ASPEN - Silver Threads Aspen won its battle to move into the downtown retail space that formerly belonged to Optical Shop of Aspen.
In an arbitration hearing Friday, the court ruled that the Optical Shop had to move out within 48 hours. On Monday, the store's windows were papered over and staff continued to pack up.
Longtime Aspen resident Larry Sands, who owns Silver Threads Aspen, said he would begin moving his business into the space Tuesday with plans to open for the winter season by Dec. 15. Silver Threads Aspen will be a high-end boutique selling everything from eyewear to watches.
"It's mine," Sands said. "There was really no question that it was my lease. Now we can get down to business."
The battle over the retail space - located in the Ute City Bank Building and facing Galena Street - began when the Optical Shop failed to extend its lease. That lease was set to expire Oct. 31 unless the shop exercised its option to extend it at least 75 days beforehand. The landlord, Aspen Arcade Limited LLP, claimed the shop did not do so, and the landlord subsequently leased the space to Sands.
Sands actually founded the Optical Shop in 1970 but sold the eyeglass retail company to Oakley in 2006. The following year, Luxottica purchased Oakley for $2.1 billion.
In court documents, Optical Shop representatives said they believed they still had a right to the space and refused to move out. In a court hearing before Thanksgiving, a judge gave the parties until the end of the month to set an arbitration hearing and determine who actually held the lease to the space. At that hearing on Friday, Silver Threads came out the winner.
"They were very bad losers and very rude to me, but this should never have had anything to do with who I am or any previous business relationship," Sands said, adding that the court's decision would have been the same regardless of whom the dispute was between. "They forgot to exercise their option. It's that simple."
An Optical Shop executive expressed regret at the turn of events but said the retail outlet does plan to reopen and that it is providing "support" to its employees during this transition period.
"As one of Aspen's longest-running retailers, it's regrettable that Optical Shops of Aspen is leaving its current location," Rob McCoy, vice president and general manager of Optical Shops of Aspen, wrote in an email. "At this point, we're exploring all real estate alternatives for a new space in the area. We're excited about the possibilities that we will be able to share soon and continue to serve the Aspen community."