Ute Mountaineer expanding upward | AspenTimes.com

Ute Mountaineer expanding upward

There may be a lot of empty retail space around town because of an economic downturn, but at the Ute Mountaineer things are moving up, literally.

The staff of the sports outfitter at 308 South Mill Street on the pedestrian mall is working with sawdust and noise while waiting for an upstairs expansion to be completed. As soon as June 23, customers may walk up a central staircase to reach the store’s new second floor.

“This opportunity was something we haven’t had before, but we’ve always felt cramped in our current space,” said Brian After, manager of the Ute Mountaineer.

The store is expanding into the upstairs space recently occupied by Galerie du Bois, which closed earlier this year. The additional estimated 1,300 square feet comes with a staircase leading to the Hyman Avenue mall, and a row of north-facing windows.

Among other things, the store expects to move rental services, the book department and possibly women’s clothing to the top floor. A couch next to the windows will give visitors a chance to take time perusing the books, After said.

Two good retail seasons in a row have allowed the business to expand, After said, even when other businesses in town may have lost business after Sept. 11. Owner Bob Wade opened the Ute Mountaineer in April of 1977, and recently celebrated 25 years in business.

“I think outdoor sports are just becoming more and more popular,” After said. “And Bob has a theory that when things go bad, people turn to sports. That might have something to do with it, because although we did have a rough period after 9-11, lately we’ve done really well.”

Although After said the staff has felt fortunate to do well in a cramped store, he said he hopes customers will be able to find things easier in a new, larger store with more space for displays.

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