Back in the family: Aspen’s Popcorn Wagon to reopen
The Aspen Times
The small, red popcorn stand sits still on East Hyman Avenue. All is quiet inside the nostalgic-looking wagon with the candy-striped awning, but that’s all about to change.
This weekend, on either Friday or Saturday, will be a grand re-opening of the Popcorn Wagon, and owners Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce can hardly contain their excitement.
“I grew up eating at this wagon, and so did a lot of my friends,” Craig Cordts-Pearce said. “We’re going to make the wagon what it used to be, plus a few more tweaks to make it even better. It’s going to be awesome.”
The Popcorn Wagon will be open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; the hours increase to 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Barclay Dodge, 44, grew up in Aspen and said not only did the Popcorn Wagon offer some of the best, most affordable food locally, but it was a hangout for local teenagers as well as the best late-night eatery in town.
“I miss the crepes and gyros,” Dodge said. “They were standouts.”
Most of the original menu items will continue to be available, including crepes, gyros, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs and, of course, popcorn.
New items include a Philly cheesesteak sandwich as well as four types of tacos.
“There’s so much more than popcorn available,” Cordts-Pearce said. “The wagon is basically a food truck with great food.”
Cordts-Pearce bought the wagon in 2005, when he purchased and opened the D19 restaurant (now called Above the Salt). It was a special moment for him as the Popcorn Wagon was a huge part of his life 20 years ago.
“The wagon was the place to eat after a night on the town,” Cordts-Pearce said. “It was open until 2 a.m., and on the weekends, it was packed. The food was so good. You could tell who ate at the Popcorn Wagon by all the sauce on their shirts.”
Cordts-Pearce sold the D19 restaurant and the wagon in 2006 to some associates, but he regretted that decision for several years. He would see the wagon almost every day and, as time passed, knew the wagon meant far more to him than he realized.
Between 2006 and 2012, the wagon went through several menu changes, and the hours and days of operation weren’t consistent. Cordts-Pearce didn’t like the changes and felt the culture surrounding the wagon was being lost, so last year he accepted an opportunity to reacquire the D19 restaurant space, including the wagon. His goal was to bring new life back to the wagon while making the whole eating experience even better.
In March 2012, the Popcorn Wagon reopened with familiar hours and many of the original food items from the past 30 years for sale.
Recently, the wagon was closed as Cordts-Pearce moved it around the corner so it sits in a dedicated area on East Hyman. The wagon was cleaned, and seating has been added around it. Final preparations included connecting water, gas and drainage to the wagon.
“I’m definitely going back,” Dodge said. “Especially if they reintroduce some of the old dishes.”
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Alex Rager believes that the search for affordable housing in the Roaring Fork Valley can sometimes boil down to luck and timing. “When you least expect it and when you most need it is when things happen,” she said.