Effort to save Village Market in Snowmass goes online

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

An online petition with nearly 140 signatures and a Facebook page called “Save the Village Market” are the latest steps by valley residents to persuade Related Colorado to change its mind on plans for Snowmass Village’s grocery store.

Related Colorado, which owns the Snowmass Center that houses the grocery store, confirmed last week that it is ending Village Market’s lease in April after 35 years in Snowmass and bringing in Clark’s Market.

That set off several letters to the editor in Aspen’s papers decrying the decision and led Related Colorado head Dwayne Romero to defend the move.

In a request-for-proposals process that asked grocery companies what they would do with the space, Clark’s had more innovative ideas, Romero said Sept. 26.

Johnny Boyd, a longtime village resident, said he started the Facebook page as a place for people to voice their displeasure. The page received more than 300 “likes” within 36 hours, he said.

“I just felt like social media really works, so I thought I’d give it a shot and give people a place to vent,” he said Wednesday.

Boyd, a former Aspen Daily News columnist, said Related’s decision is typical of what’s happening in Snowmass Village: “Everything’s going corporate up here,” he said.

Village Market, along with the neighboring Sundance Liquor and Gifts and some on the Snowmass Mall, are among the few businesses doing well, Boyd said.

“After 35 years, I think people should show [Village Market] some respect,” he said.

Carbondale resident Marnie White agrees. She said she was raised in Snowmass Village, and that her parents continue to live there and shop at the grocery store.

While Village Market may be pricey, “it’s nice to be able to go get a gallon of milk,” White said. “This has a huge impact on my parents and their neighbors.”

She posted on Boyd’s Facebook page a petition that, as of Wednesday evening, had 137 online signatures.

The petition, which White said she will give to Related, says that the landlord’s decision is shortsighted.

In an interview, White said she didn’t know if her effort would change Related’s mind.

“I can only hope that they’ll listen to that many people commenting and writing letters,” she said. “All you can do is try.”

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
A customer walks down the hallway at the Snowmass Center on his way to Sundance Liquor and Gifts on Wednesday afternoon. Related officials confirmed that the proposal from Clark’s Market has the grocery store expanding into the hallway.

Boyd said he wasn’t optimistic about the online endeavors: “I seriously doubt it’s going to change anything,” he said.

A statement from Related Colorado, when it was asked about the opposition to the decision, seems to reinforce Boyd’s sentiment. The company has signed a lease with Clark’s Market, which has a store in Aspen and plans to close its Basalt location.

“It’s not always easy in a small town to have change, and I totally understand the emotion and concern of many in our community ...,” Romero said in the statement.

Related was looking to improve creativity and innovation, and went with Clark’s proposal, which offered increased services, additional products, and greater cooperation with existing tenants at the Snowmass Center, the statement says.

“We have made the decision, and we have signed a long-term lease with a local family-owned business,” Romero said. “In the end, it will be a win for the customer, a win for the employees, and this change will continue our local recovery.”

Related spokesman Steve Alldredge said Wednesday that Clark’s will expand, by 4,000 square feet, the existing store space. Development will go into the hallway villagers use between the post office and Sundance. The Joshua and Co. real estate firm will be moved farther down the hall to make way for the larger grocery store, he said.

Alldredge declined further comment on the design, saying plans are in the preliminary stage.

Village Market principal John Buxman Jr. said his company was edified by the public response to Related’s decision.

His company, like Clark’s, was also ready to expand, Buxman said.

He said he came to Related with an improvement plan that also involved Sundance and one aimed at giving better access to customers.

“We did exactly what Clark’s did and responded to the request to expand the store,” Buxman said. “We’re proud of our [proposal].”

Related’s depiction of Village Market in the proposal process “tends to paint us as incapable of creative thinking, as not being a sophisticated grocery company,” he said. “Neither of those things are true.”

Village Market remains “ready, willing and able” to serve Snowmass Village, Buxman said, though the pursuit of a new space in the town has so far been unsuccessful.