Summer business gets mixed reviews |

Summer business gets mixed reviews

Katharine Weiss
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” With the abundance of tourists in town, it certainly seems busy. But just how busy are merchants in downtown Aspen this summer? It depends who you ask.

Some retailers say their businesses aren’t performing as well as they would like them to, while others say there’s plenty of money to go around in a wealthy resort town like Aspen.

“In Aspen if somebody were to have 70 million dollars and they lost half their money they would still have 35 million dollars,” said Travis Mclain, owner of Radio snowboard and clothing store.

Bill Tomcich, president of the central reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, said this summer is performing quite well.

“Things look great, surprisingly so,” said Tomcich. “With everything you hear about in the news with rising gas prices, it is surprising. But this Fourth of July was a huge success by every possible measure.”

Tomcich said he believes that the increase in gas prices could be beneficial to Aspen tourism.

“It could be argued that the higher gas price is in our favor,” said Tomcich. “People are staying closer to home. Instead of going across the country, Colorado residents have been sticking around the state of Colorado.”

Ute Mountaineer manager Paul Perley said despite a slow start to the summer he is encouraged that sales will continue to hold strong.

“We weren’t sure how the gas thing would affect us,” Perley said. “Does it keep people from driving or does it encourage people to drive instead of fly? Are people going to make the trip out here or go to some place closer like Park City [Utah]? Are those people from Denver going to spend money on a store? But it seems pretty busy.”

Sammy Shea, Polar Revolution owner, said that while his store’s business is up overall for the offseason, it has been slower during the summer months.

“The entire offseason we have been up until this month,” said Shea. “June is a month we were just slightly down. We saved ourselves by having a stronger May than from last year.

“I know other retailers in town are down for the entire off season overall, but we did a couple of things like pull some sales that typically take place in November. And that kind of saved my offseason.”

Shea attributes any decline in business to outside factors such as Independence Pass opening late because of snow, bad weather and the economy.

“I was surprised at how slow the offseason was,” he said. “It seems to be a lot slower than normal. But I know that was a result of the weather holding on a little longer and the price of gas affecting everything else. People have been traveling a lot less and I think that has a lot to do with it.”

Beth Wright, C.B. Paws manager and buyer, claimed sales at the store have enjoyed a 20 percent increase this summer.

“We have been here for 12 years and people have always just been coming to us,” she said. “I think we just all love our pets.”

While the retail business may be wavering, restaurants seem to be holding on strong.

Sara Watkins, Boogie’s Diner manager, said that the Boogie’s retail shop has slumped a bit, but the restaurant has been doing well.

“I think people keep coming here because we are cheap and we are a good family place,” said Watkins. “We are less expensive than most other restaurants and we are able to accommodate large groups.”

Cantina manager Adam Malmgren said that while the restaurant continues to do well, he has noticed a difference in this summers crowds.

“There doesn’t seem to be as many meandering people,” he said. “We seem to be attracting people more as a destination.”

Zane’s Tavern owner Ed Zane said that he hasn’t noticed any difference this summer from previous years.

“I am not feeling the impact that everyone is talking about as far as gas prices and the recession and stuff like that,” said Zane. “I feel like town is busy. It seems like there are a lot of people around. It doesn’t seem much different from last year.”

The restaurant industry will continue to do well because tourists and residents continue to desire to eat good food, said Theresa Myller, manager of The Wild Fig.

“Retail always seems to be down a little bit,” said Myller. “But I find that people eating out gets a little bit bigger each year. People come to Aspen to have a good time. They come to do the outdoor activities. They come to the concerts and to eat, more than they come to shop.

“I think Aspen as a place to shop is not so much anymore. I think people still very much come to dine and eat great food and go to concerts.”

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