We had the good fortune of connecting with Steve Chapman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Steve, how do you think about risk?
Life is nothing but risks. It’s your comfort with this fact that impacts decisions. Crossing the street has risk, driving a car has risk, walking on ice…you get the picture. Some people are risk-averse, and some people are risk junkies. I fall into the category of risk comfortable. I’m not reckless or careless, meaning I won’t take a chance just for the sake of it. But my tolerance for failure or damage or embarrassment is greater than most people I know. Starting each of my businesses, for instance. I heard laughter many times on each new adventure, and many wondered if I’d lost my brain. Some predicted financial ruin. In my opinion, making peace with the reality that everything in life involves a degree of risk, then carefully thinking through the absolute worst thing that can happen (I get humiliated or humbled or I end up losing a lot of money), can help tame the uncertainty and doubt often associated with risk. For me, making risk an ally, not something to be feared, propels me forward. I wouldn’t have achieved anything in life without making risk my friend, and I’d certainly not have been successful in my new ventures these last three years.
What should our readers know about your business?
My core business is Salida Walking Tours. This little company started three years ago with one tour–a 60-minute history walk. The first year was a challenge because I’d never given a tour in my life. Heck, I’d never been on a tour in my life. Honest! I had no idea what I was doing but I read about tours and entertaining and storytelling and kept asking for feedback from guests. As a result, the tours were upgraded every six months before arriving where we are today. That single idea of a one-hour tour sprouted a cottage industry. Today, the Wild West History Tour is 90 minutes. We added a 90-minute Ghost & Murder Tour, which pulls in guests from around the world and is our top-selling tour. In 2019, we added Buena Vista Walking Tours, that’s a city about 30 minutes from Salida. That same year, we created the A Salida Moment in History radio program and A Buena Vista History Flashback. These daily programs are vignettes highlighting the fascinating stories and people who lived here over 130 years ago. Most recently, the original idea spawned the ‘Salida Sam’ historical book series, the best-selling books in Chaffee County. As of 2020, there are four books in the series, with more to come. These books document the town of Salida from 1880 forward with old photographs, maps, and an engaging storyline. The books are fact-based but narrated by a fictional character. In 2020, the original Salida Walking Tours concept led to a podcast, History Does Rhyme. On every tour, guests regularly ask for more details about some of the stories we share (such as the murder of the town marshal in 1883). By necessity, the tours whittle down stories to 3-5 minute chunks but some tales, such as the marshal, take 30 minutes to explore in-depth. The podcast has been a fun new addition, and we’ve committed to weekly episodes. The one thing my team brings to everything is quality. If we can’t do it at an outstanding level, we won’t present it to the public. We’re constantly revamping and improving–from the tours to the books. There is always a next level, and our commitment is delivering an excellent experience. That’s one reason why the tours have hundreds of 5-star ratings on every travel platform.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I don’t have to think hard on this question, as it’s one that comes up with nearly every guest on our walking tours. Visitors to Salida are always pleasantly surprised at how much there is to do in such a tiny town and how many top-notch restaurants and bars and shops are available. I recommend visitors start their day with a long walk. From the riverwalk to climbing Tenderfoot Mountain to exploring nearly 50-miles of trails on the north end of town, Salida has plenty to keep visitors busy when traveling by foot. The city doesn’t wake up early (most shops don’t open until 10 a.m.), so a walk is perfect for the early-birds. From there, visit one of several downtown coffee shops. They all have outdoor seating areas and breakfast options. It’s a low-key way to watch the town awaken while getting caffeinated for a busy day. Once the shops are open, the possibilities are extensive. Art lovers enjoy wandering the many galleries we have. There are award-winning artists in Salida and a style for nearly any taste. You’ll also find an eclectic mix of shopping, from vintage shops to specialty stores to a genuine small-town book store. The owner runs most shops, so you’ll be taken care of by someone with a vested interest in your happiness. One of the things I hear most often from guests is the friendly nature of Salida. Who knows if we’ll be able to maintain that attitude forever–things are changing and growing quickly here. But for now, locals are genuinely happy when visitors arrive as our economy is tied directly to tourism. The demeanor is truly friendly and helpful. You’ll also notice that locals spend a lot of time visiting with one another. Stopping to say hello, even in the middle of work, is common. In between or after shopping, eat! Salida has many excellent restaurants and a wide variety of options. You’ll find everything from burgers to steaks to seafood to Asian cuisine. One of the best things about living in a tourist town is the amount of great food available. Late evenings and nights, you need to take a tour, of course. Salida Walking Tours has 5-star rated guided walks. The Wild West History Tour explores downtown Salida (home to Colorado’s largest National Historic District) from 1880-1900. You’ll learn about bloody shootouts, brothels, and life in a real frontier town. The Ghost & Murder Tour is a favorite among locals and visitors. This 90-minute nighttime stroll visits the location of many actively haunted buildings and is an excellent mixture of humor and engaging storytelling. You’ll be creeped out, for sure. Finally, cap off the evening with an adult beverage. Salida has fun bars, outdoor patios, and breweries. You’ll probably run into a shop owner or service worker or tour guide who helped you earlier in the day because Salidans enjoy relaxing and playing as much as we do entertaining visitors.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There isn’t one person or book or group that impacted my life, but my world is definitely not of my own creation. The historical books I write, for instance. The idea for those came from a friend, Dave Bowers, who took my walking tour and suggested I add books to the concept. The radio program I produce, the one that was awarded the 2019 Best Regularly Scheduled Program by the Colorado Broadcaster’s Association…the idea for that came Gary Buchanan. He approached me several years ago about partnering with his radio stations. Every success I’ve had came from people I know or books I’ve read. No one is an island, and the concept of a ‘self-made’ person is a faulty one. No one lives in a bubble, and none of us succeed with the input of dozens, perhaps hundreds of others. For that reason, I try to regularly pause and express gratitude for everyone who has helped my life be a bit more enjoyable.