What to do with the Woody Creek Store? | AspenTimes.com

What to do with the Woody Creek Store?

Woody Creeker George Stranahan is trying to drum up a few new ideas to make his Woody Creek Store a viable business. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

The Woody Creek Store is wondering how it can start making some money. Until its owners figure that out, the store’s gift shop will be closed.The store, which sells some food and basic necessities alongside eclectic gifts and Hunter S. Thompson memorabilia, hasn’t been viable for years, according to its operators. Although locals and visitors seem to enjoy browsing, the venture has always been subsidized by owner and Woody Creek resident George Stranahan.”People come in and love looking around at the rustic, unusual gifts, and say that we’re wonderful, but they voted with their checkbooks,” Stranahan said.

So gift sales will end April 15. The store will still sell some food and necessities for residents; it will also take in dry cleaning and “the coffee pot will be on,” Stranahan said.But what Stranahan really wants is to know what the community would buy at the store. He hopes to reopen in early June with a new business plan in place.”We’ve thought about being a purchasing co-op, where people can join as members and buy wholesale things from us that get delivered in a truck,” Stranahan said. “And we’d like to offer meeting spaces for weddings, rehearsals, the Woody Creek Caucus and [Colorado Mountain College] classes.”The store, located just east of the Woody Creek Tavern, also features a gallery space.

“Everyone has come in wringing their hands, saying ‘How can we make this work, and keep it open?'” said store manager Ann Owsley. “It’s a great community asset, and what the Stranahans have done here is awesome. They not only subsidize the space, but put in their own sweat equity there.”Patti Stranahan had the idea for the gift shop; she also works as a clerk at the store. George Stranahan handles the accounting and bookkeeping.”One of the biggest assets for the store is George himself – he’s a mentor to so many groups in the valley that people stop by to talk to him and get his opinion on things,” she said. “So it would be in line with that to have the community use the space if we can keep this going.”Owsley said the gallery space might be used for community gatherings, meetings or classes; some sort of “wellness center” with physical therapists or chiropractors could be housed on the second floor. The store will mostly likely serve espresso drinks and some breakfast food.

“What the community has asked us for is for a better place to meet,” she said. “When Hunter killed himself, this is where people came to touch base – that’s been the function of the store. But it has to pay for itself. It’s not realistic to ask George to subsidize it.”Built in the 1940s, the log building was once the home of Lee and Virginia Jones, who bought the land in Little Texas and beneath the Woody Creek Trailer Park. They built the original Woody Creek Store, which is now the Woody Creek Tavern, as a general store and post office with gas pumps.When they retired, the Joneses sold their property to a number of investors. The Stranahans bought the lease to start the Woody Creek Tavern in 1980. They own the three business buildings in Woody Creek with Carbondale residents Shep and Mary Harris, and opened the Woody Creek Store in its current incarnation three and a half years ago.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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