Kitchen closed: Delice shutting doors after nearly 50 years
“This is not exactly a health shop,” said Walter Huber, sitting in front of an array of buttery palmiers, tasty breads and a smorgasbord of other tempting pastries. The flavors – and indeed, the calories – on display at the Delice Bakery in Glenwood Springs would intimidate even the most half-hearted health nut. The cheerful conversation over soup and pastries at Delice’s tables is as endearing as the palmiers are rich. But after nearly 50 years in business, Huber, 82, who opened the Delice Bakery in Aspen in 1957 before moving it to Glenwood Springs in 1978, plans to retire May 26. Hearing the news that Delice will be closing permanently in just two weeks has left some longtime customers irate, said Huber’s daughter, Cynthia Vodopich. But Huber said that after nearly a half century of tempting the Roaring Fork Valley with his pastries, it’s time to move on. In fact, he said, the things he wants to do after he closes Delice are too many to list. “I think I deserve it,” he said. But there may yet be a future for Delice. Today, Delice is a family operation, with five of Huber’s family members on staff.
After the last bowl of soup is served, there’s a chance that Delice could be sold to a new owner and reopen with a similar menu, but that deal hasn’t materialized yet, he said. If the deal goes through, there’s also a chance that Vodopich will continue helping to operate the business under the new owner. If the deal fails, stock up on butter, because Vodopich is recording all of Huber’s recipes in a cookbook, called “Walter’s Original Delice of Aspen.”She said the book will include recipes for all Huber’s pastries, chile, bread and other delights so his devotees can try their hands at his confections at home. Those recipes go back quite a ways. Huber opened Delice in Aspen after moving to the United States from Bern, Switzerland. While working for a friend in Aspen, a bank came to Huber and offered him a loan to open his own shop. Huber, trained as a confectioner, jumped at the chance and opened Delice in 1957. But soon, he said, he learned that it was tough to make it in Aspen just selling pastries alone. So he did something radical – he learned how to bake bread and expanded as a full restaurant. In Switzerland, he said, a pastry chef doesn’t bake bread. By the late 1970s, Aspen wasn’t quite as hospitable to a bakery and restaurant the way it once was, he said, so he moved to Glenwood, and downsized in the process. In Aspen, Delice employed about 16 people. In Glenwood, Huber employed a fraction of that number, and initially had only a small seating area.
Over the years, he expanded slightly, and began serving lunch. As Glenwood began to see more development since 2003, Delice fell on hard times, Vodopich said, because employees who would show up for work became hard to find. “Things got hard after Glenwood Meadows opened,” she said. “It was twice as hard to find new people.”Delice came within a few days of shuttering last Christmas, just after stores at the Meadows had their grand openings, she said, when Vodopich couldn’t find an employee. She received only three applications in nearly as many weeks of advertising for the position. One employee wouldn’t show up for work, another didn’t call back after she was offered the job, and Vodopich eventually hired the third. And with the cost of living ever on the rise in the valley, she said, “People can’t survive on what we can afford to pay them.”
To exacerbate the problem, the cost of supplies is going up at a “shocking” rate, she said. If it weren’t for the difficulties finding employees, Huber said he wouldn’t have thrown in the towel just yet. But he said he’s looking forward to retirement.”We had a wonderful life,” he said. “We made out pretty good.”Nonetheless, the Delice will be missed. “I’ll miss sitting down with the people here,” he said. Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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