Meyer, all-around local character, dies at age 85
Aspen Times Staff Writer
There are many ways to remember Guido Meyer, one of Aspen’s most colorful restaurateurs, magistrates, hoteliers and all-around characters, who died Saturday. He was 85.
He is probably best known as the founder of Guido’s Swiss Inn at the corner of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue. The restaurant operated at that site from 1952 to 2002. For the first two decades, it was run by Guido and his wife, Trudi, who were known to show up daily at 7 in the morning and work as late as 11 at night.
Their enterprise became one of the resort’s dining mainstays, serving authentic Swiss cuisine to generation after generation of visitors and locals.
Guido’s second-best-known position in the community was that of Aspen’s magistrate. He gained quite a bit of notoriety in the quasi-judicial role, becoming the town’s best-known hippie-hater of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Magistrate Meyer was known for coming down hard on the longhairs who violated local ordinances and clashed with the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, the renegade writer for Rolling Stone who ran for sheriff in 1970.
During an interview with The Aspen Times at the end of last year, Meyer described hippies and their housing patterns much the way he would have 30 years ago. “They were living like rats in the Independence Square Hotel,” he said, appalled with the memory.
Guido the bartender welcomed regulars and visitors to his establishment almost every night, unless of course they were hippies.
“He always had a baseball bat and a shotgun behind the bar door and a .44 in the drawer,” said Meyer’s son, Guido Meyer Jr.
Guido Jr. can’t remember a single time his father pulled out either of the guns, but he can recall a few instances when he threatened to use the baseball bat against belligerent hippies who were reluctant to leave the bar.
Guido was also one of the town’s original commercial developers. He spent $3,000 – a tidy sum, by the standards of the early 1950s – to purchase a lot sight-unseen on Cooper Avenue across from the Red Onion restaurant on the recommendation of a local real estate salesman named James E. Moore.
When he took a closer look at what he’d bought, he realized he had been had. The building was so dilapidated that it had to be torn down.
But instead of giving up on the property, Guido kept operating his first restaurant in what was then considered a very undesirable site – the current location of the Hickory House – until he saved enough money to purchase the lot next door to his run-down property and relocate.
Then there’s Guido the hotelier. Guido and Trudi ended up owning and running the Crestahaus Lodge on Aspen’s east end one year after a partner left them “stuck” with the business.
Guido and Trudi also owned a ski shop and gift shop during their careers. The ski shop, located in one of Guido’s buildings on Cooper Avenue, was eventually sold to Stefan Kaelin, who turned it into one of Aspen’s best-known ski shops.
By the end of his career, Guido also became a loud critic of the town’s growing avarice. He never hesitated to call merchants, politicians, developers and town boosters greedy and short-sighted when he thought they weren’t looking out for the best interests of the community.
Guido Meyer was born in 1916 in the Swiss town of Aarau.
He found his way to America in the mid-1940s after serving a stint during World War II as the cook for a company of American pilots. His first stop in North America was in Canada, but he quickly made his way to New York and finally to Aspen.
His first job here was at the Golden Horn restaurant, where he was both a cook and an investor. After the original venture went bust, Guido set out into business for himself, opening a restaurant in the building now occupied by the Hickory House.
Trudi, also a Swiss immigrant, showed up in Aspen around 1951 to work as a waitress at Guido’s new restaurant. By her own account, it didn’t take Guido long to express his interest.
“He was blonde, blue-eyed and he owned a restaurant – everything I didn’t want in a husband,” she said in an interview last year. Trudi says she declined his first offer of marriage in 1951, but she gave in when he asked again, and the two were married in 1952.
“He’s gentle. He’s very nice,” she said. “I couldn’t have done better. It’s worked out well.”
Guido and Trudi raised their two children, Guido Jr. and Rosie, in the apartment they built atop the longtime home of Guido’s Swiss Inn at 403 S. Galena.
As fathers go, Guido Jr. and Rosie say he was always engaged in something.
“He was tough in a lot of ways,” recalled Guido Jr. “He was always busy working in the restaurant. He was a volunteer fireman. And he was the magistrate.”
Rosie, who ran the restaurant for the past 10 or so years after taking it over from the couple who leased it for most of the 1970s and 1980s, remembers the softer side of Guido, however.
“I do have a favorite memory,” she said. “It was when he used to dress up in his polar bear outfit and go skiing on Aspen Mountain.”
Guido died at home Saturday at the age of 85 following a brief bout with cancer. He is survived by his wife and both children.
Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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