Merchants to spread holiday cheer |

Merchants to spread holiday cheer

Local retailers are infusing Aspen with the Christmas spirit this weekend in the hopes that yuletide cheer will put residents and visitors into a shopping mood.

On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, carolers will cruise the downtown commercial core, Santa Clauses will stroll though the mall, and free hayrides will tote families through the local winter wonderland.

It’s charm coordinated by the Aspen Retail Merchants Association – merchants who will keep their storefronts open later than usual on the three nights.

The carolers and Santas are all donating their time to making Aspen’s streets full of holiday cheer, and T-Lazy-7 Ranch is donating the hayrides around town.

Although the initial plan for the weekend before Christmas initially included reindeer and roasting chestnuts, Barry Gordon, president of the retailers association, said the other features will still help convince visitors that Aspen can provide a picture-perfect holiday vacation.

“Tourists should have an experience that is unique so that they’ll go back home and tell all their friends and neighbors how wonderful it was in Aspen with hayrides and Santas, and how it was just like a Currier and Ives photo,” Gordon said. “That’s how we build tourism.”

Bookings for the next two weeks are strong, according to local lodges and travel agents, and Gordon and other retailers hope holiday sales will reflect the strong numbers.

“I think it’s a great idea, and obviously the snow helps more than anything because it gets everyone in a festive spirit,” said Rick Schultz, co-owner of Stars Memorabilia on Cooper Avenue. “People come here for the charm of Aspen, otherwise they’d stay home in New Jersey or wherever. I think the word is ‘charm’ – it brings out the emotions of what Christmas is, and what it was when we were young.”

Schultz already keeps Stars open later on weekend nights, when he says he benefits from the business of after-dinner strollers. The Aspen Retail Merchants Association has held two previous nights when they’ve stayed open later than usual, and found the venture to be successful.

“We’re doing this for the town, and we’re all in this together,” Schultz said. “Normally when we’re open until 9 or 10 p.m. on weekends, most of our block is shut down, and people don’t walk down the street when they see stores that aren’t open. But just having your door open is enough to make people want to come in and look around.

“It’ll be nice to have other stores open for business later than usual this weekend.”

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