Store selling ‘green’ products rides again in Basalt
BASALT – Basalt retailer Michelle Lowe didn’t let the Great Recession destroy her dream.
Lowe reopened her store, Corky Woods, this summer after she ran into financial difficulties and was forced to close in April 2010. In the first go-around, Corky Woods was a 3,300-square-foot “green department store” in Willits Town Center. Now it’s an 800-square-foot “cute, funky little store” in the downtown Basalt commercial core.
“It wasn’t a planned reopening,” Lowe said Wednesday. “An opportunity came up with this space that we couldn’t refuse.”
She initially wasn’t going to revive Corky Woods. She planned to open some other type of store, but she said people kept telling her they liked the old store and wished it was back.
“It’s got a life of its own,” Lowe said with a laugh.
Corky Woods will celebrate its grand opening Thursday with Heather’s, a new restaurant that opened next door on Midland Avenue, Basalt’s main street. The event from 6 to 9 p.m. will feature a mariachi band on Heather’s deck, drink specials at the restaurant and various enticements at Corky Woods.
Lowe opened her first store in late summer 2008 after years of research and a personal immersion in green products. She sold bath and beauty items, home accessories, cleaning supplies and clothing – all of them nontoxic. She bought her space at Willits Town Center when pre-recession real estate prices were in the stratosphere. When the recession swept through the Roaring Fork Valley in late 2008 and particularly in 2009, sales plummeted as shoppers became entrenched.
The recession severely depleted the value of Lowe’s commercial property. All of her revenues were dedicated to holding on to the property. She couldn’t replenish the store and expand to her full vision. Her lender wouldn’t work with her. She defaulted, and the store officially met its demise in April 2010. After 18 months of hard work, Lowe had little to show for her efforts.
Willits Town Center faced troubles of its own. A former owner lost most of the project through foreclosure. That delayed development of a Whole Foods Market – the anchor all businesses at Willits Town Center anticipated and banked on. Lowe was stuck in quiet part of Willits, away from whatever level of activity was generated before Whole Foods finally opened last month. She sees more foot traffic downtown than she ever did when she was located in Willits, she said.
Lowe remains convinced there is a niche for the type of store she wants to operate.
“If the economy had stayed, yeah, I’d probably still be there,” she said.
As it turned out, a “super good” friend got her back in business. Another friend advised her to check out the spot in a historic, 1890s building in Basalt sandwiched between the Two Rivers Building and Heather’s restaurant building. The new space is about a fourth of her space at the old store. She’s had to drastically reduce her product selection. She is focusing on products that Whole Foods and Natural Grocers in Glenwood Springs don’t offer.
She eventually wants to rebuild Corky Woods into the type of store that people associate with healthy-lifestyle products, just as many people turn to Whole Foods Market for natural and organic food. It’s a lifestyle decision that some Roaring Fork Valley residents already have made, she said, and many more will make when they are more financially fit. That’s why she is back.
“Why do you start over? You believe in it,” Lowe said.
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