Dom Gagliardi

From Trader to Ski Bum to Entrepreneur

BY ALLISON ARTHUR

Dom Gagliardi

When Dom Gagliardi moved to Jackson Hole in 1996, he had never before been to Wyoming. He had just spent a year working on the commodities exchange in New York City. In his twenties at the time, Gagliardi didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, but did know he wasn’t going to spend the rest of it “working every day for a two-week vacation and a house in New Jersey.”

Now forty-one, Gagliardi is an entrepreneur who owns four businesses in the valley—upscale cocktail lounge The Rose, Pink Garter Theatre, production company Poppa Presents, and the Village Café. Even though he hasn’t yet booked Beck, Tool, or Jack White to perform in the valley, he has brought us Digable Planets and Public Enemy. Married now and with two young kids, Gagliardi often works eighty-hour weeks—more than he did on Wall Street—but says he wouldn’t change a thing.

Q: You moved here sight unseen. How’d you settle on Jackson Hole from Manhattan?

A: A friend from college had been to Jackson and told me it was the best; he called me from a payphone, saying, “Come to Jackson Hole.” I did. My first winter, there was tons of snow, and I worked at Hole in the Wall selling snowboards.

Q: First impressions?

A: It was undiscovered. And I could see that you had to find a way to make a living to stay here on your own. You were in on a secret if you figured out how to live and work here. I didn’t have any idea how steep it [the mountain] was. I thought, “This place just has to blow anything else away.”

Q: Did you think the move would stick?

A: I didn’t come here thinking I would stay or go; I came here pretty open. After two years, I decided I would make this my home and build a career.

Q: How’d you go from selling snowboards to, in 2000, buying and running the Village Café?

A: I worked in restaurants starting at fifteen. When I realized I wanted to create a life here, I went to the library every day to study what successful business owners did. I created a business plan for a small cafe and started looking for a place to rent. I found out the Village Café owner might be interested in selling to the right person.

Q: The VC’s building has been torn down. Will it be back?

A: Our last day open in the old space was September 3. The hardest part of having a business is changing with the times; the ski industry is moving toward catering to middle and upper classes. But if we shun customers who can only afford $4 slices of pizza, we are not who we should be as a community. [Ed note: The VC is open daily in the Inn at Jackson Hole this winter.]

Q: You expanded from the VC, founding a music production company and a high-end cocktail lounge, and buying a theater. Why?

A: The goal was to make a life for myself in a place that has no industry outside of tourism. All my businesses play off of each other. People can get up, ski the best mountain in North America, go out for drinks and then see live music. Everything feeds off of each other.

Q: Did you expect to become so involved in this community?

A: I’m definitely proud of what I’ve accomplished here so far. I didn’t think I was going to dig in as deep as I have, but I am happy that I did. I got to be a part of so many things here from the beginning. Now I vacation in cities and live in the mountains.

| Posted in JH Living
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