Amid vacancies, two big openings in Basalt |

Amid vacancies, two big openings in Basalt

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – The recession is reflected in numerous vacancies in Basalt’s commercial cores but there are also economic successes like the opening of a large retail shop and preparations by a well-known restaurant to come to town.The Kitchen Collage opened in the Willits Town Center on July 1. Partners Kathy Rohlwing and Amy McDonnell leased a 3,700-square-foot space in the new development for their colorful store.In downtown Basalt, Butch Darden, owner of the well-regarded Butch’s Lobster Bar in Snowmass Village, is preparing to open a restaurant in the Midland Avenue space vacated last month by El Horizonte. Darden said the Basalt restaurant will be like the one that he has operated in Snowmass since winter 1992, but will also offer lunch.”Starting a place in Basalt is something I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of years,” Darden said. “An opportunity came up.”He will also remain in Snowmass Village. Butch’s has operated a lobster shack in Basalt on Fridays and Saturdays during recent summers. Its popularity helped convince him that a restaurant could be successful in Basalt. He hopes to open July 15 or 16.”I’m hoping it will be the Woody Creek Tavern of Basalt – that kind of atmosphere,” Darden said.Rohlwing said her new store has been embraced by Roaring Fork Valley residents this week. The store offered specials throughout its opening week to build awareness and generate traffic. The owners are veterans of mountain resort retailing. They also own and operate a larger kitchen shop in the Eagle Valley town of Edwards.Rohlwing said she was confident enough to open a store during a recession because she feels demand exists in the Roaring Fork Valley. Kitchen Collage will differentiate itself from kitchen stores in Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs, she said.”We’re probably the largest kitchen store in the valley,” she said. “We cater to cooking and entertaining needs.”The store features everything from dinner ware, bar ware, kitchen gadgets, and pots and pans to linens, greeting cards and gourmet foods – a vast variety of goods. “We don’t sell clothes or shoes,” Rohlwing said.Rohlwing said the prices will be competitive, even with a national chain like Bed, Bath and Beyond. She said prices cannot be high simply because a store is located in a mountain resort.”What this is all about is a feel-good store,” she added. “No one comes in grumpy and no one leaves grumpy.”Despite the high-profile openings of Kitchen Collage and, soon, Butch’s, Basalt also has a fair share of commercial vacancies. There are at least five vacant shop spaces in the downtown core, excluding the space that Butch’s is remodeling. Two vacancies exist in the Riverside Plaza building along Two Rivers Road. Two other spaces are available on the east end of Midland Avenue in the Riverwalk Building.”I would say it’s a tenant’s market. There is really no other way to describe it,” said Chris Flynn of Aspen Associates Realty Group. He has the listing on a 967-square-foot space in the Riverwalk building. The owner has offered free base rent since spring for the remainder of 2009 in an effort to entice a tenant. A tenant would have to pay triple net expenses, which come to about $1,200 per month. The space is also for sale.Flynn said there has been some interest among prospective renters, but no lease is in the works. Interest has picked up recently as entrepreneurs investigate their options, he said.One high-profile vacancy is the old post office space on Midland Avenue, most recently occupied by Mason & Morse Real Estate. The firm vacated the space and is trying to sublease it. The price was reduced from $35 to $18 per square foot.”I’m pretty confident we’re going to get it rented at that aggressive price,” said Jim Cardamone, the listing broker from Mason & Morse.The vacancy rate is a cause for concern among the town’s elected officials. “We in old town Basalt have a bunch of empty store fronts right now,” Basalt Councilman Chris Seldin said at a recent public meeting.Vacancies dot the other end of Basalt as well. Kitchen Collage is one of the few businesses located in the new Market Street Lofts building in Basalt. Thousands of square feet of commercial space sits empty on the first floor of that building.A prime spot remains unoccupied in the Orchard Plaza complex even though it is located next to City Market. The spot vacated by Capitol Deli in the Movieland section of Orchard Plaza also remains

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