Airport vendor fights to save business
September 12, 2006
Douglas Clayton missed a deadline to renew the lease on his delicatessen at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. He lost the contract to a firm from Texas but is appealing the decision.Clayton is an 18-year resident of Pitkin County. He opened the Tailwind Deli at the Sardy Field terminal in 2001. Clayton likes his business, he says, and he has a good relationship with the county. He’d like to stay right where he is. But six months ago he missed a deadline to sign the paperwork on a new five-year lease, and the contract went up for grabs. The lease ends Oct. 14.After Clayton missed the deadline, airport officials followed the procedure for requesting proposals from the public. An independent committee of airport employees and guest service staff from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association met to select a vendor for the site.The commission met for early planning meetings to answer questions of applicants and outlined the criteria of what kind of proposal the members were looking for, then collected proposals and made a choice. The contract will go to News and Gift Shops International, a Texas corporation that now runs a gift shop in the airport.”We invested,” Clayton said. “We took a chance after 9/11 when no one was interested in airports.” Clayton is disappointed that he might lose the contract to a large company from outside the area.”This is my life and my livelihood,” Clayton said, “and it’s about to be removed.”The issue is in the hands of Hilary Fletcher Smith, the Pitkin County manager.Smith said she is taking the matter under consideration and will render a decision “within a reasonable period,” likely early next week.She said that it was possible to give a “preference” to local contractors but not “restrict” selection to local bidders.If Smith denies his proposal, Clayton can bring the matter before the Pitkin County commissioners for reconsideration. Chairman Mick Ireland said it is important for board members to remain neutral on the issue in case it comes before them in coming months.In his appeal, Clayton calls into question the board’s criteria for evaluating proposals. He asked the commissioners to consider his track record in the county, and he hopes to continue operating Tailwind Deli at the airport.”I’d like to get it back,” Clayton said. “This has taken my life by storm.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.