Council OKs expansion of Aspen Saturday Market
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Aspen Saturday Market will be allowed to expand this year, but City Council members warned Monday they’ll be watching closely to make sure the move doesn’t hurt local merchants.
The council voted 5-0 to allow the experimental expansion of the weekly event into the 200 block of South Hunter Street after voicing reservations about the idea last month. The additional space will allow perhaps 10 to 12 more arts and crafts vendors to join the dozen or so area residents who sold their wares last year – considerably fewer than the up to 40 crafts booths that were previously predicted.
This year, Aspen’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission envisions crafts vendors and Western Slope farmers sharing the block of Hopkins Avenue outside City Hall where produce has traditionally been sold, as well as the block of Hunter around the corner. Conner Memorial Park, behind City Hall, will be the site of two cooking demonstrations by local chefs, up from one on each summer Saturday last year.
“We’re not looking to add more competition. We’re looking to add more diversity,” said Andrew Kole, a CCLC member.
Last month, merchants voiced concerns about competition from crafts vendors who sell ceramics, jewelry, hats and the like, but who avoid the overhead costs associated with running a business in Aspen.
Last night, Aspen Cooking School owner Rob Seideman said the growing cooking demonstrations could compete with his business.
“I love the farmer’s market but I am concerned about the cooking demonstrations,” he said. “I have no way of knowing if it would impact our business or not, but I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.”
Seideman also voiced disappointment that neither the CCLC nor the Aspen Chamber Resort Association polled downtown business operators on their thoughts about the market expansion. Council members echoed his frustration after suggesting retailers be surveyed when they discussed the market last month.
A couple of business owners in the audience Monday, however, lauded plans to expand the market.
“The market is phenomenal,” said Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass, owner of Boogie’s Diner. “It creates a great vibe for the city of Aspen.”
“I’m all for it,” added Harvey Gilmore of Little Bear Antiques. “To make things more vibrant in this town is something we all ought to be concerned with.”
Mayor Helen Klanderud, who was leaning against the expansion last month, agreed to give it a try this summer as an experiment, but encouraged the CCLC to up the $250 fee for crafts vendors this year. “It’s way too low,” she said.
“I think we will, because we’ve heard the concerns, be watching this very closely to see how this impacts local businesses,” Klanderud said.
Councilman Tom McCabe suggested downtown businesses have a kiosk at the market on which to advertise. CCLC members told the council they’d welcome an ACRA booth at the market to promote its member businesses and Aspen as a resort.
“Please don’t let it become a flea market and please do your best to keep it unique,” urged Councilman Tim Semrau. “Don’t duplicate what’s already selling in town if you can avoid it.”
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