In a bid to reform Aspen’s attitude, Local Coffee House must stay the course | Culture & Leisure


Despite rumors circulating about the potential closure of the Local Coffee House, the establishment is here to stay. And with her endurance comes a mission for the community of Aspen.

Co-founded and owned by mother-daughter duo Candice Olson and Michaela Carpenter, the local coffee shop on East Cooper Avenue was born in 2018. A year later, the two women opened Here House, a clubhouse which hosts community events and serves as a workspace for members – in the same building as Local Coffee.

Separated only by a sliding curtain, the two concepts have grown side by side over the past few years, cultivating a community meeting place for locals and visitors alike. From the beginning, Olson and Carpenter created the space with a mission to serve, celebrate and engage the people who make Aspen, Aspen.

And while the place has retained its relaxed vibe and Aspen spirit, recent challenges faced by nearly every local business in this city have owners wondering what the future holds for their establishment.

By mid-May, Olson and Carpenter were on track to either close Local Coffee House permanently or keep the business open to customers only on weekends. In doing so, they intended to expand Here House into the café space and focus their efforts on growing the private club.

Discussions about the arrangement have tracked a number of factors, Olson said — from increased financial hardship to keep a local business operating in a resort town to the influx of high-end chain brands affecting Aspen’s culture. and the attitudes of the people who live here.

When news of Local Coffee’s closure broke, Olson said he received a “substantial” response of “please don’t close” from people across all sectors of the community.

“Customers convinced us not to close,” Olson said. “And it’s not just locals who need the cheapest coffee, it’s locals who want to stay somewhere local – that was such a strong message.”

The official decision to keep the cafe open was made last week after a conversation between the two owners and current Local Coffee House managers Andy and Stephanie Denaro.

“Andy and Stephanie were so passionate about keeping the local open, and when you have good leaders, their opinion matters so much,” Olson said. “For example, if we didn’t have great people running Local, that would be a no-brainer; but we do and we feel very lucky to have this stability.

keep up the momentum

The Denaros moved to the Valley two years ago for Stephanie’s job as a hairdresser in town. Also in need of work, Andy – who earned a film degree and spent a decade pursuing his dream career as a filmmaker – became a barista at the Local Coffee House. He immediately fell in love with the place, from the interior decor and the laid back vibe to the specially crafted coffee mix.

“What Michaela and Candice have built, there’s an unspoken or unknown genius, and people feel that when they walk in – it’s associated with the coffee they offer,” Andy said. “And when I entered, I saw the same genius; From day one, that’s what drew me to Local and it’s what made me want to stay with Local.

Andy took over as general manager in the fall and recruited his wife a month later. As a couple familiar with the hustle and bustle, the crazy, bustling atmosphere of a popular cafe in Aspen suited them just fine.

Both Andy and Stephanie have expressed how much they enjoy operating Local, describing its daily scene as energetic and “the place to be” – loud music, people dancing, locals and employees laughing and lounging on the outdoor benches early in the morning. So when the possibility of closing Local was mooted, the passionate managers dissented.

“We love what we’re doing now and our numbers are better than they’ve ever been and we’re growing,” Stephanie said. “We want to keep that momentum going, and I also think having Here House and Local together benefits each other – it all works.”

Here, House and Local Coffee are under the same lease, said Olson, who nodded to owner Tony Mazza for being one of the few landlords in town “helping local businesses stay alive.” she said. According to Olson, Mazza is extending its lease for another 10 years.

“Radically local”

Coming out of the offseason with the decision to keep Local alive, Olson said they’re now putting a lot of energy into trying to “strengthen the local community as much as possible.”

Under the “Radically Local” sub-label, that mission is to redirect the community to support local businesses and remind the city of the people who have been here, “sweat it up” and “make Aspen special,” said Olson – who commented on the angst felt by many Aspen residents lately, a response to a city undergoing major change.

“My slogan is that there’s no place for cynics in ‘heaven’ and I started getting very close to being a cynic,” Olson said. “I had to start thinking more positively about how we all run our community and that’s how ‘Radically Local’ came to us – it’s about where can we make a difference? – and I hope Here House and Local will continue to be a center for this activity.

Olson said that difference comes from being aware of where the community spends its time and money, mentioning how she and a group of people are currently working to create a currency that locals can spend at local businesses. . Although this currency project won’t take off until next year, Olson said Local Coffee might be a prototype of the concept this summer.

“Now it’s like every dollar I spend is a statement on the Aspen [where] I want to live,” she said.

The Denaro are making great strides to further support the community through coffee. They brainstormed ways to help locals avoid long lines during the summer months, listing hypotheses like a kiosk system or urging community members to order online at advance.

Andy explained that Local Coffee is increasingly becoming a “vehicle” to sell local-made products, and he talked about the specialty of “high altitude roasting”. His roasting process is favored due to Aspen’s elevation and natural climate, and he’s working on events and ways to educate the community about this local product, “made in the mountains and improved in the mountains.” .

From management to ownership, the owners of Local and Here House are more inspired than ever to be a space by and for the local community.

In anticipation of new social club Gravity Haus taking over Eric’s Bar and Su Casa complex — as well as a few upscale chain cafes coming to town, including New York-based Sant Ambroeus — Olson and Carpenter have said they weren’t worried. competition. They maintain the founding mission to serve, celebrate and engage the people who make Aspen, Aspen.

“The message locals may get from other businesses is that it’s not for you; it’s for tourists,” Carpenter said. “Our space is literally named after him, it’s for you and I think we all need a place where we feel like we belong where we live; you know, it’s really important to our sense of well-being – individually and as a community.


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