High rent forces out longtime shop

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Geraniums ‘N Sunshine, a children’s clothing and toy shop in a colorful Victorian house on Main Street, may go out of business this fall.

Owner Jane Click said that after 29 years of running the store, she can no afford the rent for the quaint house at 208 E. Main and that she’d love to retire after selling the business to a new owner. She said she pays more than $5,500 a month for her space – an amount that can’t be met by selling “$40 and $50 adorable baby outfits.”

“I love this store, it’s a great store, but I’m tired of working for nothing, as a lot of stores are now,” she said.

Click calls her predicament a “typical Aspen situation”: her lease is up at the end of October, and since her rent continues to increase, she is not interested in renewing her lease at its current rate. Although she moved from her location in the commercial core five years ago to pay a lower rate, she finds herself out-priced with annual rent increases.

“I don’t want to move to downtown Basalt – this is where I live,” she said. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful town, and they talk more and more about what to do to invigorate Aspen, yet all the prices go up all the time.”

Click will turn 70 next month, and she said she’s put a lot of work into the store over the years. She has watched the Aspen marketplace lose many local retailers as corporate stores move into the commercial core, and said she does feel a huge responsibility in being one of the last of the local shops.

Unfortunately, corporate stores can afford higher rents than she can, and she refuses on principle to raise her prices to pay the rent.

“I am so tired of fighting landlords,” she said. “I want to work three to four days a week, and I think I’m entitled to that, instead of starting a new venture.”

Landlord Jake Vickery said that although he’d love to find a way to keep Geraniums ‘N Sunshine in the building, he said he things Click’s business is not doing well – not only because of rent expenses, but also because of their expenses.

“My opinion is that it’s a shortage of customers,” he said. “If you had more customers, you’d make more sales. If you had more sales, you could pay your rent.”

A number of businesses that have left the Aspen area or closed completely in recent months have blamed unsympathetic landlords who continually raise rents to levels unreasonable for local business owners. But Vickery said small businesses should come together and work on group marketing schemes with their combined resources.

“It’s easy to use the landlords as a scapegoat, especially the ones on the commercial core,” he said. “I have a lot of sympathy for all of the small entrepreneurial businesses in Aspen, and I’ve gone to several council meetings trying to get the elected officials to pay attention to the fate of the small-business community.”

Vickery said the rent for the house at 208 E. Main Street is lower than spaces in the commercial core, but he still must keep the rent high enough to pay off his loans. He said he’s “not making tons of money with this” and thinks maybe the location needs a new owner with a stronger business concept.

“This town is in a retail crisis,” he said. “The little shops don’t have the resources themselves to attack that problem alone – it has to be done on a community level. The businesses need locals to buy things and support the stores. If they don’t support the small stores, the stores will go away.”

Click said she’d love to sell her business to new owners with new ideas, including turning the store’s Web site into one where merchandise could be sold to out-of-towners who would like to buy gifts from Aspen.

“It would be really great if the store went forward with new blood,” she said. “But any potential sale I’ve had, the rents have been too high and I’ve lost the sale. I lean more and more to simply closing rather than continuing if someone doesn’t come along and take this over.”

Click said she’d happily offer potential owners a low price to buy out her inventory, fixtures she’s installed in the house, the mailing list and her fledgling Web site.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]


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