Meredith Carroll: A farewell to Aspen’s good deals
It was easily a bucket-list moment the first time (and what was also, apparently, the second-to-last time) my byline appeared in The New York Times. It was late in 2009 when I wrote a piece for the Times’ Travel section about Aspen’s affordable side. The idea was to illustrate how it’s, indeed, possible to visit Aspen on a budget despite it being a destination renowned for mink-lined streets and private jets jockeying with snowflakes for prime position when flurrying into town.
I envisioned that some of the businesses mentioned in the piece might frame the article and hang it like a trophy in their establishments like a 12-point buck mounted over a mantel in Cracker Barrel or, more relatably, a Birkin bag tossed nonchalantly on a bench in the Arjuna yoga studio on Hopkins Avenue. And while some of them may well have, it’d be hard to know, because half of the ones I wrote about are now closed.
Little Annie’s is the latest to fall after the building’s owners wouldn’t guarantee the beloved 44-year-old establishment another full year in the space. Surely it’s not news that a reasonably priced meal is increasingly difficult to find, yet it’s not just the restaurants in Aspen that seemingly discriminate against people who are financially challenged, which is to say: those who actually work for a living.
The grocery stores also are making it harder to keep pantries stocked — or at least one of them is. While it’s lovely that Clark’s has closed its Mill Street store for a facelift to more closely resemble its freshly remodeled sister location in Snowmass, it’s doubtful a shiny new interior will do anything to help lower its already even-for-Aspen high prices (and don’t say the bottom line is the same as shopping at City Market, because it wasn’t before, so it’s tough to imagine how it could happen when Clark’s reopens).
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Over on the Hyman Avenue mall, the locally owned and operated Katherine LeGrand jewelry store, one of the few glittery boutiques in town that don’t require you to sell your firstborn to acquire their sparkly gems or repair the ones you already have, is shutting down after it saw its monthly rent increase by 50 percent. Once it moves out, it’ll open up a workshop at the Aspen Business Center and also share a retail space elsewhere downtown, even if it won’t be in one particular spot on Cooper Avenue. An available storefront there recently had its rent swell from $11,000 a month to $20,000, with an $80,000 deposit required.
As for clothes, if you’re not among the masses departing for warmer climates during the offseason, there are sales to be found where merchandise is offered for half off the original 300 percent markup, so there’s that.
There’s a smattering of places left to dine that won’t leave you high and dry until payday — just as long as you don’t mind eating takeout from the Aspen Store in your car or if al-fresco-only feasting at the Popcorn Wagon is your thing. Of course, with a 50 percent parking-fee hike on the horizon, even if you want to pop into New York Pizza or peruse the pre-owned Prada at Susie’s, you’ll have to take into consideration how much it will now run you to run into town in your car.
Hopefully an unintended consequence of the current commercial-development moratorium will be that landlords will do some soul-searching with their idle time. Certainly everyone’s entitled to make a living, and a good one, if they can. There must be a way to do it, though, that also leaves tenant and consumer wallets with some semblance of self-esteem. Otherwise there might come a time when not just the millionaires are priced out of Aspen but also the billionaires. Just because you build it (expensively) doesn’t always mean they’ll come — even if they can afford it.
If I were writing another piece about doing Aspen on a budget, well, I wouldn’t, because too much of the page would be left blank. But if it were just a little blurb, and hemorrhaging money isn’t your pastime of choice, I’d say come to Aspen if you can get one of the free 15-minute parking spots outside Taster’s and grab a slice there. Other than that, did I already mention that the gas station sells food?
More at http://www.meredithcarroll.com.
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