With the Popcorn Wagon near the corner of Hyman Avenue and Mill Street closed all winter, another portable sandwich-and-snack venue has opened at the crossroads of the Hyman and Mill pedestrian malls and is helping to fill the void.
Mill Street Melts, which specializes in panini-style cheese sandwiches, hot chocolate, tomato soup and other quick treats, is in the same tiny spot occupied last summer by Red Fox Yogurts. The new afternoon-to-late-night food stop is operating through an agreement with Red Fox Frozen Yogurts, which has the lease for the space and uses the same portable building for its business during the summer season.
Jaysen Chiaramonte and Max Schoenfeld, who run Mill Street Melts, both are natives of Los Angeles. They opened on Dec. 13. Noah Annes and Rom Hirss preside over Red Fox. Schoenfeld and Annes are cousins.
“We’ve kind of been culinary entrepreneurs for awhile, and we had the opportunity to come to Aspen to test out our concept,” Chiaramonte said.
“The Popcorn Wagon is such a staple in this town — that’s what people associate with street food here. We get questions all the time: ‘Are you the new Popcorn Wagon?’ ‘Are you associated with them?’ We are not the Popcorn Wagon.’”
As of now, Mill Street Melts will close at the end of ski season, sometime in mid-April. The yogurt shop will open in June.
“We would love to stick around in Aspen; it’s just a matter of figuring out the most efficient way to do that,” Chiaramonte said of Mill Street Melts.
Speaking of The Popcorn Wagon, it was shuttered, along with its sister restaurant, Above the Salt, after the end of the summer tourism season. The restaurant and wagon’s food operations were owned and overseen by local restaurateur Craig Cordts-Pearce, who made the decision during the fall not to reopen after the offseason. The buildings are owned and managed by a group led by developer Mark Hunt.
Local commercial real estate brokers are said to be marketing the Above the Salt and Popcorn Wagon buildings with the goal of landing a new tenant before the summer. A restaurant building next door, formerly the Mill Street pedestrian mall home of Pacifica, also has been sitting empty for several months. Pacifica owner Russell Hoffberger, of Carbondale, decided to call it quits in the fall after many years in the Aspen restaurant business.
“This location is really incredible. It’s sad to see what happened to this corner during the winter season,” Chiaramonte said, in reference to the stretch of the Mill Street pedestrian mall from the Popcorn Wagon to Wagner Park.
“What’s really been good is the local reaction to us,” Chiaramonte said. “We knew that Christmas was going to be a given. New Year’s was going to be a given. The local population has essentially kept us afloat during the slow times.”