Marolt: What’s earned in Aspen does not stay in Aspen |

Marolt: What’s earned in Aspen does not stay in Aspen

Roger Marolt
Roger This

What’s earned in Aspen stays in Aspen. I’m not sure I buy that, figuratively speaking, of course.

In talking about the proposed ban of chain stores from our downtown with streets paved with gold, a big argument against the ubiquitous retailing behemoths being allowed here is that all of their profits sucked from our tourists is loaded up in Brinks trucks and hauled out to corporate headquarters, wherever they may be. Although I haven’t noticed Aspen suffering too much from this supposed earn-it-here-spend-it-there effect, the argument implies that profits earned by small, local, mom-and-pop stores would remain in the community and things would fiscally improve around here.

I got to thinking about this because it had been awhile since any fresh powder had fallen and because I operate a mom-and-pop-and-brother business in Aspen, and I often ask myself, “Where the heck does our profit go?” I’m fairly certain not much of it stays in Aspen.

I’ll start with the big numbers. The biggest cash outlay used to be my mortgage, but recently has become my health insurance, and, unfortunately, not because I paid my mortgage off. The cost increases over the past couple of years have been staggering, and I don’t even think staggering is covered under my plan.

Anyway, all that portion of my profits heads out to some place where I think they burn money for fun. I’m not sure where that is, but it is not the Caribou Club, so I’m pretty sure it is out of town. Anthem Blue Cross appears to be taking advantage of us as the sole provider of health insurance up here in the mountains. Nonetheless, I sincerely hope none of us ever needs to get our money’s worth from them.

As for the mortgage payment, that goes to Wells Fargo HQ back in Minneapolis, I think. I suppose that bank is a chain that yanks us, but how are you going to eliminate them from town?

Next on the budgetary list is groceries. Whether we buy them in El Jebel or Aspen, I don’t guess much of it stays in town. I suppose I could shop at Clark’s, but after they booted my teenage daughter’s car parked in their lot on a Saturday morning last May while she and a classmate headed to the library for a research project, when the store was closed for remodeling, when the lot was empty except for the boot man hiding behind some bushes, I don’t have good vibes for them. Yes, it was her fault and she takes full responsibility for her actions, but my actions will not include shopping there in the future, unless it’s an emergency, and king crab legs at $50 a pound are not an emergency.

Oh, jeeez, speaking of kids, how did I forget college tuition? Those payments go far beyond the annual profits of my local business and are automatically and electronically withdrawn to places in Texas.

Beyond that, who can keep a household running without frequent downvalley trips to Target, Wal-Mart and Home Depot? And, while we’re there, it would be foolish not to fill the tank at half price. We know the way to the outlet stores in Silverthorne. We can’t get out of Denver without a shopping stop or two. When all else fails, or if we are tired of traveling for what we need or desire, there’s always browsing the internet where our credit card number is on file with many, many click-and-order establishments. We also buy ski passes, the proceeds of which end up in Chicago.

If there is anything left after all this is taken care of, it either goes to Mexico on vacation (fun!) or New York into retirement accounts (?).

The long and short of it — and mostly short — is that we eat out a couple of times a month at local restaurants and pick up a few nuts and bolts at the Miners Building or Ace Hardware. Honestly, the girls like Lululemon, too. It really doesn’t add up to much spent locally, though.

On the other side of it, I imagine that the big wigs at headquarters of some of the large chain stores here probably come out a few times a year to check things out. I picture them flying in on private jets and staying at The Little Nell. Of course they eat out large and party larger. If they don’t bring their spouses, then they have to do some shopping to make up for it. They probably spend more locally in one day than I do in a year.

Roger Marolt thinks the local economy is designed to be supported by visitors. Email at