Outspoken retailer to close shop | AspenTimes.com

Outspoken retailer to close shop

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer

A local shop owned by the man who has led the charge to revitalize Aspen’s economy is the latest casualty in the resort’s retail struggles.Barry Gordon’s Aspen Collection II will close next month, a victim of high rents and tough times.Gordon, the outspoken merchant whose efforts have thrust him into the local spotlight of late, said he decided to close the doors at one of his two downtown stores after he was unable to negotiate what he considered an acceptable lease for the space.”To renew now, in light of what I consider the uncertainties of this winter . it’s a business decision,” he said. “I decided it was in my interest to let it go. When things turn around, there’s always a place to find another space.”Gordon said he opened the Aspen Collection I in the Mill Street Plaza 18 years ago. The Mill Street shop, featuring antiques and interior finishings, started with 500 square feet and expanded to its present 1,100 square feet. Five years ago, he expanded into a second shop space, located off the interior courtyard in the plaza, to accommodate his expanding array of merchandise.The lease for the second space is up at the end of September. The 1,100-square-foot space costs about $7,000 a month, plus other fees. The landlord, M&W Properties, was willing to negotiate only a small drop in the price of the space, according to Gordon.”To pay that kind of rent in these times, for a grade Z location, is absolutely not using one’s sound judgment,” he said.Instead, Gordon said he will consolidate at the Mill Street location and let one employee go – the toughest part of the decision.Aspen’s current retail climate has been a focal point for Gordon all summer long. He first made headlines when he organized weekly cooking demonstrations by top local chefs at the Aspen Saturday Market – a move he predicted would help revitalize Aspen.He then spearheaded the formation of the Aspen Retail Merchants Association, which, as its first order of business, pressed the City Council to enact emergency legislation to prohibit nonretail concerns, like real estate offices, from taking over prime retail spaces in the downtown core.Earlier this month, he convinced a number of downtown shop owners to remain open until 10 p.m. on a Friday for the first of what he hopes will be regularly scheduled shopping extravaganzas to liven up the core in the evening.Today, Gordon said he plans to present petitions to the council signed by hundreds of local residents and visitors who support his call for new zoning to keep office uses out of retail spaces. The conversion of shops to offices saps the core of vibrancy and, in turn, hurts the tourist experience, he contends.”I’m in the same boat as everybody else,” Gordon said, in reference to the retail struggle. “That’s why I fight as much as I do. I’m not an outsider looking in.”You could say it’s self-interest, but it’s everybody’s interest, as well.”The city does intend to explore new zoning for the commercial core as part of a broader package of proposed land-use code revisions that will begin the review process before the Planning and Zoning Commission in September.Gordon said he senses the council may now be willing to put the downtown zoning on a faster track than the rest of the code changes.”I think they’re willing to look at it as a separate issue,” he said. “That would be a great beginning to getting this done.”