The retail landscape is ever-changing, making it hard for businesses to successfully navigate the space, especially long-term. But today Aspen-based fashion establishment Pitkin County Dry Goods will mark a major milestone: its 50th anniversary.
In 1969, entrepreneur Don Fleisher, an Aspen-local entrepreneur, recognized the Colorado ski town’s need for a contemporary clothing destination. Having previously launched the city’s local pizza spot, Pinocchio’s, and rock ’n’ roll club, Galena Street Easy, Fleisher opened the doors of Pitkin County Dry Goods. A year later, his brother David moved to town, fell in love with the business and took over merchandising and management (where he eventually hired his future wife, Gina Berko, as a sales associate).
Fast-forward to today, and Pitkin County Dry Goods is celebrating not only 50 years (with four location moves), but also the fact that it stands as the Aspen community’s second-oldest retail store under continuous family ownership, with Fleisher at the helm.
Fleisher counts several factors in the business’ ability to celebrate 50 years: his staff and management style and, of course, fashion.
“My organic and free-flowing management style has created a culture that allows the salespeople, buyers and managers to take an entrepreneurial approach to growing their own personal responsibilities that come together to make the business,” he said, adding that season after season, he believes that his staff’s customer-oriented mind-set sets the company apart as the Aspen market, now a top destination for designer clothing shops, continues to shift. Fleisher also noted that many of his employees have been working for the company for 10 to 30-plus years.
“One of the factors that excites me the most and re-energizes me is finding that next great item or designer to introduce our customer to. I think it is somewhat of an ageless approach that I have deep inside that keeps me excited each season to go back into the market. I’ve always acted on my gut feeling and I still feel it when I am over in Europe looking at next season’s collections,” Fleisher said.
Pitkin County Dry Goods’ loyal, expanding brand offerings of over 100 collections in men’s wear, women’s wear and accessories proves his case. Younger, emerging labels such as Nanushka, LoveShackFancy, Bode, NN07 and Aj Mone sit among the retailer’s best-selling brands, such as Maison Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Ulla Johnson, Zimmermann and Stone Island, to name a few, as noted by the company’s buyers (Nathan Harris, men’s; Carlyn Weintraub and Molly Jones, women’s, and Dana Laughren, accessories). Stone Island sits not only as a bestseller (and personal favorite of Fleisher’s), but it is also one of the brands the store has carried the longest, having been sold there since the early Nineties. Other brands the store has sold for a decade or more include Chan Luu jewelry (25 years), Autumn Cashmere (24 years), F&E (10 years) and Lone Pine (27 years).
Over the years, the company has hosted events that engage its customers, both local and visiting, and celebrate the importance of the sophisticated ski town’s mountains and nature. As retailers are looking to grow and expand, PCDG stands as an example of experiential retail. For instance, a Faherty pop-up during the 2017 World Ski Championships, or their annual July summer sale, which have become a town favorite, with lines wrapped down the block. The company even has what it calls a “six-inch rule,” where on days the town receives six or more inches of snow, the shop opens later, at 1 p.m., so everyone can have the ability to ski.
When asked what 50 years of business means in retail, in Aspen and personally, Fleisher explained, “Being able to offer something that has become an Aspen institution and is an extremely meaningful part of our customers’ Aspen experience. I believe we stand out as a unique retail store amongst a city that has become synonymous with designer shopping. In today’s landscape, I feel proud to be one of the few remaining family-owned businesses in the country and not only exist but maintain relevance.”
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Pitkin County Dry Goods is hosting a day of holiday shopping today with a performance by Aspen-based DJ Kevin Joyal and limited edition tie-dye “1969” birthdate tribute T-shirts for sale; the company is also partnering with local charity and mentorship program The Buddy Program by donating 10 percent of the day’s sales.