Sidewalk store |

Sidewalk store

Willoughby collectionSome abandoned Aspen houses burst with belongings as late as the 1950s, when Fritz Kaeser photographed this bedroom.

Like many Aspen children filling up the lazy days of summer, I entertained myself with entrepreneurial pursuits. Ten-year-olds have limited capital, but a lemonade stand was possible with a little motherly help. Hot summer days were perfect for business. They also caused me to drink the product. I was out of business before Little League practice started.

Sidewalk stands attracted the residents who walked by. Most children managed to attract a few sympathetic neighbors who were willing to part with a quarter to encourage young capitalists. Customers dwindled at about the same rate as the eagerness of children to sit in the sun.

My sidewalk stores were different because I lived in the Cowenhoven building. I set up my card tables on the Galena Street sidewalk, a prime retail location past which nearly every downtown tourist walked or drove. Before long, I discovered wares more profitable than lemonade.

I collected rocks, mostly calcite crystals. What’s more, our backyard shed sequestered boxes of shiny silver. I had an endless supply. At first I advertised my stand with a sign (probably misspelling “museum”) and charged people to view the collection. It never occurred to me that someone could walk by, slowly gazing at my museum, without paying admission.

Nevertheless, once I attracted customers, they asked to buy my specimens. Next, I separated my “collection” into two sections: those I was willing to part with, and those I couldn’t easily replace. The money began rolling in.

My older sister and her friends were savvier merchandisers. They realized that tourists loved Victorian antiques. Aspen’s abandoned houses were stocked with piles of what to us was junk. Aspen’s visitors viewed the same objects as charming antiques. We had the perfect business. All we had to do was cart the stuff home, set it up on our card tables, then welcome the profits. Tourists were elated because, being kids, we priced our products in children’s currency. Fifty cents could buy a bag of penny candy; a dollar was more than enough for an ice cream cone at the White Kitchen.

I have scant memory of what items we sold, except for a pair of ice skates. To us, they were “old fashioned,” something we valued little because we would not have used them. I remember they brought in the most money, from a satisfied customer for sure.

When I was a little older, I partnered with Peter Feinsinger in making and selling Christmas tree ornaments. We collected large pine cones from the trees upstream from the Ute Cemetery. Using silver and gold paint, and clear shellac, we spray-painted the cones. We sprinkled glitter on some. We applied a wire hook for hanging and sold them from the Galena Street sidewalk stand. They sold out quickly. It was a tidy profit because Peter’s mother paid for the paint. We used volumes of paint on each cone, with our overeager painting technique. The cost of the paint probably exceeded the total in the till, but it represented tuition in Life University.

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