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What’s the Big Deal: $3.1 million for West End condo

“What’s the Big Deal?” runs Mondays and is based on the most expensive property transaction recorded in Pitkin County through 3 p.m. each Friday.

Price: $3.1 million

Date recorded: April 17

Address: 729 W. Francis St., Aspen

Neighborhood: West End

Buyer: B&G Francis LLC

Seller: Gold Rush LLC

Property type: Condo

Year built: Actual, 1955; effective, 1995

Total heated area: 1,300 square feet

Business Monday: Court says insurer doesn’t have to cover Aspen developer in civil case

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that an insurance carrier does not have to pay for damages related to the civil domestic-violence case of Nikos Hecht, an Aspen hedge-funder and real estate developer.

A 14-page order and judgment issued April 18 said Hecht’s personal and excess liability coverage policies under Great Northern Insurance Co., also known as Chubb, would not cover the monetary settlement agreement he reached with his ex-girlfriend in September 2017. Terms of the settlement were and remain confidential.

After the settlement was made, Hecht sued Chubb in federal court over its refusal to cover the damages. His claims were breach of contract and refusal to defend him in the civil case, as well as denial of payment, among other damages.

The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Chubb, from which Hecht bought a $35 million policy in September 2014. He then appealed the ruling.

While Hecht’s policies covered personal injuries, the appellate court ruled that Hecht was not covered in the event he committed intentional acts Chubb defined as “arising out of a willful, malicious, fraudulent or dishonest act or any act intended by any covered person to cause personal injury or property damage.”

Hecht’s ex-girlfriend sued him in March 2016, roughly a month after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment in a domestic violence case from August 2015 involving the woman. She alleged in the suit that Hecht physically and mentally abused her, turned her into a drug addict and manipulated her into having two abortions.

She also alleged Hecht drugged her with fentanyl patches but told her they were “Icy Hot patches.”

The suit came after Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely, in February 2016, sentenced Hecht to two years’ probation in a domestic violence case involving the same victim.

“Hecht pleaded guilty to domestic violence as a consequence of his abuse,” the Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel wrote in last week’s decision. “The exclusion plainly bars coverage for his conduct. To the extent Hecht suggests we should view his false imprisonment separate from his abuse, we agree with the district court’s conclusion that the conduct was inseparably intertwined. There was no duty to defend in this case. Accordingly, the district court was correct to grant judgment in favor of Chubb on all claims.”

Hecht’s attorneys had argued that the allegations against him weren’t sexual in nature, which he claimed did not happen in the cabin where the woman said he abused her. Had they been sexual, then Chubb would not have been obligated to cover Hecht, his attorneys argued.

The Court of Appeals, however, reasoned that the totality of all of the case’s circumstances precluded Chubb from covering Hecht.

“The state court judge presiding over the criminal matter even expressly said that Hecht exhibited abusive conduct,” the appellate court said. “We agree. Nevertheless, undeterred, Hecht attempts to rewrite the policies. He says the exclusion for abuse should be read to exclude not abuse in general, but sexual abuse in particular.”

Hecht’s firm Lewis Roca Rothberger Christie LLP, which has an office in Denver, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Monday Business Briefs: Aspen retail sales up in February; new dental hygienist in town

February sales up

Aspen retailers saw business in February increase by 5.8 percent over February 2018, according to the city Finance Department’s monthly consumption tax report released last week.

Retail sales totaled $83.3 million that month, led by the $30.5 million brought in by accommodations, which were up 6.7 percent in revenue over February 2018.

Other industries posted the following revenue numbers in February:

• Restaurants/bars —$14.7 million, up 7.1 percent over February 2018

• Sports equipment/clothing — $6.7 million, down 2.7 percent

• Clothing — $6 million, up 7.1 percent

• Food/drug — $5.5 million, up 13.9 percent

• Liquor — $1.1 million, up 8.6 percent

• Miscellaneous — $3.9 million, down 10.1 percent

• Construction — $3.1 million, down 11.2 percent

• Luxury goods — $3.7 million, up 32.4 percent

• Utilities — $4.9 million, up 9.3 percent

• Automobile — $2.1 million, up 8.4 percent

• Marijuana — $1.3 million, up 5.9 percent

For the first two months of the year, Aspen retailers have generated $172.3 million, up 4.7 percent over the same period last year, according to the report.

