Carbondale lofts drawing unique shops, young entrepreneurs
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – A group of young entrepreneurs sharing a two-story mixed commercial and residential building, the Carbondale Businesses and Lofts, are hoping to achieve a synergetic magnetism to attract customers to their different shops.
The businesses include a community kitchen, a furniture shop, a store selling hand-painted wooden bowls and utensils, a property management company and a loft-studio where parachutes and harnasses are made to help skiers zoom uphill.
The entrepreneurs interviewed by the Post Independent all said they want to have a good time while pursuing their personal visions for commercial success, and they want to let the world know they are open for business.
On Feb. 1, for the second time, they will be part of the town’s First Friday celebrations, community-wide retail, gallery and musical parties that have been focused on the historic downtown area.
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“We’re just trying to bring awareness to this side of town, that there’s a vibe going on,” said Lea Tyler, owner of TylerWare, hand-painted wooden bowls and utensils for use at the table.
Tyler’s business occupies the first space encountered in the building at 1900 Delores Way.
Shelves contain dozens of bowls, rank upon rank along the walls and on floor displays.
Off to one side is a workspace where the pieces are carefully painted by Tyler or her assistant, Marithe Munoz, a native of Basalt who alternates between college semesters in Denver and working at TylerWare.
Tyler said she also sells through galleries from Colorado to Massachusetts, as well as at farmers markets in Aspen and Vail.
Her bowls, she said, come from “turners,” artisans working on wood lathes, in Colorado and Michigan.
Originally from Vermont, Tyler came to the valley for a residency at the Carbondale Clay Center and decided to stay and build her wooden bowl business, which she had already launched.
Tyler, 32, said she is one of the only renters in the building, and she hopes to buy her space some day.
This week, Tyler and three other merchants described their businesses and their visions for this rather off-center segment of the Carbondale business community.
The building is part of a larger area called Carbondale Business Park, which encompasses much of the land along the north side of Delores Way, west of Highway 82. Right in the middle of the park is Carbondale Businesses and Lofts.
“It’s the Brooklyn of Carbondale, apparently,” said Brad Nelson, 45, owner of Board By Design, a furniture shop at the other end of the building from TylerWare, which he runs with a helper, Zack Seipel, 24.
Nelson, too, sells through galleries and the Internet (boardbydesign.net and other sites).
Their building is filled with younger entrepreneurs than are typical in other parts of town, Nelson said, with more innovative businesses.
Built six years ago by another local entrepreneur, Caleb Edelman, the building was condominiumized and mostly sold off to business owners, said Nelson, who bought his space about five years ago.
Edelman is also the owner of Ecos Environmental and Disaster Restoration of Glenwood Springs and Aspen.
“When I moved in, I hoped there would be this vibe,” said Nelson, who termed the small complex of businesses “unique.” While it has taken longer than he expected, he believes the current crop of businesses will blend well together.
“We all have this great rapport,” he said.
Together, the merchants are working to engage the attention of greater Carbondale.
“I think it is better to be doing something active, rather than passive,” Nelson said. “I credit Lea and Noela for that.”
Noela Figueroa, 37, owns the Fold Community Kitchen, where the motto is “Food For Everybody.” The space she rents once held the Alpine Avocado Vinaigrette business and the EcoGoddess gourmet vegetarian cafe.
Figueroa moved in after EcoGoddess moved downtown, she said, and began preparing to offer breakfast and lunch dishes made from local produce and ingredients whenever possible, from a menu that will change daily.
She also is planning to hold community dinners twice a week, with an educational component to teach patrons about preparing locally sourced foods.
She is not yet open for retail sales, she said, as she is still awaiting a permit from the Colorado Department of Public Health.
But even without her state permit, she said, she intends to go ahead with the First Friday participation, giving food away instead of selling it.
“Food is the best advertising,” she remarked.
“Everyone in this building is really interested in keeping things local to this community, and sustainable,” she added.
She and the others got together late last year to hold two different open houses, one in late December that drew perhaps a couple hundred people, she said.
The visitors munched on food cranked out by the Fold kitchen and imbibed beverages provided by the New Belgium brewing company.
“We encouraged people to visit everyone,” Tyler said, “and it was very successful.”
“It was a very busy afternoon,” said Figueroa, getting a nod from her sous chef, Caroline Glover, 26.
Tenant Kevin Passmore, 28, builds something called the UpSki for a sport known as “wind mountaineering.”
He fashions a parachute for pulling a skier up a snow-covered slope, who can then turn around and ski down.
Passmore joined up with the two creators of the design, Phil Huff and John Stanford, while all three were attending classes at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Passmore, an engineer, had “some pretty innovative ideas” for improving the UpSki and became a partner in May 2011, setting up shop in the now-former S.A.W. (Studio for Arts and Works), 978 Euclid.
When S.A.W. closed, Passmore moved his business to Carbondale Businesses Lofts. He runs the company while his partners are engaged in other enterprises.
“It had the right size and the right price,” he said of the building, where commercial spaces are 900 to 1,000 square feet.
Passmore said the business has sold hundreds of UpSkis, which list at $2,800, most of them in Europe.
“They were into it there. Wind sports have always been more attractive in Europe than in the U.S.,” he said.
The sport is “strictly for the back country,” he said, because it requires wide stretches of snowy terrain, uncluttered by trees and shrubs.
UpSkiers can achieve speeds of 40 miles per hour or better, he said, which makes traditional ski resorts leery of allowing the sport on their slopes.
Although the UpSki takes up much of his work time, Passmore said, he also helps Nelson with projects down at the furniture shop, and Nelson will come upstairs to Passmore’s studio to work on furniture designs and take advantage of Passmore’s computer skills.
So another incentive for moving in, Passmore said, is that “I get to work with great people and the view is good,” gesturing to an expansive, unobstructed view of Mount Sopris out his front window.
“The view was really the draw that got me here,” Passmore noted. “But it’s a great place to be.”
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Aspen Skiing Co. and most of the Colorado ski industry were cruising along in a second strong season, until the coronavirus crisis forced their closure on March 14. Skier visits would typically be announced this week, but the ski industry is focused on forging ahead rather than looking back.