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September 26, 2013
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Clark’s Market had better ideas for Snowmass grocery space, Related says

Related Colorado chose Clark’s Market in a bidding process for a space in the Snowmass Center because of “creative ideas” that will improve customers’ experience, its president said Wednesday.

It was announced last week that Related would not be renewing the Village Market’s lease, which the grocer has had for 35 years. Clark’s Market will open a new store in that location, Related said Monday.

Clark’s will pay a higher rent than Village Market paid, but it was the Aspen-based grocer’s ideas, such as a potential seasonal satellite location in Base Village, that made it stand out, Related president Dwayne Romero said.

A request for proposals was pitched to a number of grocers, but Clark’s and Village Market were the only two to submit detailed bids.

“As a longtime local here, I’m thrilled that the finalists were just that,” Romero said.

Rent and contributions to making improvements to the space were factors, as well as the grocers’ ideas for improving customer service and working cooperatively with other Snowmass Center tenants, Romero said.

Because Clark’s does not sell beer, it will work well with Sundance Liquor, according to the press release. Other ideas proposed by Clark’s include an expanded hardware offering and a seasonal general-store style operation in Base Village, Romero said. Although it’s still early, Romero said a general store would be easy to pull off since there are a number of suitable available spaces in Base Village that are approved for retail.

“I like that creativity, out-of-the-box thinking,” Romero said.

The rents proposed by each were very similar, and both grocers embraced the idea of expanding, Romero said. The plan, which still must be approved by the town of Snowmass Village, is to expand the space into the hallway and offices adjoining the space. Joshua & Co. would move to another Snowmass Center space. The other offices there are empty.

The interior remodel would expand the floor area by about 4,000 square feet and begin after April 30, when the Village Market’s lease ends.

“We hope that the two operators can come together and craft a nice transition and a safe passage for that employee base,” Romero said.

Tom Clark Jr., whose father started Clark’s Market in Aspen in 1978, said it’s premature to begin discussions with employees.

“All we can go off is our track record,” Clark said. “Telluride is a good example. We rehired 90-plus percent of the employees, and the reason it wasn’t 100 was because some of the current employees were the owners. … This is where we live, these are our neighbors, and everything we can do to keep the incredible staff that’s worked there, we’ll do.”

Clark’s has eight locations in Colorado and Utah. Its Basalt location is closing next summer when its lease ends. That potentially leaves employees of two valley grocery stores in need of jobs next summer.

“It’s so incredible for our company that having these two stores here, we will have an outlet for that and kind of an increased presence that will allow us opportunities that we haven’t had in the past,” Clark said. “My aunt is the manager of the Basalt store. We’re a family-owned grocery store. We take care of our employees and our family.”

Maureen Kerr, who works at First Choice Properties in the Snowmass Center, said Village Market employees were crying the day the closure was announced.

“It’s all about the people and another local business and local people that care just biting the dust due to Related,” Kerr said. Clark’s Market is also local, but “their one down at Basalt is just disgusting,” she said.

For Kerr, the Village Market is another in a long list of local businesses that have been forced to close, including the Snowmass Bakery and Goodfellow’s Pizzeria and Deli, whose Snowmass Village Mall leases were not renewed by the new owners of the Westin.

“They’re just bringing in all these name-brand places that I don’t think this Village should have — not when it means the loss of people who have been here for 35 years and want to stay here and want to put money into their business,” Kerr said.

Snowmass Village resident Lisa Wilkinson came before the Town Council on Monday to voice concern about not having a place in town to buy groceries during the remodel. She also wanted to encourage Clark’s “to at least ask the current employees of the Village Market” to stay.

John Buxman Jr., whose family owns Glenwood Springs-based Village Market, said the grocery proposed raising its own rent by 20 percent during the bidding process.

“We were told that they wanted to go a different direction,” Buxman said. “Our customers, our company and our employees are all extremely disappointed.”

Village Market has always been committed to Snowmass Village and remains “ready, willing and able to serve that community if the opportunity presents itself,” Buxman said.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Sep 27, 2013 10:15AM Published Sep 27, 2013 01:44PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.