Many of you may know that I split my time between the Fraser Valley and the Roaring Fork Valley. One lovely summer day last year I was out running the Fraser River with some hardcore locals. I looked around me and thought, “This place is primed for destruction.”
I’ve seen it happen. I got to Aspen in 1982. Things were wide open in those days. The Aspen idea was alive and well. There was some employee housing and lots of apartments and basements to live in. There were high paying jobs and a culture where you could spend your time in the gutter in the alley or at a party with Jack Nicholson and John Denver. I visited the gutters in the alleys but also got to know John and other characters like Hunter S. Thompson. You could make it as a musician and a ski bum.
Big money was always in Aspen but the place finally crumbled under the weight of rich folks scraping away the funky housing, opening silly purse shops, jewelry outlets, expensive restaurants and exclusive clubs. Even Donald Trump came to the Caribou Club to behave badly back in the day. It could happen here.
When it comes to poking fun, all resorts including and especially Aspen have its share of retail outlets that are low-hanging fruit. Over the years the purse shops and tights retailers have come and gone. Only the very wealthy could afford the exorbitant downtown retail rents for the privilege of selling trinkets to the DiCaprios and the Hiltons on their brief forays into Aspen.
There’s a lawsuit developing over Barton Perreira, an ultra-high-end eyewear shop in Aspen. It’s the kind of store that you walk past and wonder how they could ever make money paying that rent year-round while customers are in town for just a few months per year. In Winter Park there are a few high-end boutiques but we are just getting started. Pretty soon the plazas and shopping hotspots will fill with real estate offices and purse shops.
I would have never heard of the Barton Perreira if they hadn’t become myred in a lawsuit with one of their suppliers. Apparently they made a deal to sell Silver Lining eyewear but pulled out. In the act of pulling out they are accused of selling themselves the Silver Lining inventory at a steep discount.
I can really appreciate a good pair of sunglasses, and if I had substantial means I’d have a collection of vintage and high-performance sunglasses and readers that would be the envy of my peers. Instead I peer into cheap readers and pretty high-quality sunglasses, mostly made by Smith. I can’t bring myself to look through cheap sunglasses.
I really appreciate Smith’s return policy. They will either replace the glasses I have worn out and abused or give me a really steep discount on replacement. That’s what I need because all the sunglasses I wear eventually take monumental abuse. Nothing is Steve-proof.
I always cringe when I have to send my shades back to Smith, but they always surprise me by treating me better than expected. I never pull a fast one by running over the shades in the driveway or stretching out the frames over a basketball. I just return them confessing that I scratched them or sat on them or the dog chewed them, and Smith takes care of me. Gotta love Smith.
I am rarely envious of superstars in super-expensive shades. I understand their passion, but I rarely like the designs by Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana. Every once in a while you will see a pair in the thrift shop but can’t picture yourself in them. I have to say that D&G’s brand-new “Flower-Sunglasses In Metal” are something I would definitely wear (the pink ones) if I could afford the $720 price tag. Those Italians are so hip! But the metal flower pink shades would be bent and broken after only a couple of outings.
When I started researching the glasses at the heart of the lawsuit in Aspen, I was expecting to find some pretty pricey stuff. When I shopped online for Silver Lining Glasses I found a very tasteful brand with selections averaging about $290, cheaper than some Smith sunglasses. The Barton Perreira sunglasses I found started pretty near $500 a pop from several online retailers.
The Silver Lining shop in Soho, N.Y., has been handcrafting frames and lenses for the beautiful people since 2007. They are collectors of vintage eyewear, and I’m sure they do a booming business in New York. You won’t see the back-room inventory online. Hell, you won’t even see the back room unless you fly in on a private jet.
If I win the lottery Silver Lining will be one of my first stops as I get outfitted in New York.
Successful high-end retail stores in New York and other major cities do not always translate to success in resorts like Aspen or soon, Winter Park. People who come here as tourists and mansion owners already shop for their sunglasses, shoes, purses and tights in places like New York, Paris and Rome. Even they know that the resort boutique store has a limited selection and higher prices. The wealthy don’t like to pay extra, unless it is for art, skis or sushi; then money is no object.
According to the internet the most expensive sunglasses in the world are “Chopard Sunglasses.” Chopard makes regular old high-end glasses but when they manufacture them out of gold and encrust them with diamonds, the price goes all the way up to about $400,000, which is the price of a medium-sized condo in Tabernash.
Steve Skinner would take longer to destroy the condo. Reach him at email@example.com.