Aspen’s mayor-elect, others want more answers on Paradise Bakery getting pushed out
It won’t be until October 2021 that Paradise Bakery vacates a space it will have consumed for 40 years, but the news already has ignited a community chorus of disbelief and indignation.
“The town is in an uproar,” Terry Butler, who for 30 years has owned the Residence Hotel on Galena Street, a half-block away from what’s known as Paradise Corner, said Friday. “As I was at the hairdresser and as I was having lunch, that’s all everybody was talking about.”
Mark Patterson, who owns Paradise Bakery with his brother, Danny, said Wednesday the business must leave its premises in roughly 30 months. The reason for its departure, Patterson said, is because neighbor Loro Piana, a luxury Italian clothing boutique, plans to expand its operation into the bakery’s 1,600 square feet of space.
Landlords of the Volk Plaza building, father Andy and son Nikos Hecht, declined to extend the lease even though the Paradise owners agreed to the pay higher rent they were seeking, according to Patterson.
Patterson said he and his brother are looking at other downtown locations to reopen a Paradise Bakery after it loses its lease.
Joan Teige, the owner and founder of P.E. 101, also said her store, which has been a neighbor of Paradise for 33 years, will relocate to another spot under the direction of her daughter Teige Muhlfeld.
“They will miss their present location and the synergy created with Paradise Bakery on this corner for so many years, yet are looking forward to another generation of beautiful fashion, cherished relationships and new opportunities with this coming move,” Teige said in a statement.
Andy Hecht, name partner with the Aspen law firm Garfield & Hecht PC, communicated that he was unavailable for comment Friday, but he agreed to meet with The Aspen Times next week.
Mayor-elect Torre, who takes office next month, also said Friday he has arranged a discussion with Hecht.
“I want to get more details on this and have a conversation with him, and what he sees as a good community goal and how it works with his private business,” Torre said.
Patterson said he has paid his rent on time and has had a generally good business relationship with the Hechts, who, through the limited liability company Cooper Galena, bought Volk Plaza for $17.25 million from Richard Volk in December 2017, according to property records. The 9,700-square-foot structure, built in 1986, is located at the corner of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street, and includes a public right of way that is know as Paradise Corner.
Butler is a longtime member of the Commercial Core and Lodging Commission, a citizen advisory committee that makes recommendations regarding downtown business and vitality to Aspen City Council.
The town has been stung by the recent losses of some popular and locally owned dining establishments, Butler said, rattling off such examples as Little Annie’s Eating House, Boogie’s Diner and Main Street Bakery. The pending loss of Paradise Corner, however, cuts even deeper, she said.
“This one is the core of the community,” Butler said. “And everybody meets there. Tourists meet locals there. If there was ever a meeting place of the entire community of millionaires and billionaires meeting with the locals, this was it.
“And this has nothing to do with whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. This is about the heartbeat of the community. It has a lot to do with who we are.”
There’s not much the government can do, if anything, regarding the fate of Paradise Corner, said Butler and others.
“I’m sure there are going to be some petitions,” Butler said, noting she has known Andy Hecht for years.
“I like Andy,” she said. “He gives a lot to the community. But this is a bad decision. This deal needs to be undone.”
Ordinance 6, which Aspen City Council adapted in 2016, cannot preclude the expansion of Loro Piana into the Paradise Bakery site, which includes ground and subterranean space.
The ordinance says future stores in downtown Aspen meeting the chain criteria — 11 or more locations that share standardized merchandise, services, signs, facades and other elements — would have to undergo a conditional land-use review by the Planning and Zoning Commission, which would have the authority to allow or reject them.
Any downtown Aspen building that is torn down and replaced would be subject to the ordinance, as well as any structure that expands its net leasable space by 500 square feet or its floor area by 250 square feet.
The ordinance, however, doesn’t apply to existing buildings, such as Volk Plaza, said Jessica Garrow, head of the city’s Community Development Department. An expansion by Loro Piana, which is based in Italy and has more than 130 stores worldwide, “doesn’t trigger demolition,” Garrow said.
What’s happening at Paradise Corner, Torre said, gives rise to the need to look at the city’s development rules.
“First of all, we need to look at our land-use codes and what we’re communicating to the development community, and if it’s in the best interest of our community,” Torre said. “That’s definitely going to be happening and will be ongoing.”
City Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he was disappointed by the news.
“The disturbing thing to me is that the Pattersons offered to match the rent,” he said. “So I don’t understand that. I just fail to understand why (the landlords) would do that.”
Said Butler: “I think (Lora Piana) caught Andy at a low moment. This is a bad decision.”
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Aspen Sister Cities members dedicated a plaque in Sister Cities Plaza to Don Sheeley, who served as president of the organization from 1998 until his death in 2017.