Scottie’s restaurant sells but will remain in Basalt
Scott Wirkler no longer cares what you eat.
It’s nothing personal. He’s just hanging up his apron and putting away his spatula Friday after selling his Basalt breakfast and sandwich shop called Scottie’s to Sherman Workman.
Wirkler’s empire once included shops in Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Basalt. He developed an incredible knack for matching people with their tendencies in ordering food. Miss a few months as a customer and he’d still remember you liked half an Italian sub on whole wheat — with lettuce, cheese, tomato and easy on the mayo. Wirkler knows his customers’ eccentricities, such as a breakfast sandwich loaded with avocado or barbecue chips only on Wednesdays.
He is soft-spoken behind the lunch counter but always warm with a greeting and smile. He makes time to chat for a second, even when busy.
Wirkler has been feeding people in the Roaring Fork Valley for 28 years. He purchased the In and Out restaurant in Aspen in August 1987 and continued the success of that 150-square-foot dynamo space until selling it in 2000. It’s now the home of Grateful Deli.
He opened a space in Basalt in 1989 as a place to bake bread, but added a small sandwich shop up front when customers kept dropping by looking for take-out food.
He added Glenwood Springs to the mix in 1994, but sold the shop there five years later because of the hectic pace of running three establishments spread the length of the valley.
For the past 15 years, Basalt has been his focus. Along with friendly service, Scottie’s owed its success to a simple strategy: offer good, consistent food at a reasonable price. He relied on take-out food rather than sit-down dining.
He’s also relied primarily on word of mouth for business. Scottie’s attracts a blue-collar crowd in Basalt, though office workers are always welcome. The recession hit his customers hard, as reflected in his 30 percent decline in business in 2009. It’s been steadily rebuilding and last year bounced back nicely. It’s a fitting time to sell.
“Basically my body was telling me I needed to do something with a slower pace,” Wirkler said. He worked from about 4:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. after factoring in morning prep work and afternoon bank runs and other errands. The restaurant hours are 6 a.m. until mid-afternoon, Monday through Friday.
Wirkler estimated he goes through 250 eggs per morning and sends roughly 100 lunches out the door. Multiply that by five days per week, 52 weeks per year for 28 years and it becomes clear why he was ready for a change.
Naturally, it’s the people he has befriended that he will miss the most about leaving the business.
“My clientele has become my friends. It’s almost like ‘Cheers’ has changed a little bit,” he said, referring to the legendary TV bar where everyone knows your name.
A chance encounter between the wives of Wirkler and Workman led to the sale. Workman operates Windy City Eats food booth at the Aspen Saturday Market, Jazz Aspen Snowmass and other major events. The business was going good so he was looking into a modest expansion into an established eatery.
Sandy Wirkler, Scott’s wife, was in line at the Windy City Eats booth at the 2014 Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience when she started chatting with Workman’s wife. During that conversation they exchanged information that Sherman was looking to buy and Scott was looking to sell. The seeds proved fruitful.
Workman said it’s reassuring to take over an established business. That’s why he’s keeping the name the same. Maintaining the hours from Monday through Friday will allow him to keep running the food booth on weekends.
Workman said his goal is to maintain Wirkler’s tradition of offering good food in a friendly atmosphere.
Wirkler will be behind the counter at Scottie’s for just two more days, ending on Friday. It’s an odd thought, he acknowledged, after running the restaurants for 28 years.
In the short term he plans to golf, pursue his real estate license and golf some more. He aims to get into real estate sales and property management — and finally get out from behind the counter.
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