Gondola car buyer hopes to turn profit
Don White had no plans at the end of 2005 to become the owner of a majority of the famous Silver Queen Gondola cars.And he still is not sure exactly what he’s going to do with his recently purchased, rather large pieces of Aspen memorabilia.But White, 51, a Michigan businessman who has been visiting Aspen for a quarter of a century, said Wednesday that he doesn’t regret his recent decision to buy more than half of the Aspen Skiing Co.’s 165 aging gondola cabins.After the ski season ends this spring, the Skico plans to replace the 18-year-old cabins with newer, roomier versions with seats that face each other rather than the old back-to-back configuration. According to the Skico, it took just 36 hours to sell all 165 of the old cabins, which cost $550 apiece.”There’s a million and one applications as to what someone might want to do with these,” White said this week.He said both the name Aspen Skiing Co. and the size of the cabins are ideally suited to … well, to something.They could be warming huts at ice skating rinks, he said, or fancy storage sheds in a backyard or on a ranch, or “they could be used as bunk beds, or as a huge piece of art.”And in the process of selling them, he said, “I think I can make a little profit. I don’t anticipate losing money. This’ll just kind of be a side thing for me, an LLC, and I did get to write off my trip. In fact, maybe I’ll have to come out a couple more times this year just to check on my investment.”White spoke Wednesday, only about an hour after he had returned to work in West Bloomfield, Mich., from an Aspen skiing trip. White is a sporting goods industry representative, meaning he contacts sporting goods merchants about carrying new products from various manufacturers.He said he was walking along Durant Avenue past the gondola plaza on Christmas Day, getting ready to do a little skiing. Stopping to take a look at the new gondola cabins on display at the Gondola Plaza, White said, he saw a sign advertising the old cars for sale.”I thought, that’s interesting,” he said, and then he went skiing.It was not until he was on the mountain, he said, that “my mind just started clicking” about uses for the old gondola cars, and about ways he might be able to make a little money with them.So, he said, he met with Aspen Mountain Manager Steve Sewell, and almost before he knew it he was the proud owner of an awful lot of steel, fiberglass and plastic.White said he was still thinking of ways to market his new assets, starting with keeping at least one for himself and passing others along as gifts to friends.”I’ve got one friend, he’s the president of a company, and he’s got everything,” White said. “He doesn’t know he’s getting a gondola car. And I’ve got some friends in the restaurant business; maybe they could be made into booths.”He said one of his first efforts will be to contact people he knows in the sporting goods business.”My idea is to contact some of the bigger sporting goods accounts that have ski departments,” he said.Having an Aspen gondola car “brings an awful lot of authenticity to your department; it brings attention to your department,” White said.He said perhaps the cars could become fitting rooms for ski boots and other gear, or simply hang in a store as a conversation piece.John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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