Aspen loses institution, Mom gains some freedom

Carrie Click

For almost 30 years, my mother, Jane Click, has owned and operated Geraniums ‘n Sunshine. But on Oct. 1, 2003, she closed down Geraniums for good ” and officially retired.

Mom’s just not the “retiring” sort. When I was growing up, I can’t ever remember her putting her feet up on the couch and watching TV. Ever. She is always moving, always busy.

Geraniums wasn’t a plant store, as the name might imply. It was a one-of-a-kind shop (and I mean that) in Aspen filled with artisans’ jewelry and clothing, children’s toys and handcrafted furniture ” and a lot more. Geraniums was unique, it had class, and it also had a sense of humor ” a lot like Mom, come to think of it.

Mom’s had a long history of Aspen retailing. When our family first moved to Aspen, Mom took a job at Terese David’s. Terese was a wonderful British woman ” and a true Aspen character ” who lived in a Victorian house on Main Street and ran a boutique out of the Victorian house next door.

Geraniums opened, with Terese’s blessing, a couple years after Mom worked for her. The first store was in the Mill Street Station. My dad, Ed Click, had renovated the building from an old lumber warehouse into a little indoor shopping mall and she rented a tiny space there.

Mom says she came up with the shop’s name one sunny but ice-cold winter day when she saw a row of potted geranium plants flowering in one of the windows in our house. Even though it was frosty, those little plants were doing their best to gut it out and take in the sun ” a lot like Mom, come to think of it.

Mom started off making clothes herself and soon had a small army of clothing designers and seamstresses who made original, floor-length wool capes, and jackets made out of patchwork quilts. Mom took out little ads in the back of The New Yorker advertising the shop, and started building both a local and out-of-town clientele.

As each decade arrived, Geraniums changed a little. In the ’70s, when people would come to town and dress down instead of dressing up, Mom sold faded jeans appliqued with denim flowers designed by long-time Aspenite Annie Carter and elkhorn belt buckles made by a back-to-nature couple from Hotchkiss.

In the ’80s, Geraniums moved to the Ajax Mountain Building at the base of Little Nell when the Mill Street Station was razed to make way for a fancy, new brick retail shopping arcade.

The store stayed there until 1998 when, in one of those life coincidences, Terese David’s old house came up for rent. Mom took it as a sign and moved Geraniums there.

Decades of hard work ” and Mom’s keen sense of design and retailing ” established Geraniums, so when she announced she would be closing the store this fall, many of her customers couldn’t quite believe it. I even found it difficult to imagine Mom not having the store.

But there was a good side to Mom closing the shop too. For me, the store was almost like having another sibling. It took so much of Mom’s time and energy. But it also provided her with a purpose, a living, and an identity. I worried about what she would do when the store was no more.

As closing time approached, Mom asked me to help her put together a resume. “I have to get a job,” she said, matter-of-factly.

There were a few challenges, however. Because she had owned the store for so long, her previous job experiences reached back into the ’50s ” and a lot had changed since then.

Mom had been a personal secretary ” what’s now called an “executive assistant” ” to the president of Arden Mayfair, a giant dairy company based in Los Angeles. It would be difficult to get a reference from that job, since her boss, Frank Holt, had long since died, along with most of the people in the company. We started giggling. “Hello, St. Peter? Yes, we’d like to verify Jane’s employment at Arden Mayfair please.”

When the store closed for good, The Aspen Times described Geraniums as “an Aspen establishment” and published a front-page photo of Geraniums’ big good-bye sign in the shop’s front window.

I thought Mom would be pounding the pavement, hungry to launch into new work as soon as possible. But instead something else happened.

A couple weeks after closing the shop, I got a call on my answering machine. “I’m going to New Zealand on a bike trip!” said Mom excitedly. “I’ve never been able to get away from the store in December, but now I can ” and I’m going! I’ll look for a job when I get back.”

Mom’s training now for her trip, and filling her days with all the other stuff of life, like hanging out with her granddaughter and her family, and learning the intricacies of the antique plumbing in her house as she orchestrates the pipes getting replaced. “I’m really busy, you know,” she said to me this morning on the phone.

Yes, I know you’re busy. Happy retirement, Mom. Enjoy your life, because you deserve it.

Carrie Click is a Post Independent staff writer. Her column runs on Tuesdays.

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