Snowmass Town Council seeks input from local business owners on operating challenges

Staffing, housing cited as main challenges, but owners say more can be addressed

Taster's Owner Stacy Forster has operated the pizzeria since 2001. He said the new developments in Snowmass Village have brought more traffic to the village and allows him to stay open to serve locals and visitors year-round.
Lucy Peterson/The Aspen Times

For Taster’s owner Stacy Forster, staffing has always been a challenge as a local business in Snowmass Village. And when businesses can find staff, the lack of affordable housing tends to create a revolving door of employees.

“I mean, housing has always been a challenge,” Forster said. “There’s always been more opportunity than housing for employees and I don’t know if that will ever even out completely.”

Staffing and housing are two issues the Snowmass Village Town Council wants to address as it works toward a goal the council set in early 2023 to preserve, protect, and retain locally owned and locally serving businesses. But the Town Council also wants to hear what other challenges businesses face and how the resort town that is so reliant on tourism can maintain a vibrant local business community.

Andrew Wickes, manager of Sundance Liquor & Gifts and The Snowmass Dispensary, said while staffing and housing are ever-present issues for local business owners, the seasonality in the village hurts the local business community.

Sundance is one of a few businesses in Snowmass that stays open seven days a week year-round. 

“I think one that we don’t talk about as much is how much we sort of instigate and encourage seasonality,” Wickes said. “I think it gets a lot of people in the mood of senioritis twice a year. I don’t think it’s conducive to the community and to local businesses to always push that way.”

Sundance Liquor & Gifts stays open year-round in Snowmass Village.
Lucy Peterson/The Aspen Times

It’s hard to make money in the off seasons, Wickes said, but he said it’s important to him to stay open to serve locals and keep making money during the slower seasons. During a Town Council meeting Monday, Nov. 13, Councilwoman Susan Marolt suggested asking businesses where the town could fill in the gaps during off season, including working to get more people to Snowmass in the fall and spring.

Marolt also brought up the challenge of rising rents, especially if the town wants to redevelop the Snowmass Center or Snowmass Mall.

“I think some of my concern, when I think about if the center gets redeveloped, if the mall gets  redeveloped, those businesses and the owners then have this really more expensive space so then they charge higher rents and that might preclude businesses that earn all their money from Snowmass Village,” she said during the meeting. 

The Town Council discussed how to keep local businesses from shuttering and getting replaced by national chains or real estate offices.

Sundance Liquor & Gifts sells alcohol, gifts, and pharmacy items. It stays open year-round.
Lucy Peterson/The Aspen Times

“What are the components we’re missing and is there some kind of way to incentivize getting that kind of business to even consider the Snowmass Mall so that it doesn’t become a bunch of real estate fronts and things that don’t make that shoppable experience?” Councilwoman Britta Gustafson said during the Monday council meeting. “How to create that local opportunity for a small business owner to even come in and fill those needs is a really valuable next step to knowing what we’re missing and how we can support it.”

For Anna Todovich, who purchased GuapoDog Pet Supply in April, the biggest challenge operating her business in the mall is a disconnect between Base Village and the mall for visitors.

Especially during the off season, she finds many visitors in the village don’t know about the businesses that stay open year-round in the mall.

“Based on what I’ve heard from visitors, is there is just less overall awareness about the mall and that there is both Base Village and the Mall up top, which have different things to offer,” Todovich said.

Local business owners on the mall stick together, Todovich said, and often direct customers to one another when things are slow to help each other out.

“We kind of all watch out for each other and try to bounce that traffic around as best as we can,” she said.

Todovich said having promotion events with businesses throughout the village and more prominent signage could help the local businesses that are sometimes tucked away from the bustle of town.

These are suggestions the Town Council will seek out at a forum with local businesses Monday, Nov. 27. Council members are inviting local business owners to share their challenges to determine how the Town Council can best preserve the local character of Snowmass.

Forster, the owner of Taster’s, is able to stay open year round because of its location, he said. And because the shops around him stay open year-round, they’re able to support one another and stay afloat during the off seasons. 

“I feel like Snowmass does a pretty good job of supporting local businesses, and that starts in the community,” he said. “Town government has never really done anything in my opinion to get in the way of local businesses, and I think that construction of base village and all the new lift improvements have certainly brought more business to Snowmass Village… It’s not just more sales, it’s more traffic, it’s more of everything.”

“I’m pretty happy with where we’re at,” he added.

Taster’s is one of a few businesses in Snowmass Village that does not close for the off season.
Lucy Peterson/The Aspen Times

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