Turhcin hires hygienist

Dr. Belem Villalovos has joined Dr. Andrew Turchin’s Aspen business as a full-time, registered dental hygienist.

Villalovos received her degree in dental hygiene from Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely in 2017, where she graduated at the top of her class and was given the Western Society of Periodontology Award for clinical excellence, according to an announcement.

She also graduated from dental school in Peru in 2008.

“I couldn’t be more excited for my new role at Andrew Turchin, DMD,” she said in a statement. “To have the opportunity to combine my love of patient care with the high caliber of dentistry being performed at Dr. Turchin’s office is truly a dream come true.”

The practice is located at 400 W. Main St. More details can be found by calling 970-925-7730 or emailing patientcare@andrewturchin.com.

Businesses announcements can be sent to rcarroll@aspentimes.com.

Monday Business: Some Aspen businesses jammed during Apres Fest

The debut of The Apres music festival at the base of Buttermilk Ski Area had some businesspeople humming a happy tune over what usually is considered one of the slowest weekends of the ski season.

“We definitely saw a jump in business from the festival,” said Tom Van Amburgh of New York Pizza, an upstairs restaurant located on the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall. “And it was definitely our demographic, which is great.”

Highlighted by jam bands Umphrey’s McGee on April 5 and The String Cheese Incident April 6 and 7, the festival was staged by Aspen Skiing Co., which announced the event Jan. 28. Skico put the festival on in collaboration with the Belly Up music club, which also hosted the headliners April 3 to 5 to sold-out crowds.

Skico sold three-day music passes to the Buttermilk concerts for $79.99 and also offered a $199.99 three-day music pass with a two-day lift ticket valid during the event. The festival was hosted during Buttermilk’s closing weekend.

Skico would not release attendance figures, paid or otherwise, from the festival. The venue has a capacity of 10,000, but it was indisputably not full.

“We had a good turnout for a first-year event,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. “In general, we feel like we accomplished our goals of bringing people into Aspen-Snowmass on a quiet weekend and providing a fun experience that blended music, skiing and everything we have to offer.

“Skier visits were strong that weekend, and we are waiting to see the next occupancy report to see how that looks, but that also looked strong leading in to the event.”

In mid-February, Skico’s reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass said advance booking rooms during the time of the festival were up 7.3 percent, after being down in its Dec. 31 report, which came before the festival had been announced.

Aspen Mountain Lodge was one beneficiary of the festival, selling out all of its 38 rooms over the weekend.

“We were literally full every night The Apres was happening,” said lodge operator Bob Morris. “And we never would have had that — maybe a 25 to 30 percent occupancy.”

During the first weekend of April, Morris said lodges typically “race to the bottom” with their room rates, but not during the Apres Festival.

“We benefited twofold,” he said. “No. 1, we had a tremendous surge in occupancy, and our daily rate was very healthy compared to it being a loss-leader during the same time of the year.”

Most of the reservations were advanced bookings, Morris said, noting that a majority of the guests drove to Aspen.

Morris urged Skico to bring back the festival.

“Make this a permanent event,” he said. “It was such a success. It was a tremendous draw, and I thank the powers that be that organized this event.”


Glenwood’s American Furniture Warehouse closing

After 25 years in operation, American Furniture Warehouse’s Glenwood Springs location will permanently close in approximately six weeks, company CEO Jake Jabs told the Post Independent on Friday.

“It’s basically been an underperforming store for us,” Jabs said. “We are opening stores in Houston and Arizona and places like that and so as a business person we are looking at stores that make money.

“That store really hasn’t been making any money for us,” he said of the Glenwood location.

Jabs explained that the company had done everything it could to keep the local store in business, but ultimately decided to sell the building and will shut down in roughly six weeks following a 10 percent off sale.

“I have (a) soft spot in my heart for Glenwood and that store,” Jabs said. “I love Glenwood and it’s a great market, but basically it’s just underperforming and I think we’ve done everything we could do to crack that.”

According to Jabs, American Furniture’s Glenwood location employs roughly 20 people, all of whom were notified. Those employees have the option of remaining with the company, he said, but would need to move to a different store.

“There will be no layoffs. We can transfer them to either Grand Junction or … we have 12 stores here on the Front Range we can put them with, too,” Jabs said.

