Aspenite plans to bring discount store to town |

Aspenite plans to bring discount store to town

Naomi Havlen
Paul Hoeper plans to open MTN Discount in the building behind him on Mill Street across from the Aspen Art Museum. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox

If he’s lucky, Paul Hoeper may soon become a local hero.Aspen residents have long complained about not being able to buy affordable socks and underwear – among other household necessities – in their own town. But Hoeper has plans for a discount store, which might mean locals won’t need to drive downvalley to Wal-Mart or even Carbondale for goods.Hoeper, an Aspen resident, has turned in a conditional-use permit request to the city of Aspen to open MTN Discount (that’s a tentative name) on Mill Street. He’s a relative newcomer to Aspen, but two years ago when he lived in town for seven months, he got tired of going downvalley to buy pairs of socks.”I’m used to living in a city where you can go to Ross or Marshall’s or someplace like that for housewares at a decent discount,” he said. “Up here, there’s nothing like that.”

The space he has his sights on is at 557 N. Mill St. in the Roaring Fork Venture Building. It’s the basement space in the white building that used to be the Matterhorn Bakery, just down Mill Street from Puppy Smith Street, across from the art museum.It’s 2,800 square feet, although Hoeper said he may be able to expand the store to 3,500 square feet if he agrees to lease some adjacent office space in the fall.He said ideally affordable rent and good relationships with his suppliers will allow him to keep the store thriving.Hoeper’s business plan involves purchasing goods from companies that buy up large amounts of merchandise from stores that are moving or closing. These companies are able to give Hoeper steep discounts on large amounts of products, and he can pass those discounts on to locals who need things like pots and pans, bath towels, cosmetics, diapers and even small appliances.”We will carry a number of dollar store items – things that you would normally pay $3 to $5 at Clark’s,” he said. “Anything from kitchen utensils to candles.”

Hoeper, 35, is the manager of the Artisan restaurant at the Stonebridge Inn in Snowmass Village. He’s been in and out of the restaurant industry for 20 years, he said, and until 1997 he worked as a money manager in Newport Beach, Calif.”I’ve been an entrepreneur several times,” he said. “I’ve passed this idea by some people, and pretty much everyone said, ‘I would go there to get something.’ People say Aspen needs an outlet store.”Because the area is zoned service/commercial/industrial (SCI), a zone where retail space is limited to 25 percent of the floor area, Hoeper must receive a conditional-use permit from the city before he can open his shop, said Joyce Allgaier, Aspen’s deputy director of community development.Allgaier said the application for the store says the shop will cater to residents, providing savings on consumer goods upvalley and in Aspen to capture the “leakage that tends to go places like Wal-Mart and to downvalley department stores.”

The SCI zone has always been “sacredly zoned property” in Aspen, Allgaier said, because that type of land is important to people living here. Car repair shops, dry cleaning establishments, locksmiths and animal groomers are all located on land with this “service” designation.Hoeper’s store idea will appear before the Aspen Planning & Zoning Commission on June 7 to see if the commission agrees that his discount store has some service elements that benefit the community.”My plan is basically supplying a need that is there,” he said.Hoeper is interested in hearing from the community and said anyone who wants to give him feedback about the store can e-mail him at Havlen’s e-mail address is

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