Growing up, he has fond memories of visiting his grandparents on their ranch in Hillside. When the town came up for sale in January, Chris Seegers said he did not want it to become a ghost town. He had seen it happening all over the Midwest while visiting agricultural clients.
As transplants to the valley like numerous residents, his family moved to the Wet Mountain Valley about 30 years ago.
“We fell in love with the beauty of the area and the incredible people that call it their home,” he said. “Some say this is inevitable, but I do not believe that to be the case, and I did not want that to happen to Hillside. I was constantly saddened by how many small towns were abandoned or falling apart as residents moved to other places with more dynamic job markets.”
“There is a sense of community out here — second to none, and we want to provide fun events for all of us to spend time with our neighbors. enjoying music and the fresh mountain air.” -Chris Seegers
At that point, he and his wife, Tara, spent several months researching it, they decided to buy the whole town, which consists of a post office, a general store, several cottages along with other buildings.
“(We) felt that Hillside would have a great deal of symmetry on the lodging side of the business, of which we are very familiar,” Chris said.”We felt that we had the ability to create a sustainable business model for Hillside that would allow it to continue to grow and flourish for many years to come, and made the decision not to let it dry up and blow away like so many other towns in the U.S.”
With that in mind, the couple began working to build a coalition of small business owners, farmers and ranchers, living in Hillside.
“(When we) purchased the town in January of 2015, it was in need of some renovation work,” he said. “We are a young couple with energy and a willingness to listen to what the community wanted out of their town. The previous owners had done a great job of keeping the town going for many years and have been some of our biggest advocates.”
Chris, who works for an energy company in Midland, Texas, and his wife, Tara, a financial analyst, also own Lamp Post Lodge, a bed and breakfast in Westcliffe.
In the future, the couple’s plans include outdoor concerts, farmers markets, plays and other events.
“There is a sense of community out here — second to none, and we want to provide fun events for all of us to spend time with our neighbors. enjoying music and the fresh mountain air,” Chris said.
It’s enough just catching a glimpse of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to bring people to the area to enjoy the outdoor activities, which including fishing, hiking, bicycling and more.
“It is an incredible place, and people just naturally gravitate to the area,” he said. “We are hoping to create a positive relationship between visitors and residents, so they can both benefit from the interaction.”
The couple also is working to build on what’s already present in the community.
“(We) want to create positive growth to allow for sustainable businesses and to promote a healthier middle class,” Chris said. “Hillside is full of talented, educated people that are connecting and asking each other ‘how can we collaborate and make everyone’s business thrive, and create a better quality of life for all the residents?’ We are so excited to be part of that movement and it is something we are working every day to accomplish through small, intentional steps.”
The Seegers said they enjoy partnering with the group of loving, vibrant residents living in Hillside.
Since January, the couple has focused on restoring each building in Hillside in order to provide more value to local residents, as well as tourists passing through town.
“Our general manager, Barb Koch, has been working very hard to source local goods and art for sale in the General Store. We really want to support local artists and craftsmen while providing quality items for our guests to take home as a memory of their trip to Hillside,” Chris said. “We will look to expand the lodging aspect slowly over the next few years to provide more beds for the folks driving through the valley; we are hoping they will stop and stay awhile.”
But wherever he may roam, he said he would always consider Hillside to be his home and his community.
“I attended high school in Westcliffe and love this valley more than anywhere in the world,” Chris said.