“I think that is probably one reason that the store in Glenwood hasn’t done as well, because of our nice store is in Grand Junction,” Jabs added.

Jabs would not disclose who the building, located at 3200 S Glen Ave. in the Roaring Fork Marketplace, sold to, as “caveats” were still being worked out.

“We do have to be out,” Jabs explained of the forthcoming deadline.

Jabs said that Glenwood’s American Furniture Warehouse was one of the first stores he opened with the company.

“I am sad to see a long-standing business leave the area,” Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association President and CEO Angie Anderson said Friday.

According to Anderson, American Furniture Warehouse also was a long-standing member with the Chamber Resort Association. “We are sad to see them go.”

The news of American Furniture Warehouse closing its Glenwood location comes not long after Safeway announced that it, too, would be leaving the Glenwood Springs market.

American Furniture Warehouse was founded in 1975 by Jabs after he bought American Furniture Company in Denver. Following a name change and several additional store openings, today American Furniture Warehouse, including its Glenwood store, has 14 locations throughout Colorado and Arizona.

Carbondale’s Coventure hosts second venture capital pitch night Friday

Six local companies will vie for capital investment in Carbondale on Friday in an event organizers compare to the popular reality-TV entrepreneurial competition “Shark Tank.”

For Missouri Heights-based business Boulder Learning, having the chance to compete for venture capital funding just a few miles away is a relief.

Boulder Learning is taking grant-funded research and building it into education software to assist teachers, having acquired a Front Range-based software developer.

But co-founder and president John Ramo wants Carbondale to be the headquarters.

“It’s great, because what we want to do is build our administrative functions out of Carbondale,” Ramo said in an interview.

The second annual Mountain Pitch Summit, organized by nonprofit business incubator and co-working space Coventure, will be different from the inaugural event last year by Coventure’s predecessor, GlenX.

“Last year, the focus was on community businesses, mostly in Carbondale. We wanted to tell a story that we could help local businesses grow,” said Mike Lowe, executive director for Coventure.

The event last spring raised $1.25 million for five local companies: Marble Distilling, The Way Home restaurant, aerospace manufacturer Perin Industries, agri-tourism destination Cedar Ridge Ranch and solar company P4P.

For this year’s event, “we set out to identify six companies that were in industries that could develop into businesses that could be game-changers for local economies,” Lowe said. The businesses are already well on their way to becoming anchor businesses for the region, Lowe said.

The six businesses presenting, most of which are from the Roaring Fork Valley, include AppOmni, which makes a cloud-based security software; Atelier, an augmented reality app for home decoration and interior design; education software creator Boulder Learning; iPhone accessory manufacturer iOmounts; Proximity, a co-working management software system; and P4P, which designs tensile solar panel structures.

Since the first pitch night in April 2018, the business acceleration programs started within GlenX have been re-branded, and dramatically expanded, as Coventure.

Coventure’s goal is to turn Carbondale and the greater Roaring Fork Valley into a hub of business networking, training, and investing to build a diverse economic base for the region.

Small-town economies are experiencing three particular challenges, as identified by the Office of Economic Development: Industry diversification, smart growth and talent retention.

Coventure occupies several floors of the Spruce Building in downtown Carbondale, offering co-working space available to anyone to rent by the day, week or month.

The pitch event kicks off at the Third Street Center at 3:30 p.m. Friday with a panel discussion on angel investing and venture capital, followed by dinner and drinks from local restaurants, and a keynote address by Marc Nager of the Greater Colorado Venture Fund, which is also one of the investment groups that will evaluate the pitches.

The other investor groups are Telluride Venture Fund, Four Points Funding and Rockies Venture Club.

The main pitch event with the six presenting companies will start at 7 p.m., followed by a networking after party. The event is opened to the public, with a $10 suggested donation at the door.

The online reservations for the event are filling up, Lowe said.

“We’re worried that we won’t have enough chairs. I guess that’s a good problem to have,” Lowe said.


Business Monday Briefs: New website for Valley Settlement, Aspen Chamber breakfast Tuesday

Nonprofit’s new website includes job listings

Carbondale nonprofit Valley Settlement has launched a new website that includes job listings in both English and Spanish.

Employers and job seekers can visit www.valleysettlement.org/resources/job-board to list jobs or to review open positions in the Roaring Fork Valley and the I-70 corridor. The website’s community events section also allows organizations to post upcoming events in the valley.

