More changes in store for Popcorn Wagon, restaurant site

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Sushi is out and doughnuts will soon be in at the ever-changing Popcorn Wagon at the corner of East Hyman Avenue and South Mill Street.

Ajax Donuts, which has had a presence in the Aspen Saturday Market for the past two years, is expected to sign a lease for the space this week, according to real estate broker Angi Wang Lester, of Setterfield & Bright. On Monday evening, Ajax Donuts owner Brad Matthews, 43, confirmed his plans.

Matthews said that he and his wife, Jackie, will bring breakfast, lunch and late-night offerings to the spot, a favorite location for locals and visitors seeking quick food options. It will be closed during the evening dinner hours.

“We’re still going to call it the Popcorn Wagon,” Brad Matthews said. “I’ve lived here a very long time, and in my 20s it was where everyone went for late-night food. There aren’t a lot of late-night options in this town.”

Matthews said he’s still trying to figure out the details of his new operation. Ajax Donuts, which grew from a small catering operation, has been a hit at the farmers market, offering doughnuts, coffee and bagels with the option of items like cream cheese and smoked salmon.

He wants to be open by mid-November. His lease starts Nov. 1.

Matthews said he isn’t sure exactly what will be served to the late-night crowd, but he hinted that it will be a return to the basics.

“It needs to be food that appeals to a drunk audience,” he said, referring to the location’s proximity to many downtown bars.

In the past, the Popcorn Wagon has been affiliated with the 305 S. Mill St. restaurant space next to it. Both properties are owned by Chicago real estate investor Mark Hunt, who has gone on a downtown Aspen buying binge over the past few years.

Regal nightclub owners Scott and Carly Weber tried their concept for the restaurant space, R&R, over the summer months. Along with the lease for the restaurant space in early June, they took over the Popcorn Wagon and offered sushi from the small, quick-hit eatery.

The Webers’ lease for both spaces ends Sept. 30. Matthews said he has no idea what will be moving next door to the Popcorn Wagon. Lester said she’s not directly involved in the deal for the restaurant building.

Scott Weber could not be reached for comment Monday regarding his future plans. In an Aspen Times story published a few weeks before he opened R&R in time for the Food & Wine Classic in June, he said he was hoping to continue both operations through the winter months.

The two spots have seen a lot of changes in recent years. Above the Salt, which specialized in Italian fare, opened in 2012 after owner Craig Cordts-Pearce revamped the restaurant building’s interior and its courtyard. Cordts-Pearce also ran the adjacent Popcorn Wagon.

Before Cordts-Pearce took over the restaurant building, it housed Junk, a restaurant and bar that was operated by Scott DeGraff, who died in 2011.