A group working to purchase and preserve Explore Booksellers in Aspen aims to engage residents throughout the Roaring Fork Valley in a fundraising effort, according to Bill Stirling, former Aspen mayor.
Stirling, who was married to Explore founder and longtime operator Katherine Thalberg, who died in 2006, said the preservation effort also is attracting interest of potentially larger donors.
“We’ve got some qualified people,” he said.
But the steering committee also believes it’s important to make it a grassroots effort that engages people of all means. The bookstore has been important for nearly four decades to residents who are now spread across the valley, Stirling said. Without Explore, the closest bookstore in the valley would be the Book Train in Glenwood Springs, he noted.
“A town like Aspen without a bookstore is like a town without the Aspen Institute, almost,” Stirling said.
The steering committee met Wednesday but didn’t determine a date when it will launch the fundraising effort. The desire is to hold an event that captures the “summer crowd,” Stirling said.
A kickoff event will likely be held in some prominent spot in Aspen. Then, there will be an appeal to people throughout the valley for donations of $100 to $10,000, Stirling said.
It’s possible the bookstore would be a co-op or a club to help support it, he said. The committee also has attorneys studying whether it would be beneficial to have for-profit and nonprofit aspects of the bookstore.
Stirling said the idea of preserving Explore but moving the bookstore to a different location has been discussed and rejected. The bookstore needs to remain in a location that attracts enough foot traffic to support it, he said, and moving to another location that fits the bill would likely require high rent.
In addition, moving the bookstore from the former Frost property on Main Street would diminish the Explore legacy. The bookstore started on East Hopkins Avenue in 1975. It moved to its current spot in 1978, according to Stirling.
“Katherine Thalberg created something special,” he said.
The current owners, Sam and Cheryl Wyly, bought Explore for $4.4 million in 2007. They listed it last month for $6.5 million.
Stirling said the Wylys may be approached about remaining part owners, or if that isn’t desirable, the committee will inquire about a discount for keeping the bookstore intact.
Stirling said the steering committee will provide plenty of advance publicity prior to launching its fundraising effort.