Valley Settlement works with area immigrant families to help them find child care, and health and human services, among other opportunities.

ACRA breakfast Tuesday

Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s Community Breakfast is set for Tuesday and will include a range of speakers.

Check-in is at 7:45 a.m. and the programming runs from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows Resort.

Speakers will include ACRA President and CEO Debbie Braun, ACRA board chair Cristal Logan, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock, interim Aspen City Manager Sarah Ott and Andrew Ernemann, ACRA’s representative for its real estate board seat.

Cost is $35 to members and $50 to non-members. Call 970-925-1940 to RSVP.

Former Aspen Club employees bounce back with new physical-therapy practice

The remaining physical therapists at the financially strapped Aspen Club didn’t see their eviction coming last month, but they quickly regrouped to hang up their own shingle a block away from their old practice on Main Street.

On March 12, employees at Aspen Club Sports Medicine Institute were told their time was up at 430 W. Main St. because their parent company, The Aspen Club, was behind $56,585 on rent and the landlord was evicting them.

They had been using the space on a temporary basis, since February 2016, during the redevelopment project of The Aspen Club campus, at 1450 Ute Ave. Financial setbacks have put the project on hold since August 2017.

Not only were the employees left in a lurch; their stable of patients, as many as 300, also had no place to go.

“We were scrambling,” said Dr. Pete Scher, a chiropractor who had worked under The Aspen Club for nine years. “We had staff members calling patients who were scheduled for the next day to let them know.”

Scher, as well as physical therapists Chris Peshek — a 28-year employee of the club — and Sarah Miller realized they had to act fast or risk the goodwill they’d built up over the years.

They did home visits for patients and also treated them at different facilities.

“Our biggest concerns weren’t us; it was our patients’ well-being,” Peshek said. “It was a total injustice to our patients. Our biggest focus was landing on our feet so that our patients landed on their feet.”

Eleven days after Aspen Club Sports Medicine Institute closed, the trio opened their own facility mere footsteps from their former location — at 400 W. Main St.

“We wanted to completely cut ties and just move on and start a clean slate,” Peshek said.

With no business or marketing plan, no front-desk help and nobody to schedule appointments, the three took it upon themselves to own, operate and manage the new business, which spans about 1,300 square feet.

They are relying on word of mouth, some social media marketing efforts, phone calls and their reputations.

“We’re doing this all backwards,” Scher said.

Aspen Club owner and president Michael Fox also allowed them to transfer the Aspen Club Sports Medicine Institute’s phone number (970-925-8940) to the new practice.

“We’re taking care of everything now from start to finish,” Peshek said. “Where we used to have front-desk help and they would have taken care of everything, now when a patient walks in the door, we’re doing all of the front-office stuff, and the treatment stuff.”

He added, “For 28 years, I intentionally tried to stay away from the front desk. It’s been a fast education in the last couple of weeks.”

Miller, who worked three years at Aspen Club Sports Medicine Institute, said there are some growing pains that go with the new business. They’re in the process of getting their insurance contract re-credentialed so they can accept patients with insurance. That can take 45 to 60 days.

For now, their business has no name — it is simply identified by the three individuals now in charge.

“It’s been humbling,” Scher said. “Our patients were worried about us, and we’re so concerned about their well-being.”


Aspen developer Mark Hunt buys former Main Street Bakery building, plans to open a diner

After sitting empty for nearly two-and-a-half years, the historic building at 201 E. Main St. — known to most as the former Main Street Bakery — sold Wednesday to Aspen developer Mark Hunt for $5.5 million, according to records from the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

“I want to make it a super cool diner,” Hunt said of the 9,000-square-foot space. “I’m seriously excited about it.”

It will be a place that is open in the morning, throughout the day and late night.

“A place where the kids can go after their games,” Hunt said, adding it will serve as a meeting spot for tourists and locals. “I’m hoping to create a next-generation gathering place.”

“A place where you can go eat breakfast late night if you want.”

Longtime locals Bill and Jane Dinsmoor ran their popular Main Street Bakery and Cafe out of the pale pink-and-brick building from the late ’80s until October 2016.

