Retail stores are taking one for the team in an effort to support the USA Pro Challenge in Aspen.
From the book store to the grocery store, the consensus among local retail businesses is that the race resulted in a drop in sales because street closures made it difficult for people to get around town. Still, the attitude remains optimistic about the overall event.
Clark’s Market and City Market saw a drop in business on Wednesday, although the grocers wouldn’t give specific numbers on how much they were down.
Tony Welgos, store manager at Clark’s, said this year’s sales were up compared to last year’s during the race, but overall they were down on Wednesday. Other Clark’s Market locations in Telluride and Crested Butte also saw a drop in sales on the days when the race went through their town, Welgos said.
Although it was a slow day in sales, hopefully the event coverage will benefit Aspen in the long run, Welgos said, adding that he loves the race.
Aspen Orthopaedic Associates was closed on Wednesday, because it was difficult for patients to get to the office. A few blocks over, the offices of Bob Bowden Properties on Main Street stayed open. Bob Bowden, owner of the real estate company, said his office employees thought they were going to get lucky and have an unobstructed view of the race from the office windows. They were surprised when the VIP tents, which have walls that enclose the area to maintain exclusivity, were posted up in front of their office, he said. The “awesome view” out of the office windows ended up being blocked by a wall of white vinyl, he said with a laugh.
Bowden said he supports the race. Still, he acknowledged that hosting it is a trade off.
“It’s a true love-hate relationship,” Bowden said.
For bikers it’s like the Super Bowl, but for locals who are trying to get to work, it can be somewhat of a nuisance, Bowden said.
“It truly does take the town,” he said.
Michael Tullio, owner of Salon Tullio, which is next door to Bowden’s offices, said his salon was completely blocked off by the VIP tent and the road closures, which surrounded the block.
Clients couldn’t get to the salon, he said. Although it generally was bad for his business on Wednesday, Tullio recognized that the race could be worth it for the city, he said.
Meanwhile, hotel occupancy in town neared 90 percent, and most restaurants saw a profitable early rush.
Finbarr’s Irish Pub had an early rush and there were lines outside eateries on restaurant row in the early afternoon. At 11 p.m. there was standing room only at the Red Onion.
Rob McClanhan, chef at Ute City Restaurant, said not only was his restaurant busy, but he and his crew had been working around the clock to feed the racers and their posse.
McClanhan has made over 1,100 meals for competitors and VIP ticket holders over the two race days, whipping up dinner and breakfast for the groups. Other restaurants including Cache Cache, Jimmy’s and the CP Restaurant Group contributed to making and delivering the meals to The Gant, the Sky Hotel, the Aspen Alps and Aspen Square.
“It’s been a total community effort,” McClanhan said of hosting the event in Aspen.
The amount of labor and food that each restaurant contributed is different, McClanhan said. For example, Ute City has put in over 250 hours of labor, while other restaurants only contributed an hour or two, he said.
How the restaurant will be rewarded or reimbursed for its effort to feed the masses is something that will hopefully be addressed in the upcoming days so that it can do the same thing next year, McClanhan said.
The race is a good thing for Aspen, McClanhan said.
“Hopefully this is staying here,” he said. “It’s something that we need to support.”