Aspen’s Zele Cafe to close |

Aspen’s Zele Cafe to close

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Aspenites headed for their morning caffeine fix Tuesday morning found an unwelcome sign on the door at Zele Cafe. The popular coffee shop will close its doors next month, the note posted to the glass explained.

The coffee shop and restaurant has been a gathering spot for some 15 years at the corner of Hopkins and Galena, across the street from Aspen City Hall. Its last day of operation, Sunday, April 12, coincides with closing day of the ski season on Aspen Mountain and at Snowmass.

The establishment’s owners, Boulder-based Black Diamond Financial Group, has decided to shutter the business because the lease for Zele’s space is up for renewal, said general manager Tonya Soper.

“I know they don’t want to extend the lease with things being so uncertain,” she said.

Though the coffeehouse continues to pull in customers ” it serves both breakfast and lunch ” its numbers have been down since the national economy tanked last fall, Soper said.

“We’ve felt it,” she said.

Zele regulars, though, expressed surprise and dismay over the pending closure.

“Oh no. This is a wonderful place,” Heidi Burtscher of Old Snowmass said Tuesday as she sat down for lunch. “This is going to be kind of a big loss to the community, I think.”

Several patrons noted that the shop’s affable staff and laid-back atmosphere make it a good place for lunch meetings or to wile away an hour or two with a book and cup of coffee. During the warmer months, the tables on Zele’s sunny, outdoor patio are typically packed.

“It’s a sign of the times, unfortunately,” said Priscilla Averbuck, a part-time Aspen resident seated at Zele Tuesday. “It’s what’s going on all over.”

“I’m really sad they’re closing,” added patron Kathy Gibson of Brush Creek. “You can see everyone you know in here.”

Soper, a relative newcomer to Aspen who took over as manager at Zele last November, knows the feeling. She has made all her friends since arriving in town through her work at the coffeehouse, she said.

Zele employs about 10 people, most of them full-time.

Supervisor Sheila Hirro, who handles the register in the morning and not only knows regulars by name, but knows what they’re likely to order, will be looking for a new gig to go with her other job at a local lodge.

Aspen has other coffee shops and breakfast places to which Zele patrons can turn, but the market for job seekers isn’t an easy one, she noted.

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