Saturday, March 27, 2010

Going retro is back

By Kimberly Nicoletti
summit daily news

I started noticing it about two years ago. Suddenly, the young-20-something graphic artist I depended on to lay out “my baby,” Mountain House & Home magazine, began coloring the pages in turquoise, orange, gold and avocado. Truthfully, I was appalled. She obviously wasn't old enough to grow up in a 1970's home filled to the brim with an avocado refrigerator, a gold stove (yes, my mom mixed those groovy '70s colors in one room), purple flock wallpaper and velvet purple sofas (then called “couches”), gold walls, and a huge octagon coffee table swirling with psychedelic orange, turquoise, black, purple and every color in-between. (Oddly enough, my mom never smoked pot, much less dropped acid.)

I couldn't bring myself to tell my hip graphic artist how much I disliked the “new” color palette she found so cutting edge, and I especially kept my thoughts to myself when my coworkers — both younger and older — seemed to enjoy the look.

But when Copper Mountain changed its entire website this season — even returning to its old “C” logo, which, personally, I've always liked — I had to look further into this retro trend, which doesn't seem to be slipping away anytime soon. So I called Copper representatives to chat. That same week, I received an e-mail touting an “Old-school Tech Heaven: Vintage Voltage Expo” Sunday in Northglenn. This, too, piqued my interest, because in an effort to clean my garage, I've listed about 25 old albums on Amazon. To my complete shock, five have sold already. So, I figured I'd make a trip to see Gary Koenig — who owns Affordable Music in Dillon and said he “blissfully lives in the 20th century” — to see what this whole '70s fever is all about, because honestly, as bars host more and more '80's nights, I really thought we were past the far-out vibe.

Retro rules

“Retro's always been popular,” Koenig said. “People are always trying to grab a piece of the past — we all feel life was better then.”

Koenig has made a living for 18 years selling vinyl albums, tapes, CDs and other music paraphernalia at Affordable Music. But classic rock (vintage) vinyl albums are “the stuff I can't keep in here,” he said. “If I could get 500 Led Zeppelin albums, I could sell them.”

His vinyl-loving customers range from teenagers to folks in their 50s. Some prefer the sound, while others simply own records for nostalgia, especially since album covers contain large artwork and often lyrics, credits and more.

“They want to feel what it was like back then ... and some teens get vinyl and have fallen in love with the sound.”

He describes the analog sound as warmer and fuller.

“Sound is not digital; sound is analog,” he said. “The sound our ears work with is analog ... it has a vibration. You get that vibration with the needle dragging across the little bumps, and our ear drums respond.”

Demand for vinyl has increased so much that the music industry is reproducing old jazz and other standards, but they're not cheap. Many sell between $30-50; still, demand remains strong.

“People appreciate the sound of vinyl better,” he said. “People into quality (of sound) are going back vinyl. People into quantity are going to computers and downloading.”

While sound quality may be debatable, overall, the emotional pull of the past seems to strengthen as people age. The number of people — both buyers and sellers — attracted to the Vintage Voltage Expo in Northglenn, Colo., continues to grow year after year.

“People remember how much fun they had in the '80s, '70s or '60s — whatever decade they're nostalgic for,” said expo promoter Dana Cain, adding that yearning for the past increases in difficult times, such as recessions. “Especially when people are having money problems, it's very natural to hanker or long for the past. People put more stock in those emotional touchstones of the past.”

Old toys, turntables, antique televisions: These are the objects that help trigger memories.

“If you put the stuff around you, it helps bring you back to that emotional state,” Cain said.

Marketing the past

Copper Mountain resort tapped into the past with its National Snow Day Campaign, launched in fall, 2008. The idea: Recreate those magical feelings when kids rejoiced as television and radio announcers proclaimed, “no school due to snow!” Copper specifically targeted the Southern population, which may never have experienced a snow day. It went so far as to produce snow in downtown Austin. The campaign tested out the potential success of a retro feel, and consumers responded positively, said Pete Woods, Copper's director of marketing.

So this season, Copper went all out, transforming its website and ads into a '70's swirl of gold, dark and light blue, and reintroduced its original logo from 1971, when the ski area opened.

“We wanted to bring that classic hometown feel back — that feeling we know and love at Copper,” said David Roth, Copper's public relations coordinator.

“As soon as we (revived the old logo), it opened flood gates,” Woods said. “Employees just loved it — especially those who have been here for a long time.”

Though some people have asked what the heck Copper's doing returning to the '70's era, most homeowners, particularly long-time locals, resonate with the change.

“I noticed the retro look, and I hope (it helps) the mom-and-pop shops return after Intrawest,” said North Carolina Pam Smith, who lived in Golden, Colo., and has been coming to Copper for 20 years. “It's nice. It feels like home. It doesn't look so big business — it looks more down home.”

During the 1995-96 season, Copper revamped its original, rounded logo to a more sleek square logo. In 1996, Intrawest bought the resort and rebuilt the village core. Woods called the new “C” a branding exercise for a new era — one that also had a more corporate feel. The return to the old logo signified “a move away from the corporate feel,” toward a more local feel. The change happened to coincide with Intrawest's sale of Copper to Powdr Corp.

“We're trying to go back to a time when skiing was sexy and mustaches were thick,” Woods said.

In the competitive ski industry, many resorts find it challenging to differentiate themselves. But going retro has “raised emotions where as the previous campaigns have not,” Woods said. “(The ski industry) is a tight-knit group. They're not risk takers when it comes to communicating differently. (Ads tend to) look and feel the same. Every so often, someone drops a bomb in the room, and it changes everything.”

Far out, man.

If you go retro
BOX: Going retro in Northglenn
What: Fourth Annual Vintage Voltage Expo
Details: Features approximately 75 vendors with hundreds of vintage stereos, turntables, radios, guitars, vinyl records and more, plus show pieces, lectures and demos, including The Colorado Radio Collectors Club's annual radio show
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Ramada Plaza Convention Center, 1-25 at 120th, Northglenn, Colo.
Admission: $5 (children younger than 12, free)

SOURCE:  Reprinted By Permission