Alpina takes its place in the Aspen lunch landscape

Bison Burger with cheddar, arugula, tomato, and special sauce.
Alpina/Courtesy photo

When the mother-daughter duo of Candice Olson and Michaela Carpenter thought it was time to transform their five-year-old Local Coffee House, they wanted to provide something that was needed in the community. What they settled on was an elevated but accessible lunch experience with their new venture, Alpina, which officially opened on Aug. 11.

“The landscape (in Aspen) has changed over the past six years,” said Carpenter. “We are locals. We live here and operate our business here year-round. We noticed there are a few top hitters that are surefire for lunch like Meat & Cheese and White House Tavern, but other than that, there was a lot missing. And we were ready to move into another chapter.”

That chapter led them to enlist Colton Black, formerly the director of fine dining at The Little Nell, as co-creator and co-owner of the re-imagined concept.

Colton Black.
Alpina/Courtesy photo

He gained a deep knowledge of the Aspen clientele during his time at the Nell, as well as developed relationships with winemakers, spirit producers, and chefs, which he tapped into as he and Carpenter worked to bring the new vision to life.

“It’s really Michaela and Colton; they put together a terrific team,” said Olson. “He was an entrepreneur before, and he just brings such a spirit of joy, which is really what we were looking for in a partner.”

Both women credit Black for coming up with the name, with Carpenter noting that “It’s the reason we’re all here. We really wanted something that felt fresh and was an ode to the outdoors in the mountains.”

Carpenter, who was born in New York City, moved to Aspen during high school and left quickly after to attend Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She then went to Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. She said coming back to Aspen to plant roots and ultimately raise her own child here was a no-brainer.

“I was deciding between Amsterdam and Aspen, and I thought ‘Amsterdam is already cool. They don’t necessarily need me there.’ But Aspen, which is such a special place, is somewhere I can really put roots down.”

Michaela Carpenter.
Alpina/Courtesy photo

Thus, she started her journey at 614 E. Cooper Ave, first with a high-concept design boutique, which eventually became Local Coffee House with the addition of a day-time members social club Here House — and now Alpina.

The eatery still serves coffee and breakfast items in the morning but has expanded lunch offerings, with a fresh ingredient-focused healthy menu that utilizes local farms as much as possible and an accessible wine list, including non-alcoholic wines and mocktails.

Now the restaurant is open from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily and is first-come, first-served unless you are a member of Here House, in which case you can make a reservation.

Carpenter said they are looking to expand the hours during winter to 5 p.m. to include après ski offerings like happy hour, smores, and lite bites.

“There were a lot of people who were mad at us during winter (when we shut our kitchen). And to them, I would say, ‘We appreciate any grace that you can extend to a small business trying to find its way,'” she said. “We want to be a place that feels like it’s for everyone. Including locals. We’re not trying to be controversial; we’re just trying to create joy and connections.”

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