Aspen retail, restaurant climate positive, observers report
ASPEN – Though another Aspen food franchise has bitten the dust, the overall retail and restaurant climate is healthier than it’s been in a few years, local business observers say.The Papa John’s pizza dine-in and delivery service in the North Mill Station commercial complex near the post office folded last month. Owner Mike Wampler, who also runs the Aspen Velo bicycle shop at the corner of North Mill and Puppy Smith streets, could not be reached for comment. A phone message at Aspen Velo states that the rental store will be closed for the winter season, with a planned reopening in late April. A source at City Hall familiar with Wampler, whose term on the city Planning and Zoning Commission recently ended, said last week that he is out of the country.When he and his business partner opened the Papa John’s franchise a little more than a year ago, Wampler told The Aspen Times he was “in it for the long haul.” However, he faced considerable competition from other established pizza-centric providers in the city, including New York Pizza, Brunelleschi’s, Taster’s and Domino’s.Jeff Watkins, whose property-maintenance company handles North Mill Station, said no business has signed for the former Papa John’s space but that there are many interested parties.”It won’t stay empty for long,” he said. The property is sandwiched between the new AT&T retail outlet and Sabra’s Deli. North Mill Station is anchored by Clark’s Market.With the demise of Papa John’s and a handful of other local retailers and restaurants over the past year, one might think that Aspen remains steeped in an economic downturn. That’s hardly the case, according to Erik Klanderud, director of member services at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, and Karen Setterfield, a commercial real estate broker.Klanderud said the chamber has added more than 100 new members so far this year. While that figure is not a record, it does represent a significant increase, he said. While some of the businesses are new, others are established companies that are rejoining or simply signing up for the first time.Setterfield said leasable space for retail and restaurant use is rapidly shrinking in Aspen. Far fewer businesses are closing compared with 2009. One trend this year is a shuffling of businesses from one spot to another in the downtown commercial core, giving new businesses a chance to move into some prime locations, she said.”We had a lot of [closings] a few years ago but not so much now,” she said. “Actually, it’s gone the other way, and we’ve had a huge amount of absorption.”Leasing rates are about the same as they were at the peak of the recession. They won’t stay low for long, Setterfield said.She said there was more retail-leasing activity in Aspen between November 2010 and October 2011 than ever before. She’s been an Aspen commercial real estate broker for more than 25 years.”The trend is extremely positive,” Setterfield said. “Pretty soon we’re going to have very few vacancies. People think, ‘I’ll just wait, and the rents will come down.’ Well, we’re beyond that now.”Setterfield said most of the new retailers she helped find properties for have signed long-term leases, bucking last year’s trend of “pop-up businesses” with short-term email@example.com
Utilizing a variety of sources – including Erik Klanderud, director of member services at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, and Karen Setterfield, a commercial real estate broker – The Aspen Times has identified several new retailers and restaurants that either have recently opened or will be opening in time for the 2011-12 winter tourist season. The newspaper does not claim that the following list is all-inclusive:• Creperie du Village: Co-owners Karin Schwendtner and Raphael Derly plan to open their concept of authentic French food and a full bar at the corner of South Mill Street and East Hopkins Avenue, below Radio Boardshop, in the first week of December.• Finnbar’s Irish Pub: Described as a bona fide sports bar with good food and several beers on tap, Finnbar’s is expected to open any day now in the old Mustang space on the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall. Owners Kelly Wyly O’Donovan and Denis O’Donovan are aiming to fill the void created by this year’s loss of two watering holes that were local favorites: Bentley’s at the Wheeler and Bad Billy’s (formerly Cooper Street Pier). “They were supposed to be open by now, but their furniture was delayed,” Setterfield said. • Crazy Shirts: This longtime T-shirt chain, with most of its stores located in Hawaii and California, is preparing to open in the Hyman Avenue mall in the historic Riede’s City Bakery building. Setterfield said the property became available when Noori’s, the longtime local rug seller, moved a few spots away in the same stretch on the south side of mall. The store will offer much more than T-shirts, Setterfield said.• Aspen Over Easy: Local restaurant veterans Mladen Todorovic and Vladan Djordjevac, both natives of Serbia, are expected to open this East Hopkins Avenue eatery in the coming weeks. It’ll be located in the spot occupied last winter by Oy Vey Cafe, beneath Aspen Brewing Co. Oy Vey Cafe, a breakfast and lunch spot with an easygoing atmosphere, closed in May after only a few months in business. Setterfield said the upstairs beer business and the street-level restaurant plan to have a synergy that the Oy Vey Cafe was unable to create.• Souchi: Specializing in dresses, cardigan and cashmere sweaters and a host of other items and accessories, this women’s clothier already has opened. It’s located in the Mill Street Plaza directly below Jimmy’s restaurant. The space was formerly occupied by Paris Underground, which moved into a larger space on Durant Avenue.• Union of Angels: A women’s clothing boutique, Union of Angels may open this week in Mill Street Plaza next door to Red Spa. • La Martina: This Argentina-based clothier, which specializes in polo-related fashions, is expected to open on South Mill Street by December. • Kathryn Penn: A jewelry store opening soon on East Cooper Avenue.• City Market Pharmacy: A drugstore opening at the corner of East Cooper Avenue and South Spring Street in the Aspen Square building, directly across from the grocery store of the same name.• Nina McLemore: A women’s boutique that targets businesswomen with fashion sense, also in the Aspen Square building. • Free People: A women’s clothier with bohemian styles that’s already open on East Hopkins Avenue near the Isis Theater.• Drasner Gallery: A contemporary art seller in the 500 block of East Hyman Avenue.It’s been widely reported that the old Bentley’s restaurant/bar space at the Wheeler Opera House will be occupied by a restaurant company called Fiercely Local LLC. The partners in that restaurant venture, Michele Kiley and Marco Cingolani, own The Cheese Shop/Specialty Foods of Aspen. Once the city of Aspen finishes its renovation of the space, Fiercely Local is expected to begin working on the finishing touches needed to open the long-anticipated eatery at the corner of South Mill Street and East Hyman Avenue.Kiley did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday.firstname.lastname@example.org
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