Guest editorial: A missed chance to look into Aspen’s retail future |

Guest editorial: A missed chance to look into Aspen’s retail future

For inexplicable reasons, holding a yellowing real estate broker’s license guarantees that I will be copied on all kinds of strange letters between landlords, tenants, and property managers.

I found the following one interesting. I don’t want to embarrass anyone so I’ve changed the names to protect me.

Dear Landlord:

Enclosed are pictures of your unit which is currently being rented short term by Crystal’s Balls, the local psychic. Many of your fellow owners are disappointed by this rental. There were complaints by businesses in the building too.

Everyone feels that this is not appropriate for valuable real estate and diminishes the integrity of the building. The window treatments are especially contentious.

Mr. R.O. Gant owns 50 percent of the Hearth of Hell building and has owned and rented commercial units all over the country for over 50 years. He says it’s always a mistake to rent on a short-term basis. The visual effect without a rental sign gives the impression it’s already rented, and one often loses the potential of a good long-term tenant.

I felt that this should be passed along to you. Call if you have any questions.


M.A. Raisin

General Manager

Well, since I was only cc:’d on the letter, it’s probably not appropriate for me to respond. But if it was addressed to me, the first thing I would tell Mr. Raisin is I’m sorry that his job includes being a scribe for lazy people who can’t help telling everyone else what to do.

The very next thing I would do is check to see if Crystal was actually violating any of the building’s rules. My guess is that she was not, since there are no legal threats in the letter.

Then I would remind Mr. R.O. Gant that he is not the only one around here who owns property “all over the country.” Aspen, Colorado, is probably not the best place to get a little full of yourself and go around looking to kick some assets.

I would mention my opposing views on the uses of “such valuable real estate.” I personally don’t see much value in using buildings to hold nothing but dark, stagnant air. I can’t see that empty storefronts are good for “other businesses in the building” or the town for that matter.

I like it that “the visual effect gives the impression that the space is already rented.” I think that if we have too many vacant spaces with “For Rent” signs hanging conspicuously in the windows customers, visitors, and potential tenants alike might get a bad case of the willies here.

I believe that renting to a business like Crystal’s sends a loud message that there are owners willing to make deals rather than sitting around on their over-stuffed duffs dreaming about the next national chain store coming to town.

I might even point out that any “diminishment in the integrity of the rest of the building” may be due to the fact that the thing looks like a giant 1970’s Woolworth’s cafeteria.

I wonder if brushed aluminum is making a comeback in other places “all over the country.” Remember, for commercial real estate it’s all about location, location, modernization.

Finally, it seems everybody else in town is trying to find ways to make the town vital and fun. People are even saying we need to be funky again.

At the Hearth of Hell they wouldn’t know funky if it were growing between their toes. These are the same people who, a few years back, tried to ensure that in Aspen there is no such thing as free concerts.

Apparently we’ve decided that we don’t particularly need another Gucci or timeshare sales office. Well, what else then? Crystal’s might not be the answer, but why not give her a shot just to see? What’s your suggestion Mr. R. O. Gant?

Use that “50 years of experience” for something other than busting Crystal’s Balls. Let our visitors decide what is appropriate. All we can do is put it out there and see if they like it. I think it’s encouraging that some people are trying different ideas.

Sadly, if you want to go over and check out Crystal’s, you’re too late. She’s moved out and some more available space has moved in.

It’s too bad. I was hoping to have a look into Crystal’s Balls to see what the future of Aspen’s retail sector might look like. I thought that I might even see a little bit of the old Aspen there, too.

Roger Marolt is a lifetime resident of Aspen.

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