Valley businesses seeking buyers
August 19, 2007
ASPEN After 12 years running and seven years owning Aspen Potters, 231 E. Main St., owner Gail Price is selling the business. Its not advertised on a real estate website or in the paper; she merely posted a note on the door that says the business is for sale. There are at least a dozen businesses for sale in the upper valley, from the Ben & Jerrys franchise on the Aspen mall to the Basalt Wienerstube to Bar Aspen. Prices are nothing like other real estate in the valley because the land isnt included, its just the business. When you buy a business, its blue-sky value, thats something you cant quantify, said Bob Langley, owner and president of RAL Real Estate. Whats the reputation? How long have they been here? Its very difficult to sell a business. Price said the asking price for her business with 600 square feet of retail space and a $2,500-a-month rent is $85,000. Very little of that is actual hardware; Price is taking her kilns, wheel and clay with her when the store sells. Restaurants, on the other hand, often get sold with all of the amenities a full kitchen, ovens, a liquor license that can drive the price up. Though often, the stoves, pots and pans sell for more than if they were purchased new from a warehouse in Denver. The difficulty that can come with selling a reputation is that the reputation is most often built on a single person. As Price put it, when you have your own business, its 24/7. For Kevin Willson, its that commitment to the business that has made him decide to put the Basalt Wienerstube on the market. Wilson recently bought the Woody Creek Tavern and also owns the Aspen Wienerstube. He said three restaurants is one too many. Were doing breakfast and lunch at the Wienerstube in Aspen, then were moving down to the tavern in the evening, Willson said. Obviously we cant do two breakfast places at one time. Its a little bit too much, you dont want to spread yourself too thin. He said the $150,000 price tag for the Basalt restaurant is reasonable, that the business makes a profit and that he would like to keep it. However, the personal nature of the restaurant business makes it impossible for him to keep going with it. The truth is, its more for the customers than us, Willson said. Any business or restaurant you have under operation, people need to see your face there. When advertising a business, both Willson and Price said some people ask if they are going out of business. Its an assumption that keeps many business sales behind closed doors. People like to keep their business dealings private, said Ruth Kruger of Kruger and Co. They dont want to scare off their employees. They dont want customers and clients to wonder what is going on with their businesses. Kruger currently lists half a dozen businesses for sale and said she has about half a dozen more that do not want to be advertised. Among her offerings are a $150,000 day spa and $ 219,000 restaurant. When those sales close, they are not required to be publicly listed, like when land is sold. So businesses often change hands without the scrutiny of the public eye. People are always wanting to sell their businesses, Kruger said. People have changes in their lifestyles and so forth. They want to retire, they want to move or have a change in lifestyle. Many of the reasons are the same reasons people decide to leave the valley or change occupations after a long tenure at a job. In Prices case, she found that she wanted to own a house with more space than a single-bedroom apartment. She said the business brings in more than enough for a comfortable lifestyle and while she has worked long hours, the business has never struggled for money or been in danger of failure. The money is good but after a while youre looking for a change, Price said. My chances of owning a house in Aspen, unless Ed McMahon shows up at my door, are slim to zero.