Ute Mountaineer moving to escape burden of 3 landlords

Saddled with the burden of three landlords, Ute Mountaineer in Aspen, Colo., is leaving the multi-story building it has occupied for some 30 years, and moving to a nearby building with one floor -- and one owner.
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Dealing with a landlord can be akin to visiting the dentist -- uncomfortable and sometimes even painful. Well, imagine the aches that come from wrestling with three landlords.

That’s the situation at Ute Mountaineer (www.utemountaineer.com), a 33-year-old outdoor specialty store in Aspen, Colo. Since the store entered its current space on South Mill Street in the 1970s, it has expanded slowly, eventually occupying two neighboring structures, both with separate owners. But, in October the store will move to a new location a block and a half away that has a better layout and, just as importantly, only one building owner. 

“Our landlords are pretty good compared to what’s here in town, but it is harder to deal with three,” Ute Mountaineer general manager Paul Perley told SNEWS®. Perley said that one landlord has put his building up for sale, while another is moving toward a triple-net lease, which requires Ute Mountaineer owner Bob Wade not only to pay rent, all taxes and insurance, but also to cover maintenance expenses. “If the roof starts leaking, the tenant has to replace it,” said Perley. “That’s just not super fair to the tenant.”

Ute Mountaineer has acquired its additional landlords from two store expansions in the last 16 years. “In 1994, we wanted to grow, and there was a building right next door, 10 inches away, so we blew out the walls and moved into it,” said Perley. The new space eventually was used to expand the store’s footwear department, which increased sales.

In 2002, an upstairs wall was removed so that the store could gain more elbow room to display apparel. “We really thought we could merchandise things a little better,” said Perley. Unfortunately, the two additions also brought with them the additional two landlords.

Over time, the layout of the 3,800-square-foot space has also proved to be problematic. “Right now, we’re spread out over the first and second floor, and there are a lot of nooks and crannies, so it’s very hard to staff it and to keep theft down,” said Perley.

He said the new location at 210 S. Galena St. is in the core of downtown Aspen, and also measures 3,800 square feet, but all of the selling space will be on one floor.

“It’s going to be a lot more efficient,” said Perley, adding that the building previously housed a home-decorating store and has “high ceilings, a beautiful slate floor, and really beautiful windows.”

The new location has the added benefit that it will provide long-term stability for Ute Mountaineer. “The building is owned by the Elks Club, which is really community minded, and isn’t ever going to sell the building,” said Perley.

If dealing with the landlord can be like a trip to the dentist, Ute Mountaineer is now looking forward to routine checkups rather than root canals.

--Marcus Woolf

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