New business promises books, banter for Basalt |

New business promises books, banter for Basalt

Scott CondonAspen Times Staff Writer

Midvalley residents may want to expand their reading lists and sharpen their debating skills.An independent bookstore will open in Basalt by midsummer and will provide not only a place for lovers of the written word to hang out, but also a forum for community dialogue.Town Center Booksellers aims to open in the Town Center building on Midland Avenue by July 4, according to store manager and longtime Basalt resident Fred Durham.Durham promises that the 1,800-square-foot space will provide a place packed with books, magazines, classic movies to rent and Books on Tape. Customers will be offered upscale, complimentary coffee drinks and places to hang out and read, visit and swap tales.We want to create an environment where theres an exchange on a social and political level, Durham said. I want an intellectual environmental. I want an environment that supports the schools … .I dont want the sterilness of a big corporate environment here, he said.The bookshop will be owned by Clay Bennett, who heads corporate interests that purchased the Town Center building and recently started extensive renovation, according to his attorney, Dave Myler of Aspen.Bennett is a cabin owner and member at the Roaring Fork Club. He spends a lot of time in Basalt, fell in love with its charm, and saw an opportunity to invest and start a business, Myler said. Bennetts family also has an ownership interest in the famed Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs.Hes not a rookie when it comes to high-quality development and retailing, said Myler.Bennetts contractor, Jesse Graber Construction Co., is stripping the old brick facade off the Town Center building. It will be recovered in a different style of brick and sandstone. It will also gain a distinctive clock tower on the northwestern corner.The entire ground floor will be dedicated to the bookstore. The second story will be office space.Durham, a Basalt resident for 18 years and former manager of the Maroon Creek Club and Grand Champions Club, views running the bookstore as a chance to pursue his passion. To be successful in a small market like Basalt, the bookstore will require stellar service, great ambiance, wholesale services that match Internet giant and hours that draw people in when theyre off work.Durham sees a distinct advantage of doing business in the Roaring Fork Valley. Were not competing against any big-box stores. There arent any Barnes & Noble or Borders here, he noted.The bookstore isnt the only developing situation on Basalts commercial scene. Framing is about to start on the project thats been known as The Little Snell building across Midland Avenue from Basalt Town Hall.The new building will wrap around the historic structure that used to be home of Java Joes. The first floor will have commercial uses. The second floor will have space for five offices and the top floor will have two residences, which are already reserved, according to Candace Resnick, a majority partner in the project.The roof had to be ripped off the old Java Joes building, so the coffee shop relocated to the Ute Center building. Resnick said Java Joes wont return to its old spot.The project is scheduled to be completed in the fall.Opening this spring will be a variety of businesses in the first phase of the Willits Town Center. Openings are tentative, but Alpine Bank could be in the 4,000-square-foot space it owns by April 1, according to Michael Lipkin, the managing partner of the Willits development.Morris-Fyrwald plans to open a small real estate office later in the spring. Zl, which took a spot in the bank building, is shooting for an opening in early summer.The Willits General Store and Willits Wine and Liquors, two separate establishments, are on track for a spring opening, possibly by April.My stock answer right now is well open when its finished, said Bob Hite, a longtime valley restaurateur with the largest ownership stake in the two businesses.Hite said the partners are going the extra mile with construction as its not the standard convenience store, with concrete-block walls that get painted. This is the Taj Mahal compared to that, he said.[Scott Condons e-mail address is]