Not business as usual for restaurant and bar space in Aspen’s downtown
Another locally serving restaurant, Aspen Pie Shop, plans to close its doors and other closures are looming
The restaurant and bar scene at the highest profile corner in downtown Aspen is about to change as several places are closing and being replaced with newcomers.
The one exception is the Wild Fig, which is vacating its location of 19 years at 315 E. Hyman Ave. and moving next door to what was Nakazawa Aspen and now Ginjoo Ramen and Sushi on the Mill Street pedestrian mall.
Samantha Cordts-Pearce, who owns Wild Fig with her husband, Craig, confirmed last week that they are taking over the Mill Street spot this spring and will renovate it before moving the restaurant.
Ryan Chadwick, owner of the pop-up ramen and sushi restaurant, who has occupied the space for six years with other concepts including the Grey Lady and Mr. Grey, said he operated on a six-month lease basis with landlord Mark Hunt.
Chadwick’s Aspen Pie Shop next door opened in the summer of 2020 and is operating on a month-to-month lease with Hunt.
Chadwick said he isn’t sure when the pie shop, which offers some of the last inexpensive meals in town, will close but it’s nearly certain as he was informed that another tenant will be taking the space.
“They told me a new tenant has been signed and we have to vacate so they can renovate,” he said. “We are losing these local spots, and it sucks to see that happen.”
Hunt said he could not confirm the new tenant, other than to say it will be a drinking establishment.
Chadwick said he plans to close the ramen and sushi restaurant next door to Aspen Pie Shop on March 19.
He will start a new sushi endeavor in the Aspen Mountain Residences, formerly the Hyatt, with partners Marble Distillery, which has a tasting room on the property. Taikun Sushi is planned to be open by The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, which takes place June 17-19.
Cordts-Pearce said after Gideon Kaufman, owner of the Hyman Avenue building that houses the Wild Fig, sold to Hunt, she and Craig lost their lease and decided to continue in the larger space occupied by Chadwick.
“We didn’t want another local restaurant to disappear,” Samantha Cordts-Pearce said.
It will be the third time the Cordts-Pearces have occupied that space — first it was D-19, then Above the Salt.
They also will take over the Popcorn Wagon for the third time, although they don’t know what the concept will be yet.
“We have not penned a menu yet,” she said, adding it will be sometime later this summer that the Wild Fig will move to its new location.
Meanwhile, below the Wild Fig in the Wheeler Square building, Mary Lynn Casper is winding down operations of her family’s four haunts that have been there for 30 years: Su Casa, Aspen Billiards, Cigar Bar and Eric’s Bar.
Known as the “Compound,” the last night for the restaurant and bars is April 16, Casper said Friday.
Hunt bought most of the building from Casper for $10.6 million in 2020 and acquired the rest from Kaufman for $7.4 million.
Casper said when Hunt bought the building, it was her intent to continue operating the businesses for another four or five years but was notified by Hunt in November that he was exercising an option in the lease and wasn’t renewing it.
“We are very sad. We love our customers, and people are pretty sad we are going,” Casper said, adding she has had no communication with Hunt.
Casper said the 50 people employed by the businesses, many of whom have been there for 25 years, will receive generous bonuses when their jobs are gone next month.
Hunt’s newest tenant, the Gravity Haus, will take over the building and fill it with multiple concepts, billing itself as “a social club that enables a modern active lifestyle — the seamless merging of work, play and outdoor adventures.”
With locations already in Breckenridge, Winter Park and Vail, the company also is expanding into Truckee, California, near Lake Tahoe.
Hunt told The Aspen Times last month that as a landlord, he has not evicted any tenant. Rather, the owners of the buildings who have sold to him elected to do so and subsequently close their businesses.
“It’s a beautiful local story: (The Caspers) put their blood, sweat and tears in that business,” Hunt said. “If the Caspers wanted to stay, they shouldn’t have sold the building. I’d love to sell my house and continue to live in it, but I can’t seem to figure that out.”
Hunt said other businesses in buildings he owns have elected to close of their own volition, except for Ryno’s Pub and Pizzeria, which went into the former Bidwell building for an initial six months and stayed for six years before the structure was demolished to make way for RH gallery.