Popular restaurant to anchor Willits business core
Some big names in the local restaurant industry will establish the first three restaurants in the Willits Town Center in west Basalt later this year.The popular El Korita Mexican restaurant will relocate from its spot next to Movieland to the ground floor of the Triangle Park Loft Building, Willits developer Michael Lipkin said Monday. Triangle Park is the anchor of the Willits Town Center, which will eventually become a 10-block downtown.Jamie Theriot, former executive chef at the Maroon Creek Club, will open a barbecue restaurant called Smoke in the new building. And rounding out the trio of restaurants will be Crave Kitchen, run by Todd Slossberg and Rob Zack, who teamed up for 10 years in the kitchen at the Hotel Jerome.Lipkin said he has also inked deals with the first three retail establishments in his anchor building. PE 101, a women’s clothing store in Aspen, is opening a space at Willits. Owner Joanie Taig has successfully operated in Aspen for years and also has a store in Riverwalk in Edwards. She will continue to operate those stores.Montecito Loft and Home will sell furniture, gifts and accessories. Owner Jim Polep, who managed the shop in Aspen for 10 years, is creating a new concept at Willits. It will feature a lot of affordable items ranging from $5 to $50 gifts and accessories.Dwell ON will offer organic and natural products for homes and bodies. Owner Michelle Pauline Lowe, an interior designer and architectural consultant, will offer earth-friendly products, from home furnishings and cosmetics to nontoxic paints, recycled accessories, and organic coffee, teas and elixirs.Lipkin said he looked for businesses or business operators that were established, had a proven approach and proposed an idea that seemed like a good fit with Willits. Finding entrepreneurs who wanted space was no problem.”There’s been far more interest than space,” Lipkin said. The Willits neighborhood also features hundreds of units in a residential area that is currently about half built out. The population has topped 1,000, according to Lipkin.Willits is located just upvalley from the City Market in El Jebel. Although it is within Basalt town limits, it is essentially a separate town.The 42 lofts on the top two stories of the initial downtown building also proved popular. Nearly all were sold before the contractor, Williams Construction, broke ground last year. There has already been at least one resale of a loft, even though they haven’t been occupied yet. An 1,100-square-foot unit initially sold for $359,000. It was recently placed under contract for $585,000, Lipkin said. That’s appreciation of 60 percent.The first residents will start moving in by about mid-September. The commercial spaces will open between mid-September and November.El Korita owner Angelberto Gamboa said the opportunity to own the space for his restaurant was one factor that attracted him to Willits Town Center.He and his wife, Guadalupe, have owned El Korita for about eight years. Their new 3,100-square-foot space will be significantly larger. Gamboa said he will have more space for the kitchen and a larger seating area for customers. The key is adding comfort rather than attracting more business. “I have enough, believe me,” he said.El Korita is so popular on weekends that the wait can at times be up to 45 minutes to get into the cramped quarters, Gamboa said. He hopes to ease the delays. The relocated restaurant will also feature breakfast in addition to its current lunch and dinner menu.Gamboa said that he is excited about the move and is confident the restaurant will be successful because it is already well-known. Nevertheless, the move is also scary because of the additional commitment and debt, he said. He hopes to open at the new space by November at the latest. Meanwhile, El Korita remains open next to Movieland.According to information supplied by Lipkin, Smoke will be a “modern barbecue joint emphasizing down-home cooking in an upscale environment.” It will be a casual, full-service neighborhood restaurant and bar, serving lunch and dinner and offering takeout.Crave’s menu will be influenced by local markets and seasons. “It will be more seasonal and creative than your typical neighborhood restaurant and more accessible than great fine dining restaurants,” according to Lipkin’s firm.”I can honestly say I am excited about all these businesses,” Lipkin said of the first restaurants and retail shops in his town center. He intentionally declined to lease or sell spaces for offices in the building because he felt it was important for the vitality of the area to have restaurants and shops that attract people.”I could have filled up every ground floor with space for offices,” he said.Lipkin also declined to work with national fast-food chains that were interested in Willits. He isn’t ruling out working with national retailers as the downtown core of Willits evolves. Groundbreaking on the second building in the core is scheduled in late October.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
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