Support for retail group lags |

Support for retail group lags

Sparse attendance at Monday’s meeting of the Aspen Retail Merchants Association was enough to start rumors of apathetic local shop owners.

Just seven proprietors representing six stores came to the third meeting of the retailers association, a stark contrast with packed meetings held during the past few months.

Barry Gordon, the association’s president, said he was disappointed with the turnout.

“People were complaining that the month of November was very quiet, so perhaps they are a little discouraged at the moment,” Gordon said. “I think there is an element of apathy, but people just have to understand that these meetings are really for their own best interests.”

Gordon, owner of the Aspen Collection and a member of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors, began gathering interest in the retail association this summer. He was spurred by both slumping sales figures and empty retail spaces in town ? some of which are being filled with real estate offices.

The association’s annual membership fee is $100, and the group has about 70 members, including retailers, some restaurateurs and individuals, Gordon said. The group organized two evenings in the past few months in which shop owners keep their stores open later for post-dinner shoppers.

In addition, the group is arranging carolers, strolling Santas and free hayrides in downtown Aspen for Christmas week to boost holiday cheer.

“We, as business owners, often want to see immediate results,” said Pretzelmaker owner Frank Schiavone of the many events planned.

He added shop owners may be impatient with attending meetings to ultimately boost excitement about the local retail scene.

Gordon said he will write the association’s members a letter to rally support.

“I think it requires a letter explaining that I’m only one person, and I’m willing to put out the effort and the time but ultimately I need cooperation and support,” he said. “Unless people come to these meetings, what’s the point of doing what we’re trying to do here?”

The rows of empty chairs at the meeting notwithstanding, representatives from local businesses such as Isberian Rug Co., and Chanel brainstormed ways to raise interest for shopping in Aspen. Suggestions included running an ad in local newspapers to sending out a mailer to valley residents about the benefits of shopping in Aspen, and offering a discount.

But first, Gordon said interest in the association ? and attendance at meetings ? must rise to previous levels.

“Unless we all participate, the function of this organization is going to go by the wayside,” Gordon said. “We are thinking of some approaches for improving things, but we need a majority of people who want to do it, so they can be a part of a ‘Shop Aspen’ program.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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