Aspen Emporium & Flying Circus holds grand opening
ASPEN – When Jill’s Carpets shut down earlier this year, the owners of the Main Street building received inquiries from dozens and dozens of interested parties: restaurateurs, furriers, gallerists. Many were scared away by the building’s age, its creakiness and the upkeep involved. An East Coast art dealer was interested – until the landlord began talking about snow removal and heat tape.Shae Singer and Shirley Tipton, with a combined 38 years as Aspenites, weren’t scared off by the idea of snow pile-up. And they certainly didn’t mind the funkiness of the building at 315 E. Main St. A rickety old Victorian with sloping floors and cracks in the walls was just what they had in mind for the business they envisioned.”It’s definitely an advantage,” Singer said of the building. “It adds more character.”The Aspen Emporium & Flying Circus, which has a grand-opening party all day Friday, is hardly in need of character. It is a very local, very contemporary take on the old-fashioned, small-town dry-goods store. The front room has a coffee bar, with fresh pastries available in the morning, as well as artwork, shopping bags made of recycled coffee-bag labels, organic soda pop and Basalt-made Kiridevi granola. Off to the side is fresh produce – apples, greens and root veggies from Delta County and jars of pickles, all organic. The main room runs the gamut: hula hoops, jewelry, cut flowers and natural dog biscuits that look like bakery goods. And an oxygen bar. Pass under a sign that reads “Curiouser and Curiouser,” and you find wool blankets, a fully assembled cactus garden and windchimes made from repurposed utensils. Further poking around reveals kids clothes, Aspen-centric greeting cards, chocolate truffles, ceramics, hand-blown glass jewelry and packaged soups. You also can leave the Emporium as the owner of an electric neighborhood vehicle and with your wedding plans in place. Singer operates her five-year-old Aspen Electric Cars business out of the space, and Singer and Tipton do wedding and event planning.Friday’s party will feature music, a clown, food from Back Door Catering, a demonstration for kids of how to make wallets from recycled materials, and appearances by the shop’s vendors.Singer, who formerly owned the gift-shop chain Sashae, with stores in Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs, has been dreaming of the Emporium concept for years. She wanted “an incubator space, an umbrella space for local artists and vendors, to have an opportunity to become the great business owners they deserve to be,” Singer said. “In this town, if you want to open a clothing shop, a jewelry shop, a coffee shop, it’s hard. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur here. But if you gather under one roof, that gives you a chance.”Singer and Tipton have gathered 38 vendors under the Emporium umbrella, virtually all of them local. Each sublets space, with rent calculated based on what they sell and the amount of space they use. With some vendors taking a shelf or a corner, the rents can be extremely attractive. Asha Ironwood, who sells flame-work glass vases, aspen-leaf necklaces and kaleidoscopes, uses just a few shelves on one rack.”Oh, I jumped at it. It’s an amazing opportunity to have my work here,” said Ironwood, who grew up part of the time in Aspen and now lives in Carbondale. “As an artist, Aspen’s the place to be.”Also in the shop one morning this week was Manny Diaz, the executive chef of Jimmy’s, who picked up a few bags of vegetables for the restaurant. Singer said that Pions and Syzygy are also regular customers in the produce section.Singer and Tipton believe the Emporium is a touch of old Aspen with affordable goods (the coffee, organic and locally roasted, is $2, or $1.75 after buying a refillable cup) and an atmosphere and selection that won’t be found anywhere else. “It’s an Aspen store with Aspen prices – old Aspen prices,” Singer said.Adding to the flavor are the fixtures and the attitude behind them. Nearly everything was salvaged or made of reused materials. The coffee bar is recycled steel; a display shelf came from the county landfill. The light fixtures, and Christmas decorations made of donated tennis balls, were made by Tipton.”Almost everything here has some history like that. That fits in with the ethic – upcycle, recycle,” Tipton said.The boundary between fixtures and items for purchase could be a little blurry. A light sculpture, made by Tipton out of a vent, is a little bit of both. Tipton also made a chandelier out of a bicycle wheel and mason jars.”Sure, I’ll sell it,” she firstname.lastname@example.org
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