Wigger agrees to sell Buffalo Valley
Kurt Wigger flipped through the delicate pages of a dusty-green journal Thursday at his Buffalo Valley Restaurant. He had tears in his eyes.Autographs scatter the pages. There’s one from Clint Eastwood and another from Rock Hudson. Dodgers left-handed pitcher Sandy Koufax is there, too. Priceless memories of his 46 years in the Roaring Fork Valley. His restaurant soon to join the pages of his journal.A memory of his lifetime in the valley.Wigger has owned the restaurant, just south of Glenwood Springs on Highway 82, since 1986 when he paid $400,000 for the establishment. The 67-year-old said he recently signed a contract with Terry Claassen and TCC Properties LLC, to sell the restaurant for $3 million. A closing date has been set for January 1, 2008.But it will be a busy couple of months.Wigger said that he wanted to finish the year out with his customers.”I have so many holiday parties booked already that I couldn’t leave just yet,” he said.Claassen confirmed that the property was under contract but said that it wasn’t a “done deal.””It’s a great location and a great business,” Claassen said. “(Wigger) built it up over 20 years and it will be a nice redevelopment.”
But Claassen said he plans on keeping the establishment a restaurant for the time being.TCC Properties LLC is also the developer behind the large Roaring Fork Lodge project near the Sunlight Bridge.Claassen said there’s no connection between the sale of the restaurant and the development.That’s Wigger’s hope anyway.Wigger moved to Aspen from Switzerland when a small downtown house still cost around $50,000. He knew John Denver before he changed his name.”He used to come and play at the Red Onion when I worked there,” Wigger said as he pointed at a scribble in his book.
Then the tears came again and his eyes turned red.”It’s not easy,” Wigger said. “This valley has given me so much and gave me the opportunity to make a good living here.”But the offer just came at the right time, according to Wigger.”It’s so hard to sell a restaurant, when you get a good offer you take it,” he said. “I could have waited for three years and see what offer I got then, but who knows if I have three more years. Do you want to work until you’re dead?”Now he and his wife, Elsbeth, are anxious to put the long work days behind them and are very excited for what the future holds.”We are going to start living,” Elsbeth said. “It’s going to be very good, you bet.”The two have plans for Hawaii in January. They’ll take some time to let retirement sink in then figure out what road to take.”I haven’t figured it all out yet,” Elsbeth said. “We will travel and take it easy for a bit. I didn’t grow up in the restaurant business like Kurt, this was all new to me, and I’ve had enough. I’m ready to relax.”Wigger also owned the Sopris Restaurant a few miles down the highway for 33 years before he sold it to Sopris Properties LLC in January of 2006. He’s known nothing but the kitchen since he first came to the valley. But he’s very happy with the way life’s turned out, and with the friends he’s made.”I want to say thanks to everybody that’s ever had a connection with me through the years and thank the valley for the opportunity that it’s given me.”
Thursday, Kurt was still cooking in the kitchen, wearing his white chef’s coat. All his years in business, he never left the kitchen because that’s where he belonged, he said.Cooking is his connection to the community.”If you don’t have the locals, you don’t have anything,” he said. “That’s why I made it all these years. The tourists come and go, but the people in the valley really liked this place.”That’s what he’ll miss the most. But he knew this day would come, because it always does.”Like they say,” Kurt said. “Everything has to come to an end.”Contact John Gardner: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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Recently the challenges have mounted against making another bridge connecting south Glenwood Springs to the Colorado Highway 82 corridor.