THE GONDOLA SHOP ORIGIN STORY
The Gondola Shop, which started as Sunshine Polishing in April 1998, comes from humble ski bum beginnings and has changed and evolved over the years into the multifaceted world-renowned business it is today. The business idea came from Dominique and David, two French Canadians who met while working and living at Whistler Blackcomb in Canada.
One day both were riding the gondola and overheard a resort guest comment that they couldn’t take good pictures through the gondola windows because they were so scratched. Dominique and David were searching for a way to make money in the summer, and the idea seed was planted with David having experience polishing plastics and airplane windows. When recalling where her company started, Dominique said she remembers this vividly, “It was in the spring, we were on vacation in Mexico drinking margaritas, and David asked if I wanted to go into business with him for polishing gondola windows.” That was in the early spring of 1998; Sunshine Polishing was created. Upon returning to Whistler, they asked if they could borrow some gondola panels to learn, practice, and perfect their technic.
After solidifying their technic, Dominique and David went on a “Demo Tour” of Canada to showcase their revolutionary idea. Their first stop was Banff, with their first demo lined up at Lake Louise Ski Resort. That demo successfully landed them the first contract for Sunshine Polishing. After that success at Lake Louise, every demo turned into a contract. Then came March of 1999 when Dominique got an important phone call that would open up the doors to tons of opportunities for the company. She was in Staples in Canada when Vail Resort called asking if Sunshine Polishing could come to do work for them.
After Vail, Sunshine Polishing continued making its way around the world. In 2000 Dominique and David went on another “demo tour” in Europe, starting in France, and they had the same outcome. Every demo landed them a contract. The business continued to grow its success and reputation. They were gaining more and more traction with ski resorts worldwide. Sunshine Polishing is the only company in the world offering the restoration of plexiglass panels for ski resorts. Prior resorts would have to fully replace panels that had gotten too scratched or damaged, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; Sunshine Polishing gave ski resorts a better option, extending the life of their existing panels while enhancing the scenic experience for guests. In 2006 however, Dominique and David amicably decided to go their separate ways. Dominique kept the company and moved it to the United States in 2012.
In 2009 Dominique ventured to Interalpin Innsbruck, a trade show for ski lift technologies. She required a translator since she didn’t speak much German and wanted to reach a specific market of people that didn’t speak English. She placed an ad for a translator. In that pool of applicants was Thomas Kothmiller, which after interviewing, she ultimately ended up choosing. After spending the trade show with Dominique, Thomas was impressed and highly interested in the company and its unique skill. They got to talking and together created Sunshine Polishing Austria, which was going to be run by Thomas with the training and knowledge from Dominique. Today, in 2023, Thomas is still successfully running the Austrian branch of Sunshine Polishing.
In 2016 came a ton of newly learned skills for the company. Sunshine Polishing got a painting contract with the Town of Mountain Village in Telluride. Along with learning how to paint gondola cabins, the team also had to learn how to do upholstery for the seats within the cabin. These new skills opened up even more opportunities for the company moving forward.
In 2019, The Gondola Shop was created out of the opportunity. Dominique had gotten a few inquiries for restored gondolas in the past. When the opportunity came, she took a risk and purchased an entire gondola line when her client at Killington Ski resort reached out and said they were replacing theirs. Now she had 68 gondolas with no idea how or where to begin. Slowly but surely, Dominique and her team learned the ins and outs of a cabin and how to disassemble, restore, and put back together a whole cabin. With this new skill set and product she could offer, Dominique created a branch of Sunshine Polishing called The Gondola Shop. Sunshine Polishing was for the service contracts, and The Gondola Shop was for gondola restoration in between contracts. As time went on and the popularity of fully restored gondolas grew, Dominique purchased 110 Steamboat gondolas when they replaced their line.
Then came Covid, the thing that stirred up the whole world and flipped everything upside down. Suddenly, Sunshine Polishing lost all of its service contracts, and Dominique was slowly preparing to close the doors for good. That was until she received a phone call from the Town of Mountain Village in September. They wanted to purchase five gondolas to be restored into dining cabins to be used as Covid-safe outdoor dining areas to be used on the plaza by the restaurants at the base of the Telluride Ski Resort. Dominique and her team got to work, and within two weeks, TMV increased their order from 5 cabins to 25. The team kicked it into high gear and managed to fit a year's worth of work into four months, delivering the cabins just before the Christmas holiday rush at the resort. In the weeks and months following the installation of those cabins, Dominique’s phone began ringing off the hook with other businesses and restaurants looking for cabins all over the United States. And just like that, the company was back in full swing, helping save businesses and restaurants, and they saved her company.
In 2022 Dominique decided to merge Sunshine Polishing under The Gondola Shop name. Over the past year, the company has expanded tremendously by taking on even more projects, from developing new gondola designs to learning new skills. TGS dove into the vast world of sewing upholstery with the first chair lifts ski pad contract. TGS also expanded into bike carriers for gondolas and chairlifts by starting a partnership with Alpim. A woman-owned company based out of France is designing, manufacturing, and selling different attachments for chair lifts and gondolas to carry bicycles more efficiently, safely, and easily.
Being in the ski industry comes with its challenges. But being a woman in the industry, Dominique has had to shatter the boundaries of a traditionally male-dominated industry over the years. Working harder and longer to earn respect and her company's reputation today.
The Gondola Shop has been featured in many ways over the years. The biggest was the article written by Food and Wine Magazine back in February 2021 on the business's work with The Town of Mountain Village in Telluride, CO, and other restaurants. The company was also featured in Spoke and Blossom Magazine, on Canadian Radio, and even on TV with an appearance on Shipping Wars.
The Gondola Shop was built on the idea of young ski bums with the literal blood, sweat, tears, and laughs of the many people who have come, gone, and contributed.
This year Dominique celebrates 25 years of business. The shop is kept busy with five dogs, awesome employees, and many business friends contributing to the success and unique products the company makes. Sunshine Polishing and The Gondola Shop have traveled worldwide in their 25 years of existence and continue to grow and expand to what seems like many more years of business.
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