Fourth generation of Woody Creek Tavern now on tap
Local restaurateurs ‘pinching themselves’ over recent purchase
Local business owners Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce, who own four restaurants in Aspen and one in Boulder, said their newest acquisition of the Woody Creek Tavern is their most meaningful accomplishment thus far.
Just a day after taking over the operation last week, their excitement was evident.
“We are pinching ourselves that we own the Woody Creek Tavern,” Craig said. “Samantha and I are so honored to own it. I have the craziest anxiety about it, butterflies.”
For the previous owners, Laura Wren and Kevin Wilson, who had owned the tavern since 2007, it’s a bittersweet end of a life-changing experience that created a family of dedicated staff and patrons.
“(Craig) is as excited as we were, we were climbing the walls,” said Wren about when they bought the tavern from Shep and Mary Harris.
The Cordts-Pearces are the fourth owners of the legendary establishment, which may be known for its famous clientele such as journalists Hunter Thompson and Ed Bradley, or the Eagles’ Don Henley, but it started it out humbly as a community gathering place where residents could talk about the issues of the day.
Woody Creek residents George and Patti Stranahan originally established the tavern in 1980 as a place to stay connected to the community, since the general store and gas station on the property had closed.
The Cordts-Pearces, who have lived here three decades, said they understand and respect the tavern’s origins and vow to continue to protect that local flavor.
“We understand the history and keeping the integrity of the place,” said Samantha.
That was important for Wren and Wilson, as well.
“The place reflects everybody who has ever been in there,” Wren said. “We are just the custodians, and it’s hard to come by a place that is so unique, so we wanted to pass the baton and have it go to someone who understands the town, the local restaurant scene and the tavern.”
The Cordts-Pearces said they don’t plan to make many changes, and hope the staff who have been with Wren and Wilson from the beginning and even longer, stay on for the next phase of the tavern.
“We know what needs to stay and what it needs to improve,” Samantha said. “We are going to make it into the best dive bar ever.”
And now with the closure of one of Aspen’s longest running bars, The Red Onion, the locally owned legacy of the tavern is even more critical, Craig said.
“The tavern is the last local watering hole for locals,” he said.
Craig has been eyeing ownership of the tavern for several years, and said he approached Wren and Wilson a few years ago and told them that if they were ever interested in selling to reach out to him.
And with the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic, Wren said it was time for she and her partner to retire a few years early.
And that’s not to say the tavern didn’t have a successful summer, it’s just that Wren and Wilson wanted to leave on a high note and not go through what could be a gnarly winter season for restaurants with public health orders dictating capacities.
“I am so appreciative of the staff and the clientele this past summer and how eternally grateful we are,” Wren said. “We are leaving a family. … I think it’s settling in with us and every day it gets more real.”
Hopefully they’ll get over it by enjoying the activities they couldn’t as much while being restaurateurs, like hiking for Wren and competitive cycling for Wilson. When the pandemic eases up, they plan to travel more.
Meanwhile, the Cordts-Pearces are rolling up their sleeves and digging in.
“This is just a huge deal, we are so excited,” Craig said. “We are here to make it even better.”