Woody Creek Store red tagged by county | AspenTimes.com
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Woody Creek Store red tagged by county

John Colson
Woody Creek Store patrons, from left, Beach, Jan Schoeberlein and Kevin Doyle talk with store manager Ann Owsley about the future of the combination art gallery, knickknack shop, breakfast nook and community meeting room. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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If you want to go shopping at the Woody Creek Store, you’d better do it before May 27.

That’s when the store, located next to the Woody Creek Tavern on Upper River Road, will close for an indefinite period thanks to a “red tag” by the Pitkin County building department.In March, when store manager Ann Owsley applied for a building permit to expand the store’s food preparation capabilities, the building department unexpectedly discovered the building had never been formally authorized for commercial use. It was still listed as a residence in county records, dating back to the time when it was home to managers of the Woody Creek Trailer Park.The red tag will force the May 27 closure. The upstairs businesses will remain open “by appointment,” Owsley said.But fear not – like the fabled phoenix, the store is expected to rise again. Owsley hopes it will be with a firmer base of community support, a broader array of offerings and a somewhat spruced-up building to house it all.”It’s really nobody’s fault,” she said, adding, “These are all issues of public safety. This is not out of line.”The store, which is a combination art gallery, knickknack shop, breakfast nook and community meeting room, already has a new identity as the Woody Creek Community Center Inc., a tax-exempt nonprofit. The change from a for-profit store to a nonprofit community center began in February, Owsley said, after she and others agreed that the store was nowhere near achieving financial stability as a business.

The store has been in operation for a little more than five years. Philanthropist George Stranahan said he took it over in 2001, in the wake of the departure of the David Floria Gallery. Patti Stranahan, George’s wife, operated the store for several years before Owsley took it on. It has undergone various operational transformations in an effort to make it profitable.”The trouble was, it was never financially viable,” Owsley said.Stranahan recently agreed to allow the store to remain in the space rent-free as long as it remains a nonprofit community center. It now offers its central seating space for community meetings, and rents upstairs office space to The Woody Creeker magazine editor Anita Thompson and to physical therapist Peg O’Brien and her associate, therapist and sweat lodge proprietor Branden Cohen.Owsley said the changes to the building must include reinforcement of the floor joists on the main floor to permit more seating; installation of Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant entrances, exits and a bathroom; emergency exits from the basement to accommodate baking and cooking operation below the store’s main floor; and upgrades to the building’s electrical system; among others.She is already working with architect Joede Schoeberlein on renovation plans to satisfy the county.

“The biggest issue for us is, can we raise the money to fund all this?” Owsley said, explaining that since the imminent closure came to light last week she has received numerous offers for in-kind donations in terms of labor and materials. She said the exact amount necessary to keep the store in operation is unknown but estimated it is in “the tens of thousands of dollars.””I’d say we’ll be closed until the end of July” if all goes well with fundraising to pay for the improvements, she guessed.Anyone interested in making donations to the Woody Creek Community Center Inc. can contact Owsley at 922-2342 at the store, or send them to the Woody Creek Community Center Inc., PO Box 4, Woody Creek, CO 81656.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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