Downtown Basalt businesses unite |

Downtown Basalt businesses unite

Basalt Aimee Yllanes and her daughter Sydney shop at the Heirlooms Resale consignment store in downtown Basalt on Saturday.
Leigh Vogel/The Aspen Times |

Instead of fretting about where downtown Basalt is headed, some business operators and owners are going to try to influence where it is headed.

The Basalt Downtown Business Association was formally launched last week. It will charge a membership due of $100 initially. The town of Basalt will provide $4 for every dollar the association raises to help get the organization on its feet, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. The town funding will be capped at $50,000 for each of the next three years.

Basalt’s economy relies heavily on summer fishing and people visiting the Roaring Fork Club. It was hit hard by the recession, and downtown in particular struggled to rebound.

Downtown merchants have watched as Willits Town Center has soared since Whole Foods Market opened in August 2012. Two prominent businesses, Basalt Bike and Ski and Bristlecone Mountain Sports, relocated from downtown spots to Willits. Meanwhile, there are several vacant storefronts. One of the few new businesses to open on Midland Avenue, the town’s main street, is a Chinese massage parlor.

A handful of business operators and commercial property owners have urged the town government in recent months to do something to help them. Town officials said the businesses needed to take the lead.

Scanlon said town staff members have met with the business representatives every Monday since Sept. 5 to work on a plan.

“I described it as herding cats on fire,” he quipped.

But a cohesive plan emerged among the 12 to 15 business representatives attending the meetings, he said. The association is developing a website to promote downtown businesses, and it will expose the town to Front Range residents at a Denver ski expo where Aspen Skiing Co. will sell its Classic Pass.

Warrick Mobray, owner of Fryingpan Anglers in Basalt, was one of six business representatives who attended the council meeting and urged approval of the seed funding.

“People don’t know Basalt,” Mobray said. Some travelers feel Aspen is “out of reach” for them, he said. Basalt isn’t out of their reach, but they aren’t aware of it as an option, he added.

The association aims to change that, Mobray said while thanking the council for the funding. He noted that a thriving downtown helps the town through more sales tax revenue.

“You’re not just making a grant. You’re making an investment,” Mobray said.

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