Namesake of Boogie’s in Aspen hands over management
ASPEN – Twenty-five years ago, Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass opened a large diner in the heart of Aspen, complete with hamburgers, shakes and a lot of complaints.
The complaints weren’t about the food, service or atmosphere inside Boogie’s Diner. Instead they concerned the so-called Boogification of Aspen and how the Baltimore-raised entrepreneur was driving a stake through Aspen’s soul.
For this wasn’t just any diner, like the kind romanticized in a Norman Rockwell painting or even one you’d find in Carbondale or Glenwood Springs. The restaurant’s interior was inspired by the classic diner of the 1950s, but the outside was a towering – by Aspen standards, at least – atrium smack in the middle of town.
Now 70, Weinglass seems more amused than anything about the “Boogification” charges and how they related to runaway development in downtown Aspen.
Weinglass, the founder of the defunct Merry-Go-Round clothing retailer, has seen his diner weather several recessions since it opened in the last year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, 1987, not to mention many an Aspenite lamenting his view-blocking establishment. Many restaurants have come and gone since Boogie’s opened, from Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood to the Howling Wolf and Blue Maize, among many, many others.
Boogie’s, however, is firmly entrenched as one of Aspen’s more unassuming and family-friendly restaurants, the term “Boogification” a distant memory. It’s popular with locals and visitors, and Bill Clinton has enjoyed a cheeseburger and shake more than once at Boogie’s.
Often the charismatic owner would seat customers himself and even strike up a conversation about the latest sports events or the recent City Hall crackdown on downtown retailers’ oversized signs.
But last week, on April 23, Weinglass turned over his diner’s keys to two men and a chef he feels can usher the restaurant into a new era sans Boogie.
“I want to travel, and you can’t run a restaurant business with absentee management,” Weinglass said Monday in a telephone interview from Florida. “If you do, everything will walk away, from cash to food.”
Weinglass said none of his three children were interested in taking over the diner, located at the corner of Cooper Avenue and Hunter Street and situated above his clothing store, which, along with his other stores, he will continue to oversee. And none of his employees were management material, either, he said.
But over the winter he developed an affinity for the meals being served up at Aspen Over Easy, a breakfast spot on East Hopkins Avenue that opened in December.
“I was really impressed with the work ethic of those guys,” Weinglass said.
So, he invited them to take over the restaurant he started when he was 45.
“Boogie needed some help, and we were at the right place at the right time,” said Mladen Todorovic, who is running Boogie’s with his Over Easy partner Vladan Djordjevic.
Todorovic said any changes to Boogie’s will be subtle.
“Basically it’s still going to be a diner, still a fun place for the kids,” he said. “Just a little touch-up.”
Aside from owning Over Easy, Todorovic once worked at Syzygy and Djordjevic at the Wienerstube, which closed last year.
Boogie’s Diner will remain Boogie’s Diner, and the menu will stay true to its diner roots, according to Todorovic and Weinglass.
“They’re going to pay the bills, do their own payroll, run it as if it is their business,” Weinglass said.
He said he will wait until the end of the year to determine whether the arrangement is permanent.
“If they keep the integrity of my restaurant, I will keep them,” said Weinglass, who owns the building that houses the diner. “They have the perfect situation, and we’ll see what they do. I want Boogie’s to keep up with the competition.”
Weinglass added that the restaurant holds its own in a town known for its world-class dining.
“It’s not gourmet, but for a diner we have good food. An open-face turkey sandwich gets you three-eighths of a pound of turkey, which is pretty reasonably priced compared to any restaurant in town.
“And we’ve got the lock on making milkshakes, and we have a pretty good angus burger, too.”
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