98 percent of our business come from tourism.”

For her 13-year-old bastion of wine appreciation, the pandemic hit with the force of an earthquake and was just as explicitly timed. “It was Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 9:30 a.m.,” she says. “My employee handling operations called to say we had to move tons of money around to handle $10,000 of refunds.” They knew almost immediately what this meant: “She and most other employees had to be laid off. “ Kirsten recalls looking out from her office, “seeing young, out-of-work resort employees and hospitality workers walking around – I wondered how they would feed themselves.”

The pain of laying off treasured staff, the sadness that came with helping them find unemployment benefits and wait for relief, and the fear of an uncertain future took an enormous toll. “I needed a lot of mental and spiritual work,” she concedes. “Meditation, getting back to business basics and working with a life/business coach helped,” she says. “I took up mountain biking to get a taste of physical fear, rather than just dwelling in mental fear,” she says, “I got in shape and stopped begin afraid of single track,” she adds ruefully.

With a creative approach to her customers (“We offered pandemic-specific, at-home wine education kits”) and help from government-sponsored grants and loans, the Fox School of Wine remained open and, as always, popular. Profitability was still a struggle, though. “We offered virtual wine tastings with lots of participation, but which were not very profitable,” she says. “Physically-distanced wine classes were well attended, but again, not super-profitable.”

A new partnership with OP Rockwell GM Xania Goodman inspired Kirsten to keep fighting. “She was and is amazing,” she proclaims. “She saw an article by Scott Iwasaki at the Park Record about us reopening for wine classes in December and reached out with all sorts of ideas to safely operate at The Rock. She was flexible and optimistic. We ended up selling out many classes.”

As her business recovers, Kirsten says the power of travel is bringing customers back. “It’s paramount. The state of Utah’s reasonable approach, offering both safety for most people and open doors for businesses, means we are now a focus for tourists as other states lag in reopening.”

As for Kirsten herself, she’s moving forward with new perspectives. “Sometimes working harder has nothing to do with changing things; sometimes the best you can do is let go and see where the universe takes you. I learned my relationships are paramount, personally and in business, and that we humans are extremely creative and resilient.”

Kirsten is also grateful for the “too many to count” positive experiences during times of loss and anxiety. “The support of the Chamber, newspaper coverage by the Park Record, our new partnership with OP Rockwell, all our wine students complying with safety requirements without hesitation - the list goes on and on.”

She has a message for the travelers who ventured to Park City, keeping so many local businesses alive during an unimaginable economic disaster. “You came to town when we needed support. You were brave, and you helped our businesses stay open safely. For so many of us in the hospitality industry, the opportunity to serve you is what gives us joy. Thank you for uplifting us during a very dark time.”

With brighter times beckoning, it’s clear to everyone at the Fox School of Wine that the power of travel is the key to restoring our business, reconnecting us with each other, and rebuilding a balanced economy.