EDITOR'S DESK: New direction in Old Colorado City
It's pretty obvious that Old Colorado City is not your everyday, chock-a-block shopping center. There are the historic aspects, of course - the classic, Old West
buildings and the wonderful stories about the “wets” and the “drys” and the tunnels under Colorado Avenue. (Ever noticed, by the way, that all the old churches are
north of Colorado Avenue?)
Another difference, not so obvious, is the lack of regulation. None of of Old Town's stores had to qualify - unlike at a mall, where regulators can decide they don't have an opening for a restaurant or an art gallery, for example, or, if they do, that they will dictate the days and hours its doors must be open. By contrast, stores appear in Old Colorado City because a building owner needs to lease the space and here's someone willing to pay the asking price. They can stay open as much as they want and how they want. The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group can only request membership or changes such as staying open late, participating in promotions or volunteering to help out.
In some regards, it seems almost amazing that the historic shopping district is doing as well as it is - a group of independent merchants, each with his or her own ideas, often stubborn, often squabbling.
So it's been a welcome development this year to see a number of them noticeably pulling together, through the OCCA, seeking ways to make their quaint, unregulated corner of the shopping world more of a force.
This statement appears in a letter from the OCCA board to its members last September: "The board believes that Old Colorado City is in a unique position to expand local and national interest in our area, to the benefit of all merchants; and by having a dedicated, professional individual assigned to the task, Old Colorado City will be able to grow and prosper."
That individual, Karen Earley, has now been hired and appears ready to take on the task. Independent types? Her resume shows she's dealt with them in small towns across the Rockies, channeling that spirit into results. So best of luck to her as Old Town takes on the big malls. Go, Old Town!