After 33 years in the same Galena Street location, women’s shoe shop BloomingBirds is leaving the nest and moving around the corner.
The longtime local go-to shoe boutique for locals and tourists will re-open on the 400 block of East Hopkins Avenue, in the space last occupied by WeSC. Owner Patty Patterson said they are aiming to open the new shop on Dec. 1.
BloomingBirds is among the tenants in the Ute City Bank building, where landlord Jim Cox is raising rents and forcing a turnover in tenants — including BloomingBirds and the Optical Shop of Aspen. Two shops in the building’s interior — Aspen Denim Exchange and Faboo — also are moving out this winter.
“For Cox, I don’t know what he was thinking,” Rob Snyder, the real estate broker for the new BloomingBirds space and a former manager of the Ute City building, said of the landlord’s raising rents.
Patterson said she was disappointed in leaving her shop’s home, but excited about the new space.
“I’m going to miss it because we’ve been here so long,” she said. “But right now I’m excited because [the new space] is three times the size and that’s going to be amazing.”
The rent is higher than what she currently pays, but also offers more space — 1,500 square feet versus the old space of about 600. The shop will be able to keep all of its inventory on site, rather than in the various locations it has been in recent years.
“Would it have been my choice to move now? No,” she said.
The Optical Shop of Aspen is fighting the Ute City building’s owner in court, asking for an injunction to allow it to stay. Cox’s limited liability partnership is, in turn, taking court action to evict the eyeglass retailer and move a new tenant in.
Many independent downtown retailers are struggling amid a climate of rising rents and post-recession sales, said Snyder.
Snyder said independent stores in Aspen are facing an increasingly inhospitable environment. Corporately-owned luxury outfits, he noted, can afford to pay higher rents that cut into their profits. Often that’s in the neighborhood of 30 percent of sales or higher, he said.
High-end brands may take a loss on profits, Snyder and Patterson said, in order to have a presence in Aspen.
“That’s been very difficult,” Patterson said. “It’s all these corporate chains that can pay these rents and that makes it very difficult for us.”
Independent stores that need to subsist on their sales can’t pay those rent-to-sales ratios. With retail sales still climbing out of the recession, and rents in places like the Ute City Bank building rising at a faster clip than revenues, it’s more difficult for the independents to get by. Those conditions led to Harmony Scott Jewelry Design closing its doors this fall.
“It makes it really hard for stores like BloomingBirds or Cos Bar, where they need 8 or 10 percent of sales going to rent,” Snyder added.
With more than three decades running her shop in Aspen, Patterson said the key to beating the odds and succeeding in Aspen is simply quality service and a personal touch.
“We have such a loyal clientele,” Patterson explained. “And when people come in here, they don’t feel the pressure of a hard sell. They come in and they sit on the couch and it’s enjoyable. So it’s a lot of that stuff — it’s about customer service.”