Post-Main Street Bakery, the plan was for Aspen restaurateur David Roth and the late investor Leslie Rudd to restore the 130-year-old building and open an Oakville Grocery. Rudd’s death in May, however, stalled plans for the project. Calls to executives at Rudd’s investment company last year regarding the property were not returned.

Hunt said other people were looking at buying the property and he didn’t like the path they were heading down in terms of what their plans were with the building, so he bought it.

He said the town has lost too many gathering places, including Over Easy, which was in a building that he owned on Hopkins Avenue and sold to Hillstone Restaurant Group in May 2017 for $6 million. Over Easy left the space Oct. 31, 2017, at the request of the Hillstone chain, which also owns and operates the White House Tavern next door. The building that housed Over Easy has remained empty since.

Hunt said he has “two unbelievable operators” he is considering to run the Main Street diner.

When reached Wednesday, Roth would not say if he will be involved in the restaurant’s next phase.

“I know that Mark shares the same vision that Leslie and myself had in the structure of the building and in what to brings to the community and what it can bring to the community,” Roth said.

A major part of his and Rudd’s vision was to properly preserve the historic building, which architects later learned lacked a foundation and deemed “structurally unstable.”

An architect in the valley of more than 30 years, David Rybak told The Aspen Times in November 2017, “I’ve done a number of historic remodels and this is probably the biggest repair I’ve experienced.”

Hunt said the boarded-up building is an eyesore and isn’t doing anything for the retailers on that block so he wants to create vibrancy there.

“It’s all in the best interest to get this done as soon as possible,” Hunt said.

He said he is working with the city of Aspen to make that happen.

Amy Simon, the city’s historic preservation officer, said stabilization work for the initial project is mostly complete.

“We expect to hear from the property owner before anything proceeds again,” Simon said.

erobbie@aspentimes.com Reporter Carolyn Sackariason contributed to this story.

Aspen Club’s physical therapy division evicted

The physical-therapy division of The Aspen Club, which recently evaded foreclosure proceedings, has closed after falling behind $56,585 on its monthly rent payments.

Aspen Club Sports Medicine Institute closed Wednesday after its landlord won a default judgment in the amount of $65,532, which includes back rent, late fees, attorney fees and court costs. The judgment also allowed the landlord, Karbank 420 LLC, to evict the business located at 430 W. Main St., court records show.

“They did move out, so the sheriff isn’t going to have to throw them out,” said Aspen attorney Lance Cote, who filed the complaint in Pitkin County District on behalf of Aspen lawyer Neil Karbank, owner of the property.

Aspen Club Sports Medicine had been operating from the space on a temporary basis while its permanent home is part of the stalled redevelopment project of The Aspen Club campus at 1450 Ute Ave.

“This is worse for our patients than it is for us,” said Sarah Miller, one of three physical therapists who had worked for the group, which also included a chiropractor and clinic manager. Miller referred questions Chris Peshek, who worked for more than 25 years at Aspen Club Sports Medicine.

Neither Peshek nor Michael Fox, president of The Aspen Club, could be reached Monday.

In an affidavit to the complaint, Karbank said The Aspen Club owed rent and late fees for September through February. Karbank also provided the club a written notice Jan. 3 that it would have to vacate the property if it didn’t make good on its outstanding rent.

Cote said Karbank “was amazingly patient to let them go that long. I know that Michael keeps saying ‘we’ve got this financing coming,’ but it doesn’t seem to be happening. At least not in our case.”

Fox most recently told The Aspen Times, in an article published March 7, that The Aspen Club was on the brink being refinanced, and that “we think it’s in everyone’s best interest to close the financing and get the creditors paid off and complete the project and get the company up and running.”

The Aspen Club closed its facility, including Aspen Club Sports Medicine Institute, in February 2016. The institute relocated to Main Street and signed its original lease agreement Feb. 12, 2016, court documents show.

Members of the private club were told at the time that the closure would last eight to 10 months to allow for completion of the 554,000-square-foot expansion, which includes townhomes, timeshares and 12 multi-family affordable-housing units.

Construction, however, continued into August 2017, when subcontractors walked off the job because they were owed money for labor and materials.

The result has been millions of dollars in mechanics’ liens, a lawsuit involving dozens of contractors, and a loan-note holder’s foreclosure action that was pulled March 4. Additionally, a number of Aspen Club members no longer have reciprocal benefits at other local health clubs that they once were entitled to when construction began.