Steve Skinner

You have got to love Aspen. Since I started paying attention in 1982, the town has worked hard to control the Aspen experience through zoning, permitting, licensing and monitoring.

An example of this is the way Aspen handles sandwich boards. Most tourist places let these things run willy-nilly. Not here. We can't have people stumbling over waist-high boards advertising CBD oils while they are dumb-walking down the mall with a smart phone.

On the other hand, in Aspen, where retailers are spending top dollar for space, they need to let people know where they are, especially when they are off the beaten track. Any real estate broker will tell you that it's all about location, location, location. Foot traffic!

One more customer can make or break an Aspen retailer's day, especially when they sell high-end luxury trinkets like bejeweled cell phone cases or $3,000 purses (or both). So we have and need sandwich signs but cannot have them creating problems for guests or getting so thick that people can't navigate the sidewalks.

Personally, I think every business that wants one should be allowed — as long as it is attached to a human or a cute dog or both. Sign wielders should make at least $25 per hour. This would bring good jobs to downtown Aspen.

The benefits to this are obvious. In theory, the human with the sign would be a good ambassador for the retailer and the community. They could also step aside if someone was walking while gazing into the phone.

Businesses would get loads of added value by having the right person wear the sign. When I hit town in the early ‘80s one of the first people I remember meeting was Pat Milligan, the “Sign Lady.” Thanks to Pat I got the scoop on the businesses she was representing (one on each side of the sign) and I found out about job opportunities. She was a fountain of crucial information to this awestruck visitor. By the end of the day I had two jobs and was sizing up the housing options.

Being a sandwich sign bearer takes a special personality. You have to like people and like talking to people. If you are a cranky curmudgeon you should not don a sign.

Some folks are so bitter that they should not even be in their own stores. I went into a store in Redstone recently. I asked the owner, “How are you?”

“How are you?” he answered.

“Fine. How are you?” I answered.

“I'm so sick of people asking me how I am 30 times a day,” he answered.

“I guess I won't ask you that any more,” I promised him.

I wasn't there to buy anything so his honest response made me laugh. I'm sure he would not have done that to a customer.

Some retailers are so jaded that they treat their customers like morons, like “customorons.”

I understand. Too much exposure to tourists will challenge all but the most outgoing extroverts. Having a sandwich sign bearer would be a retailer's first line of defense. They could answer all the dumb questions and prime the tourist for the retail experience.

Having a really good person wearing your sign would enhance the town and help keep the annoying static signs out of the way of zombie tourists who walk heads down with a phone in one hand. Humans with signs could wake people up from their stupor and point out local landmarks like Aspen Mountain, the mall fountain, the blue sky or the Wheeler Opera House. They could help people book a ride in the Ultimate Taxi or help people find the most exotic marijuana extracts. The possibilities are endless!

Most importantly, my plan would generate jobs, good jobs that people will enjoy doing. And that's saying a lot in a tourist town like Aspen.

Steve Skinner will wear your sign, for a price. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.