‘Paradise Corner’ in Aspen to be lost in 2021

Move over cookies and make way for cashmere.

Paradise Bakery — since 1981 a downtown gathering place for visitors, friends, families and artists, as well pets and pigeons — will vacate its spot in October 2021 because of the expansion of its neighboring tenant Loro Piana, a high-end clothing company based in Italy.

Aspen resident Mark Patterson, who co-owns the business with his brother, Danny, said the two matched the rent increase proposed by their landlords, Aspen lawyer Andy Hecht and his son Nikos, but they still must surrender the lease. Lease talks for the 9,700-square-foot Volk Plaza building ended in November, he said. Paradise has occupied roughly 1,600 square feet of that space — 600 on the ground level and 1,000 below ground, according to Patterson.

“We told them how we felt and how we felt we have made a positive contribution to the town, and why would you pick that (the expansion of Loro Piana) over this,” Patterson said Wednesday, adding that “we went through this with bewilderment and disbelief.”

Also set to relocate or close is women’s clothing store P.E. 101, which local Joan Teige founded in 1979. An upscale gelato bakery will take its place, Patterson said, adding he did not want to speculate further. A P.E. 101 employee said she expects the store to close in two years, adding “we don’t know exactly when. We are hearing so many rumors.”

Andy Hecht did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment Wednesday. An employee at Loro Piana’s Aspen store referred questions to the clothier’s corporate office, which also did not reply to a telephone message.

The Patterson brothers, meanwhile, plan to use the next two years scouting other spots downtown for a future Paradise location. Mark said he would like to see an upgrade with more space, as well as improved amenities.

“We would still like to have something old-school, with a nice look and comfortable, nothing pretentious,” he said. “We’d love to be able to preserve that.”

Indisputable, however, is that Paradise Bakery has anchored one of the choicest corners in downtown Aspen — at Galena Street and Cooper Avenue — complemented by a courtyard with outdoor benches, chamber-of-commerce views and brisk foot traffic.

Roughly 250,000 to 300,000 customers visit the bakery on an annual basis, Patterson said, adding the bakery pays about $250,000 in annual rent. The volume-driven business is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., serving muffins and other baked goods, along with ice cream, shakes, coffee and other nonalcoholic beverages. Cookies are the bakery’s top-selling item, Patterson said.

Patterson, 63, said he and his brother, 70, have been in talks with Aspen landlord and developer Mark Hunt about possible spaces to rent. A bakery with outdoor seating and located in the downtown core would be ideal, he said. Anything short of that would not suffice, he added.

Aside from being a gathering place for humans — including Aspen Music Festival & School students who perform for tips during the summer months — the bakery’s courtyard also has been a feeding ground for pigeons, sparrows and other birds that forage for muffin and cookie crumbs spilled on the ground. Customers also have delighted in feeding the fowl as well as the occasional canine visitor.

“The real Paradise Bakery success story is centered around the indelible imprint it has made with the Aspen community and beyond, an impact so great that the corner of Galena and Cooper has become an iconic, ‘must be there’ Aspen gathering place, affectionately known as ‘Paradise Corner’ to generations of locals,” reads a statement Patterson and friend R.J. Gallagher prepared for the community.

The statement added the Paradise owners “are of course very disappointed with this outcome as ‘Paradise Bakery on Paradise Corner’ has reveled in being the community meeting place for almost everything that’s happened and is happening in town.”

Patterson said he wished the landlords would have considered the positive impact Paradise has made on the community. It has supported more than 100 businesses and nonprofits that have included schools, churches, benefit events, races and other concerns. One of the bakery’s interior walls is routinely taken up by posters and advertisements promoting community events.

“They’ve never turned down anybody,” said Gallagher, who’s been friends with the Patterson brothers and the late Carter Holmes, the three of whom opened the bakery as Cookie Munchers Paradise, next to the old Sinclair gas station, on New Year’s Eve in 1981. Frequent Aspen visitor Sonny Bono served ice cream that night, Patterson recalled. The Pattersons and partner Bob Duggan originally founded the bakery in 1976 in Long Beach, California.

“The Paradise Bakery business concept is based on a simple premise, to create a business model that is respected and appreciated by their employees, their guests and anyone they were ever associated with in a professional or personal relationship, all enhanced by giving back to the community of Aspen and the greater Roaring Fork Valley,” the statement said.

The bakery has employed thousands of workers in Aspen since 1981, Patterson said, and also has participated in youth programs at the Aspen schools that give students experience in the workplace.

Work at the bakery is demanding but rewarding, Patterson said. The first workers show up at 4 in the morning to begin their baking duties. The store currently has about 20 employees; their benefits include insurance and ski passes, Patterson said.

Overall, the Paradise Bakery chain — which grew to 75 stores in 11 states — had more than 3,000 employees since 1976. The Patterson brothers sold the Paradise Bakery & Cafe Inc. chain in 2007 to Missouri-based Panera Bread Co., but they kept possession of the Aspen store.