Rocky Mountain Chocolate shops to close |

Rocky Mountain Chocolate shops to close

Areej Delgado shows off a candy creation at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Snowmass Village.

The chief operating officer of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory said Feb. 22 that the longtime Snowmass and Aspen shops would close in March.

The landlord of the shop's Aspen location won't renew its lease to make way for a Starbucks coffee shop, Bryan Merryman of the Durango-based company said in a telephone interview.

As such, the company also will close its location in the Snowmass Village mall, Merryman said, explaining that managers from the Aspen shop have delivered Rocky Mountain Chocolate products to the Snowmass location. With the Aspen shop soon to be history, that delivery system will no longer be available, he said.

The Snowmass location opened in 1988. The two stores have a combined staff count of 14 to 16 employees, Merryman said.

"We were contacted by the landlord in a written letter that said they were regretfully not renewing our lease, and that they'd given it tremendous amount of thought and that it would be in the best interest of the Aspen community if they booted out Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and put in another Starbucks, despite the fact that we have been in Aspen since 1982," Merryman said.

The company received the letter roughly two or three weeks ago, he said.

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The Aspen location, at 401 E. Cooper Ave., is owned by Valley Investments LLC, which is tied to the M&W Properties, run by Tony Mazza and Frank Woods. An official with M&W declined to comment Thursday about Starbucks occupying the space.

"They basically kicked us out of Aspen," Merryman said. "They offered us another space in one of their locations that would cost too much for us."

Roughly 250 attendees at Thursday's Aspen Board of Realtors 2018 Annual Market Update luncheon were told of the development at the St. Regis Aspen Resort hotel, where appraiser-consultant Randy Gold broke the news during his presentation.

Aspen has been without a Starbucks location since the company closed its shop in the Gondola Plaza in late August. That Starbucks shared its space with Aspen Sports, both of which were owned and operated by Vail Resorts. A Gorsuch sports and ski retailer now operates from that spot.

Merryman said the Snowmass and Aspen locations weren't big profit-turners, but they were important to the company's big picture.

He said the company has no recourse regarding the landlord's decision.

"I'm sure it was a financial decision," he said.

Even so, Merryman said entrance of Starbucks in place of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is at odds with the "movement to go local in most communities. We really considered ourselves a local company. And we're just sorry that after a really long run in Aspen and Snowmass we weren't offered a chance to match the rent."

A publicly traded company, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has hundreds of locations throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Panama, the Philippines and South Korea. The shops are either corporate-owned or run by franchisees. The company was founded in 1981.