Come this winter, expect to see some new faces in the Ute City Bank building.
Tenants of the building at the corner of Hyman Avenue and Galena Street, including longtime mainstay Optical Shop of Aspen, are on their way out as their landlord seeks higher rents.
“The bottom line is that the building is in flux,” said Ruth Kruger, who manages the building on Hyman Avenue for its California-based owner Jim Cox.
The Optical Shop of Aspen is expected to move elsewhere in town by the end of October. The eyeglass retailer, founded here in 1970 and expanding into luxury markets around the U.S. in the years since, failed to exercise a renewal option on its rental agreement in its longtime home.
After the renewal time had passed, the landlord informed Optical Shop last week that its current lease was no longer valid and they would have to move out this off-season or sign on at a higher, market-adjusted rate.
Commercial real estate broker Karen Setterfield is shopping for a new space for the luxury eyeglass store.
Kruger said negotiations with Bloomingbirds, the adjacent shoe and accessory store that’s been there for 30-plus years, and VonFreytag, the vintage clothing shop, are “in flux,” as they’ve been given options to stay under new lease agreements.
“I’ve been instructed to upgrade the space and make sure that the building’s tenant mix is appropriate and that the building is actually performing in its optimum mode,” she said.
Two shops in the building’s interiors that have been operating on post-recession seasonal leases will be out this winter: Aspen Denim Exchange and Faboo.
Kruger said that Cox is aiming to upgrade his tenants and end cut-rate short-term leases for the interior of the iconic building, once the home of the Ute City Bar & Grill.
“It’s been a great incubator for these businesses, and allowed those interior tenants to operate on a shoestring and make it in a very upscale building,” Kruger said. “But we can no longer sustain those under-market rents.”
Kruger said she was trying to help the tenants find affordable spaces elsewhere in town. She has the three soon-to-be-open spaces in the building listed for lease on her website, ranging from $35 to $65 per square foot as fixed minimum rent per month.
The Honey Bee Juice Bar, which operates in the lobby, will stay into the ski season, along with Burberry and Wind River Gallery, which have long-term leases.
Plans are in the works to lease the second-floor space in the building as offices and a day spa.