Sopris a reminder that times change
It’s seen more birthdays than a maternity ward, more anniversaries than a polygamist and more dates than Casanova.For more than 30 years, the restaurant on Highway 82 has put the special in special occasions.Now, the Sopris Restaurant is set to close, and people are lining up to grab one last meal, one last candle-lit memory. With photos of John Wayne and Glenwood cyclist Bobby Julich greeting people just inside the front door, this quaint restaurant has been providing special dinners since 1974.As a couple sipped wine and waited for dinner in a corner booth last Monday, the husband quipped – “This is the last time I’m ever taking you to The Sopris for your anniversary.”Last times are as sad as a wet puppy. But it won’t be long before the Sopris is gone. Once the deal is finally done, the little restaurant on Highway 82 will be toppled to make way for a golf course.Par for the course for an ever-changing valley.Land is needed for development to flourish.”People walk out with tears in their eyes,” owner Kurt Wigger says of sad customers who don’t want to see the restaurant close. “People don’t want me to close, but it’s time.”Wigger says that people have given him cards and gifts and requested autographed menus. The Sopris has been the special-occasion destination for decades.An old menu behind the bar shows how times change. Back in 1974 a lobster dinner was $8.99; it now will cost you two twenties. A New York strip steak has gone from $4.75 to one 20-dollar bill. And the trout dinner that cost restaurant goers one dollar and three bits in ’74, now goes for $14.75.Times do indeed change.Even downtown, another Glenwood institution is looking to regroup. For now, the Riviera Supper Club sits empty. Supper – there’s a word from another time.Great prime rib and a marvelous salad bar: Cinnamon apples were always the icing on the cake when I shuffled through the Riviera Supper Club’s salad bar.I never got the chance to have a last visit to the Riviera. No last trip through the salad bar; no last slice of prime rib. No last helping of cinnamon apples.Ambiance always set the Sopris and the Riviera apart. It was casual but special; old but comfortable. They were what they were – places to celebrate special occasions. Restaurants with good food and friendly faces.Seeing the Riviera empty on a Friday night was sad. Taking in one final meal at the Sopris left me nostalgic.When I saw the “going out of business” signs covering the exterior of the Sioux Villa Curio shop, I was surprised. Another institution going by the wayside. Another change, another disappointing end. Time for another last visit.Since 1955 the little gift shop has drawn locals and tourists alike. Filled with fun stuff, goofy stuff, kid stuff – lots of stuff. Mostly stuff that no one needs but filled with lots of must-have stuff.It was the place locals always sent friends and family who came to visit. The Sioux Villa provided the souvenirs, keepsakes and the items that would remind people of their visit to Glenwood Springs.As the Sopris basks in the melody of its swan song and the Riviera sits as empty as a homeless man’s dreams, the Sioux Villa Curio shop will live on.New buyers stepped forward and must now try and figure out how to make it successful where another failed. It won’t be easy. Times have changed. People no longer eat supper. Tourists look at soaring gas prices instead of a trinket to take home. People will celebrate one last special occasion before the Sopris goes from a great way to spend an evening to a fairway to hit a golf ball.The final stop at the Sopris was satisfying but a little empty. All I could think about was where will the new special-occasion destination be?Times change – we’ve heard it, we know it. It might be a cliché, but times change, and we move on.Where, is now the question. A great meal, a helping of cinnamon apples, a toast to another birthday or anniversary. Where indeed.Changing times are a reality that sometimes leaves a bad taste in your mouth.Check, please. Time to move on.Dale Shrull is the managing editor for the Post Independent.
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