Carbondale businesses split on development plan
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
CARBONDALE – An informal survey of 10 Main Street businesses revealed that three favor the proposed Village at Crystal River commercial center. Two of the 10 – one supporter and one opponent – would consider moving if the new development is built.
As Carbondale voters face a special Jan. 31 election over whether to uphold or overturn the town government’s approval of the project, critics charge that the project would rob downtown Carbondale of its business vitality.
On Wednesday, the Post Independent interviewed owners or managers at Fatbelly Burgers, The Pour House, San Juan Leathers, European Antiques, Main Street Spirits, The Floral Boutique, Peppino’s Pizza, Eco Goddess, The Roadside Gallery and Lulubelle.
Sidney Poncelet, owner of European Antiques, is unabashedly in support of the project, although she lives out of town and cannot vote in the election.
“I don’t think it’ll hurt the businesses of Main Street,” she said. “I see it as two separate entities.”
She described Carbondale as maintaining its historic downtown shopping district and, if the development is approved and built, a more modern mall with nearby housing at the edge of town.
But as the owner of the Main Street building housing her business, Poncelet said she would not move her store to the Village at Crystal River.
“Even if I were renting, I don’t think I’d move out there,” she said. “I’m not a mall shopper, anyway.”
Conversely, Shane Vetter, owner of Fatbelly Burgers, said he opposes the project but would consider moving his restaurant to the new development.
Vetter said his main concern is the possibility of a national fast-food chain locating at the Village at Crystal River.
“If they bring in chains, it’s going to completely destroy the little guy like me. There’s no room for us. I’d be out of business in six months,” he said.
But if the zoning and development approvals are upheld by the voters, Vetter said he would “definitely be open” to moving to the new commercial area.
“I’d like to see what their plan is,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent against these types of things.”
At The Pour House, manager Skip Bell said, “At this time, in this economy, I have to say I’m against it.” He doubted whether the commercial development would bring more people to shop in Carbondale, either at the Village at Crystal River or downtown.
“There was a time when I thought it might serve the economy,” Bell said of earlier proposals for the 24-acre site. “But I’ve changed my thinking on that. I don’t think the timing is right.”
Even if the project is approved, Bell said he would not consider moving his business there.
Rosie Wettstein, owner of Main Street Spirits, said she supports the project and would consider moving to the new development.
“Sure, why not?” she said of moving. “Then there’d be all the liquor stores in town on Highway 133.
“I do think it would be good for Carbondale, and I think it would bring more people into Carbondale,” she said. “I feel like everybody who lives in Carbondale spends their money up and down the valley.” She hopes the development would draw shoppers back to Carbondale.
Lori Haroutunian, owner of the Floral Boutique, said she is uncertain about effects the Village at Crystal River might have on downtown businesses.
She said she is skeptical about developer Rich Schierburg’s claim that the commercial area will be a magnet for shoppers from other parts of the valley.
“We, the businesses that we have now on Main Street, are the magnets,” she said.
Would she move Floral Boutique?
“No. That’s a quick no-brainer,” she said without missing a beat. “Why would a business that’s been here 18 years relocate from an historic Main Street spot?”
At Peppino’s Pizza, manager Rick Burrows said he worries how a chain restaurant at the Village at Crystal River might affect his business, which has been on Main Street for 28 years. Peppino’s wouldn’t move, he said, but he supports the proposal “if it’s done right” because the town is growing anyway.
Lisa Ruoff, owner of the Eco Goddess restaurant, said she opposes the project.
“There’s not enough commercial base to support anything like that,” she said. She also doubts projections that a new City Market would draw shoppers from other towns.
“I’m not anti-growth,” she said. “I would like to see some kind of sustainable step into the future on that site.”
But the current proposal before voters, she said, “is just old thought patterns.” It’s not a place where she would want to have her restaurant.
“I like being in downtown, I like being where people can walk here,” she said.
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