Aspen slows for offseason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – It’s not difficult for an Aspenite to get a table at a favorite restaurant, even without a reservation, these days – assuming the restaurant is actually open.
The resort is once again firmly gripped in offseason – that lull between the closing of the ski areas and the rush of summer. It’s when the private jets all but disappear from the airport, locals head for the beach or disappear to the desert, restaurants and hotels lock their doors, and downtown parking spaces materialize like dandelions there for the picking.
For businesses that do stay open, many opt for shorter hours or open fewer days a week. Others stick it out for most of offseason but close up shop for a week or two. Some, including Local Spirits, remain open seven days a week.
“I think as a retailer, it’s quite important to remain open with regular hours so that the customer knows that Local Spirits is open as usual,” said Scott MacCracken, manager of the liquor store.
Around the corner at Galena and Hopkins, Peach’s Corner Cafe is open six days a week, and business remains steady, said managing partner David Roth.
“What offseason?” he quipped. “It doesn’t seem to change. We’re fortunate we have a great local following.”
Business does actually slow down at the cafe – sometimes, there’s no line for coffee – but closing down isn’t an option, Roth said.
“People depend on us. It’s our job,” he said. “If we were to close, I’d hear about it.”
The Big Wrap, a hot spot for lunch, could do sufficient business on weekdays to justify staying open through the offseason, but it will close down later this week for three weeks.
“I’m closing because everyone needs a break,” owner Babs Menendez said.
Annette’s Mountain Bake Shop, a relative newcomer to the scene, will close for the first week in May but operate as usual for the rest of the spring season, even though business has slowed.
“You know, you plug along. There are people in town. They’re hungry. They come around,” co-owner Annette Docimo said.
Retail store Jetset, however, will close for the month of May after staying open throughout the spring last year.
“It was so painfully slow, we decided to make the choice so we can all go away,” sales assistant Johnny Fray said.
For businesses that remain open, some cite the desire to keep their staffs gainfully employed, while others use the slowdown to tackle a “deep cleaning” or take care of other duties that slide during the busy months.
The staff at Pismo Fine Art Glass finds time to research new artists for the gallery, refresh the inventory and work with homeowners who prefer the offseason to ready their residences for summertime, according to director Caroline Harris.
“We get a lot done during the offseason, so it’s worth it,” she said.
At the Annabelle Inn on Main Street, taking reservations for the busy months means staying open to pick up the phone, innkeeper Charlie Case said.
“If we want to sell rooms, we’ve got to be here to do it,” he said.
And the lodge continues to book some of its 35 rooms throughout the quiet seven weeks or so before June brings an uptick in activity.
“Rare is the night we have 10 rooms (booked), but also rare is the night when we only have two,” he said. “Somebody’s got to stay open. It might as well be me.”
The Innsbruck Inn on Main Street remains open, as well. As a fractional property, it has no choice. It has owners who have the ability to use their fractional share for a spring stay in Aspen even though they often don’t, said Rick Moore, general manager.
But the Innsbruck is one of the first lodging options a visitor will pass driving into town, and the establishment books its rooms to walk-in traffic, he said.
Of Aspen’s big three luxury hotels, two are currently closed – the Hotel Jerome and The Little Nell – but the St. Regis Resort is staying open throughout the spring.
May is the single slowest month of the year for retail sales, including lodging and restaurant receipts, in the city of Aspen, according to data tallied by the city Finance Department. Last year, April was the second-slowest month, followed by October.
For bike-shop owner Charlie Tarver, however, the end of ski season means it’s time to get busy at the Hub of Aspen.
It would make more sense for his store to close in January and February than in April and May, he said.
“We’re busier every month from January to August,” he said.
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