Beth Brandon

There comes a time every off-season when local columnists run a little thin on material. Aspen is a ghost town and not just from the construction that’s digging up Aspenite and Ute spirits of the past. Everyone plans to get outta dodge in May and the scene is airy.

So just when I was wondering what was new and interesting in Mayberry, BOOM! Paradise Bakery loses its lease after 40 years to Italian cashmere. Has all humanity been lost?

I know, I’m sick of writing on this topic, too. It’s exhausting. There are still about 2,000 (hopefully) residents who care about this news, however. Families lose ice cream and cookies. Tourists and locals lose a hot spot of activity. And the community is told, yet again, that places they enjoy and frequent don’t really work for business.

Aspen’s wealth and popularity are responsible for the good, the bad and the ugly. While we locals lament on the loss of favorite bars, restaurants and shops, let’s be honest, there’s 1 percent of the population who think fashion-mall shopping at pop-ups in the Colorado Rockies is the bee’s knees. They couldn’t be happier to have all of their wants and needs right here in Aspen so that they can enjoy shopping at Oliver Peoples while they visit for two weeks. Never mind the community that lives here year-round.

To hear that Paradise Bakery will not be getting a lease renewal, despite agreeing to match the cost of rent offered by its neighbor, has left many speechless. You see, we all thought it was money you wanted. And it was money you got, but apparently that wasn’t good enough. One response: “Gross.”

Greed pigs are no stranger to these parts. They’ve been wallowing here for years, behaving badly, making headlines and getting away with it. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but it still sickens me.

Now zoom out, and take a snapshot of America 2019. While frustrating, this is not unique to Aspen, but perhaps a sign of the times. Yes, wealth is highly concentrated here, but unfortunately greed is as greed does. Greed pigs don’t really care about being Public Enemy No. 1. They’ll simply look the other way, then, if we’re lucky, donate to something charitable or buy breakfast for their employees, just not at Paradise Bakery.

Can’t enough be enough? Your kid’s college and college admissions bribery has already been paid for 10 times over. Is there a competition between Vader and the Sith? I can’t wrap my head around it.

I’ve been frequenting Paradise since I moved to Aspen in 2001. The firm I worked for often sent me for muffins or cookies and I was always happy to make the trek. I’ve traded ski tunes for cartons of cookies (and beer). I’ve been able to enjoy an affordable hot cocoa date with my Little Buddy and become rather fond of the turkey and Swiss croissants as of late. We ain’t got much left by the way of “cheap eats” in this town, but from cookies and ice cream to coffee and muffins, we at least had a little treat covered.

I’d like to thank the Patterson family for making that happen consistently for so many years. As of 2021, we will hopefully look for those tasty treats in a different location. After all, the greed piggies in the wallow don’t see fit to keep a charming slice of small-town life on the corner of Galena and Cooper.

But that cashmere is so, er, uh, approachable? Said no one ever.

The community has to say something. If we don’t like it, we have to make noise or waves or be squeaky, right? The problem: What’s louder than money? Apparently nothing. Unless we want to go full revolution. It doesn’t say much when you cough up the cash, have history in the location and still get denied.

What will Aspen do? It’ll be weirder, but not in a fun and kooky way. Will there be a line for cashmere? Do you think that Loro Piana will cough up cashmere blankets for guests listening to music students when it gets too cold?

Despite all the weird, overpriced stuff this town regularly throws at me I still genuinely feel like I’m part of a solid community that has each other’s backs. And I like that about this place. Paradise’s move might not take place until 2021, but it still feels like a punch in the gut for those of us who live and work here.

One possible theory as to the why the Empire struck back? Well, you rent to a corporate-owned entity and that corporate-owned entity has credit to back them up. So when an overlord wants to increase rent, he knows that the sky’s the limit since they have a corporate entity to keep paying that increase. Why not pave Paradise and put up a cashmere shop?

I guess mud season is as good a time as any to wallow.  

I don’t think Aspen city government needs to get involved. Not at all. But I am glad to hear that Torre is stepping in for a chit-chat to speak to what’s left of our community. Torre Skywalker? Hmm, maybe that was his last name all along.

Here’s to the future of Aspen, where little Johnny can have a champagne pop topped with caviar, wrapped in diamonds and draped in cashmere on his family’s next visit.

Beth is headed to a place without cars. She can be reached by carrier pigeon at bethbrandon@hotmail.com.