Vandal tags Emma Store |

Vandal tags Emma Store

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

EMMA – The historic Emma Store was hit by vandalism for the second time in recent months on Thursday night – this time in the form of spray painted graffiti.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails officials were hoping to arrange for quick removal of the paint, as well as installation of a security light to help deter others from defacing the old brick building. They also decided to offer a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Nearby, the subgrade walls of a pedestrian-bike underpass beneath Highway 82 were also extensively painted, apparently by the same person or people.

Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Benjamin said he recognized some symbols within the “tagging” on the building and said that sometimes authorities are able to use the clues within the graffiti to track down the perpetrator.

“Yes, there’s a gang-related element to it,” he said. “Whether the person who wrote it is a wannabe or a gang member is another issue.”

Four different colors of paint were used on the west wall of the store, facing downvalley. A protective plywood cover on the front of the building also received one marking.

The words “Lets Rise,” the initials BGB and the number 32 were among the markings.

In October, a poster was glued to the same face of the building. It was removed carefully. The paint is expected to prove more problematic.

The store’s faded red bricks are more than a century old and very soft, according to John Armstrong, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails ranger. Damaging them is a concern, he said, surveying the vandalism Friday morning.

The county Open Space and Trails program acquired the Emma property, just downvalley from Basalt, in 2008 and has spent more than $600,000 (including nearly $244,000 in state grant money) restoring the store, which is actually two side-by-side structures. The store had been in danger of complete collapse; the roof had already caved in before work to rebuild the crumbling walls and install a new roof.

“After the effort that went into saving the building, to turn around and find ourselves trying to defend it from graffiti is discouraging,” said Dale Will, Open Space and Trails director. “We hope we can find out who is responsible for it.”

Also on the property is a small, deteriorating brick building behind the store, slated for restoration this year, and a Victorian house, which is rented out. The painted wall on the store building is out of view from the house.

The store is a stone’s throw from the highway, however, and the west wall of the structure is in plain view of upvalley traffic, which has apparently made it an attractive canvas.

Removing the graffiti quickly is one way to avoid attracting more, according to Benjamin, though such acts of vandalism are infrequent in the area.

“We don’t see a lot of tagging in Pitkin County,” he said. “It is unusual.”

If someone is arrested for the incident, he or she would face a charge of criminal mischief – probably a misdemeanor unless the cost of removing the graffiti is high enough to bump the charge up to a felony, Benjamin said. A conviction could result in jail time or a fine.

Anyone who has information about the tagging may call the Sheriff’s Office at 920-5300, send an anonymous text to 970-309-2302 or email Benjamin at

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