Nice rack: City seeks outer beauty
ASPEN Impress us.That seems to be the message Aspen’s City Council has for downtown merchants who want to display their goods outside. The council met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the issue.The problem is, what works outside one store doesn’t work outside another.The council seemed to agree that rolling racks jam packed with clothes don’t work outside most stores, nor do numerous sale signs or boxes full of clothes.”I haven’t really seen as much creativity as I would like,” said Councilman Jack Johnson.The rest of the council agreed that creative displays enhance the pedestrian experience, while clutter detracts. Displays should be representative of what the store offers, not a clearinghouse of everything inside, they said.Local merchants Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass and Mickey Alper chimed in to say how much tourists like outdoor displays and how helpful they are to a store’s sales. But the council maintained that it’s presentation, not presence that they’re targeting.None of the council members were opposed to sandwich signs, but several did object to seeing them move farther and farther into the pedestrian malls. Plastic or dry-erase sandwich board signs are already forbidden – only painted wood or chalkboards are allowed.The council liked the organized display outside the Miner’s Building on Main Street, noting that the merchandise doesn’t block pedestrian paths. Bike stores, too, escaped the council’s critical eye – as long as the bikes are neat and don’t interfere with pedestrians.Weinglass amused the council as he tried to drive home his point that he needs his outdoor racks to sell jeans.Weinglass carries 9,000 pairs of jeans in his retail store at the corner of East Cooper Street and South Hyman Avenue. Last year, he said, the retail side of Boogie’s sold roughly $8 million worth of merchandise, and the retail store and restaurant combined generated about $900,000 in sales tax revenue for the city and the state. The racks are vital to Boogie’s business, Weinglass said. Last summer, he pulled the racks inside at the city’s request, after which, he lost a half a million dollars in jeans sales.Joyce Allgaier, deputy director of community development, presented the council with one approach to governing outdoor merchandise displays. Her department is seeking direction to codify current guidelines with legislation that is “definable,” “predictable” and “interpretable” for merchants.Allgaier’s approach allows some larger items, such as bikes, lawn mowers and grills, to be set up outside, as long as they don’t interfere with pedestrian walkways. It also allows representative displays and proper sandwich signs – again, outside of pedestrian walkways.She also suggested scheduling several city-wide sidewalk sales each year to allow merchants to move overstock that’s built up through a season.The council agreed to one such sale on a trial basis this year, and if it works, Johnson said, the city can add more.The approach Allgaier outlined wouldn’t preclude Weinglass from having modest displays outside his store – on property he owns, Weinglass notes. The problem comes when other merchants demand the same treatment, even if similar displays don’t work on their property (which stores may or may not own).But how to you regulate taste?None of the council members appeared to want to over-regulate the issue, but rather to encourage merchants to be creative with the space they have. Allgaier’s outline suggested giving enforcement officers enough latitude to use their judgment in evaluating displays.”This is an issue we’re going to hear about no matter what we do, so why don’t we just do something,” Councilman Torre said, noting that the council can always make adjustments later.Allgaier will return to the council with more formal guidelines to consider adopting. In the meantime, it appears the council will support merchants who create unique displays with unique spaces. Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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