Basalt’s Bristlecone on the move to Willits

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Scott Condon/The Aspen TimesBristlecone Mountain Sports manager Josh Streblow, left, and store owners Sue and Don Edmonds hold a banner announcing that the store will relocate to a 6,000-square-foot space in Willits Town Center. They will shoot to make the move by Feb. 1.

BASALT – One of Basalt’s most successful retail shops over the past 18 years is leaving its home near downtown for Willits Town Center.

Bristlecone Mountain Sports has leased prime space in the Whole Foods Market building along East Valley Road. Owners Don and Sue Edmonds leased a spot with a 6,000-square-foot footprint. The high ceiling will allow them to install a 2,000-square-foot mezzanine for offices and storage space.

The 6,000 square feet of floor space will be nearly 2,000 square feet more than they have at their current home along Emma Road in the River Park building next to the Basalt Store.

Sue Edmonds said the store has expanded four times since opening in the current space since April 1995.

“We sort of ran out of room,” she said.

They have been negotiating for a lease at Willits for several years, since Whole Foods Market first announced its intent to open a store there. The grocer’s first deal fell through when the developer ran into financial problems. Mariner Real Estate Management bought the project and sealed the deal with Whole Foods, the anchor for the 500,000-square-foot commercial and residential area. Whole Foods opened Aug. 15 and is driving business in the area as expected.

“We’ve always felt this was going to be the place with high energy and happy people,” Don Edmonds said of Willits.

Sue Edmonds said Whole Foods is a “great neighbor” and a business that pulls in people who are natural customers for the sporting-goods store.

Bristlecone sells a variety of hard goods – from alpine touring and cross-country ski gear and snowshoes to climbing and mountaineering equipment and even stand-up paddle boards. Soft goods include everything from clothing to sleeping bags. It’s got an extensive collection of maps and books.

“It’s about helping people have great adventures, hopefully safely,” Sue Edmonds said.

Bristlecone has successfully drawn people to its location, which is off the beaten path. However, the staff constantly hears from people who say they have lived in the Basalt area for a few years and were previously unaware of the store, according to manager Josh Streblow.

“Hopefully we will draw customers from up and down the valley that haven’t found us yet,” he said.

The staff won’t make the switch to the new site until after the busy holiday period is over.

“There is no way you can jeopardize Christmas season,” Don Edmonds said.

“With a little luck,” he said, the new site will open Feb. 1.

The Edmondses and their staff haven’t solidified a new floor plan yet, but they are looking forward to moving into the larger space. The high ceilings will let them showcase more of their merchandise than before.

They acknowledge that the added cost of a larger, more visible site makes the move somewhat of a risk.

“I don’t remember the last time I slept the whole night,” Sue Edmonds said.

“But pursuing dreams requires sticking your neck out,” Don Edmonds added. “It’s about the future.”

They are used to taking risks. They moved to Aspen in 1983 when Don had an opportunity in a catering business. That fell through, but Don was employed in the restaurant industry. Sue worked for Explore Booksellers and, eventually, Ute Mountaineer, Aspen’s pre-eminent outdoor shop.

“We always wanted to do something on our own,” Sue said. They took the plunge in 1995 when they started Bristlecone despite their accountant’s warning that they couldn’t drive the numbers necessary to make the store work in the midvalley location.

Eighteen years later, they’re excited about the relocation. Streblow said the success of the store starts with a knowledgeable and effective staff. There has been little employee turnover during the store’s history, and that stability shows. There are eight employees in addition to the owners. They said they might have to add staff. They also will experiment with their hours. They will remain open seven days per week.

Basalt’s only cycling shop, Basalt Bike and Ski, previously leased a site in the same building just one shop away from Bristlecone. Basalt Bike and Ski relocated from its downtown location and opened earlier this fall. The two businesses dovetail well because they focus on different merchandise, Don Edmonds said.