Mel B

It’s only a few weeks into the quiet season and already some bad dudes have raised the noise level and ire of lots of people in and out of the valley.

At the top of the list is the gut punch delivered by local real estate moguls (some would say pariahs) Andy and Nikos Hecht, who notified the owners of the local franchise of Paradise Bakery that their lease will be terminated in October 2021 after 40 years in the same location. It’s not because of any bad behavior or failure to agree to pay premium market-rate rent, but in order to facilitate the expansion of Loro Piana, a very high-end neighboring purveyor of Italian designer wares.

The Paradise ownership team offered to pay increased rent, but the Hechts never afforded them the opportunity to negotiate a lease extension.

To just about every local and visitor who’s weighed in so far, Paradise is a hell of a lot more than just a bakery. Over its long tenure as the centerpiece of what’s become known as Paradise Corner, the location has morphed into an iconic community-gathering spot where people of all walks and stages of life congregate as equals and relish the unique experience of that interaction, while enjoying all the delights served at Paradise.

During its long history at this location, Paradise has attracted like a magnet thousands of people, including multiple generations of families, who return each season for its delights, as well as the social interaction with other community members, visitors, and old and new friends.

From the volume of letters and comments already printed in the local press, the disbelief and outrage resulting from the Hechts’ decision is not likely to fade away anytime soon. Many in the community are still outraged and angered by several of the Hechts’ other questionable real estate and development transactions in the valley, as well as the legal controversies and criminal scandals they’ve been embroiled in over the years.

As crazy as it might be for us on the outside to understand, I assume the Hechts have some underlying business rationale for their decision. But from a community standpoint, I think that, with this move, any possibility of rehabilitating their professional and personal reputations is likely cooked once and for all.

Without Paradise at its current location, the area will quickly degrade from a vibrant community-gathering spot to a highly visible dead zone in the heart of Aspen catering to a few high-end shoppers — how sad.

As recently speculated, another attractive location in town is in consideration to become the new home to Paradise Bakery, and if all the stars align correctly, hopefully that new location will replicate the vitality and dynamic of Paradise Corner — keep your fingers crossed.

The Hechts aren’t the only bad dudes in the valley. Remember SkiCo’s announcement a few months back terminating the lease of the longtime proprietors of Gwyn’s High Alpine at the end of next ski season, despite their desire to continue their unique, high-quality, mountain-food service operations?

Perhaps there’s something infectious in the air or water supply, or perhaps the big guys just like flexing their muscles because they can.

Speaking of dumb decisions, the geniuses who came up with the plan to tear up McLain Flats Road this summer should all be terminated and sent packing, particularly since there was a much less impactful alternative available. Without an alternative route into and out of Aspen during the summer season, I predict Highway 82 will become more gridlocked and a bigger nightmare than usual, with Snowmass Village becoming a detour route to avoid the jam-ups at Shale Bluffs and the airport.

And how about the Pitkin County geniuses who hired and allowed the rude and unfriendly curbside vehicle-security operations at the airport to continue throughout the entire winter season? The dysfunction that went on this past winter should have been addressed early on before everyone began arriving and departing and got their taste of the county’s inhospitable greeting.

And last, but not least, the new owners of the Snowmass Club recently sent out notice that current club members want the club to go back to its private roots and become much more exclusive — I assume that’s shorthand for keeping the local riff raff out.

To accomplish this, they plan to substantially increase the cost of club memberships and monthly dues, mesmerized as they must be by the fees charged at other private clubs in Aspen and downvalley.

I have a couple bits of friendly advice for the new owners. First, I know a lot of club members, and most of them are expressing a desire for better facilities but none for more exclusivity. Second, don’t hold your breath waiting for a long line of new members forming at the front door eager to pay the upscale initiation and membership fees you’ve been dreaming about.

The Snowmass Club isn’t likely to become the money maker that its new out-of-town controlling ownership group is hoping for without the ability to attract lots of new members willing to pay big bucks to hang out and play in the village, and building and selling lots of new high-end residential units on and surrounding the club property. None of which is in the stars for the Snowmass Club.

If I was in their shoes I’d go back to the drawing board on their business plan or scurry out of town as fast as they can, following the tracks of the previous owner.