Aspen retail scene heats up for the summer

Desy Papper

People walk by the now officially closed Tatanka on restaurant row in downtown Aspen on Friday, April 30, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times) It appears that the effects of the pandemic have only made Aspen’s commercial real estate scene even more desirable than it has been in recent years. Downtown […]

People walk by the now officially closed Tatanka on restaurant row in downtown Aspen on Friday, April 30, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

It appears that the effects of the pandemic have only made Aspen’s commercial real estate scene even more desirable than it has been in recent years.

Downtown Aspen has one retail space available for summer occupancy, according to Angi Wang, a broker at Setterfield & Bright.

She and fellow broker Karen Setterfield said they haven’t seen this kind of demand ever.

“It’s stronger than it’s ever been, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Setterfield said. “Everyone wants Aspen. … We are out of spaces, and we have unlimited demand for retail spaces.”

They said they have been fielding several phone calls every week from prospective retailers wanting to set up shop in Aspen.

“Offers are coming in all different directions,” Setterfield said. “Spaces are getting multiple offers.”

The same goes for people interested in buying existing restaurant businesses.

There have been multiple offers lobbed at some longtime establishments but the only one that has actually transferred ownership is Pinons.

Owner Rob Mobilian confirmed last week that after operating the restaurant for 33 years in Aspen, he has sold the business to a restaurateur who owns Casa D’Angelo in Fort Lauderdale and other eateries in South Florida. He also owns a second home here.

Pinons will be transformed and reopened this June, Mobilian said, adding he met with the new owner at his restaurant in Fort Lauderdale last fall to discuss the deal.

“It has been a long a run,” Mobilian said about his tenure in Aspen’s restaurant scene.

There have been rumors and reports that other restaurants in Aspen have sold, but they haven’t, according to current owners as well as commercial real estate brokers.

The sale of Tatanka Western Bistro is pending.

The owner of the business didn’t return a phone message seeking comment.

Lex Tarumianz, a commercial broker representing landlord Andy Hecht, who owns five buildings in the downtown core, said he has put one deal together involving an existing restaurant, but he declined to identify who it is.

There’s a lot of interest in restaurant spaces as more wealthy residents permanently move here and want to invest in town.

Just as the surge in home buying happened locally last year as people fled big cities during the pandemic, the commercial market is following suit.

“There’s no doubt the commercial real estate market is trailing the residential market,” Tarumianz said. “People are paying for big leases.”

Investors are interested in existing restaurant space because the infrastructure is already in place, and it’s expensive to convert retail stores.

“Every single week I get two phone calls about restaurants,” Wang said, adding many prospective buyers are going directly to existing owners with offers. “With no vacancies and no spaces, you can sell (turnkey operations.)”

One of those is the former Maru Japanese Restaurant in the Golden Horn Building on the Mill Street Mall. Its adjoining retail space at 400 E. Cooper Ave. that was recently occupied by Basalt Bike & Ski is the only available storefront in the downtown core for the summer.

Wang said a deal is being inked with a new restaurant operator that will be taking the retail space and the Maru location in the fall. There will be a complete remodel done before it reopens next summer.

New York-based Catch Steak restaurant will open in the former Scarlett’s space on the second floor at 204 S. Galena St., plus a lower level nightclub space.

New retailers this summer include Overland Sheepskin Co. at 426 E. Hyman Ave.; an unknown luxury international retailer going into the former Theory space at 204. S. Galena; a new bike and tune shop at 112 S. Mill St.; Tecovas, a western outfitter, at 416 E. Cooper Ave.; and a new second store for MAX & Nili at 461 E. Hopkins Ave.

Relocations include Audemars Piguet watches going to 535 E. Hyman Ave.; Monkey’s of Aspen at 402 S. Hunter St.; Brunello Cucinelli is remodeling at 508 E. Cooper Ave. and temporarily located at 521 E. Hyman Ave.; iPro Center at 600 E. Main St.; and Full Circle Salon moved to 117 S. Spring St.

Retailer Res Ispa is expanding its space at 507 E. Hyman Ave., and BRIKA “The Art of The Cozy” extended to stay at 411 E. Hyman Ave.

Aspen Labs Covid Testing at 620 E. Hyman Ave. extended its lease through the summer.

Setterfield said Friday the space occupied by retailer Amen Wardy on Main Street is coming available in October.

A few art galleries are coming to Aspen this summer, and some are moving locations as part of what’s known as the “offseason shuffle.”

Almine Rech Gallery will move into the Muse building next to the Aspen Art Museum on Hyman Avenue, as will the Malin Gallery.

D.J. Watkins and his Gonzo Gallery occupied the space, but he will be moving to Cooper Avenue where a former cosmetic store was located.

White Cube Gallery is new to the scene and will be located at 228 S. Mill St. The space already is leased again for fall, according to Wang, who brokered most of deals downtown for the summer.

National retailer ARHAUS, which designs and sells home furnishings, this fall will move into the space currently held by Compass real estate at 625 E. Hyman Ave.

Setterfield said the interest from retailers and art galleries to be in Aspen is unprecedented, and is a result of Aspen’s remoteness from big cities, the demand seen in the residential market and the mix of local and national shops.

“2021 is shaping up to be Aspen’s tightest retail leasing market ever, and we are experiencing unlimited demand for prime retail spaces,” she said.

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