We sat down with Clark's Market owner Tom Clark to talk family business, working in the Roaring Fork Valley his favorite Aspen activities and hot spots.
Aspen gondolas provide the best views and a quick trip to the top of the peak. PHOTO: BY PRESCOTT HORN/UNSPLASH
With new shops, restaurants and events on the rise, Aspen proves to get better with each season. Slow living meets cosmopolitan amenities in this small town, and around every corner is a new adventure waiting to happen. Boasting breathtaking peaks, rivers and trails, Aspen is the place to be come snow or shine.
In the winter, grab your gear for Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, skating and snowshoeing, and for the summer, dive right into biking, rafting, climbing, hiking and more. From new restaurants on the rise to annual festivities coming back to life, Aspen is ready to welcome you home.
Going back to the beginning—before all the glitz and glamour—this mountain town was settled in the late 1800s during a silver mining boom. Long before the celebrities and outdoor enthusiasts set up camp, the town drew people in with its personal and unique charm. With century-old brick storefronts, family-owned businesses and one famous bookstore, Aspen had a little something for everyone. And if the stores didn’t catch your eye, the views of Aspen Mountain surely did the trick.
But don’t be fooled—the overflowing amount of outdoor activities do not overpower the cultural scene. In fact, in the mid-1900s, Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke founded the Aspen Institute, and since then the Aspen Music Festival and School as well as the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies have taken root. Now, this town offers amazing sights, scenes and sounds to take part of year-round.
Whether you’re skiing the slopes, biking in the gravel or chowing down at the annual Food & Wine Classic, this tremendous town will have everyone feeling like a local.
A true family business, Tom Clark Jr. took over Clark’s Market years ago, after his father had founded and owned the business for 42 years. Now, with over six Colorado locations (and two more in Arizona and Utah), the family has transformed a small business into a full-force culinary market, stacked with some of the best produce, deli, meats and pharmacy around the Roaring Fork Valley. Here, we sat down with the grocery guru to get the inside scoop on the best Aspen has to offer.
First and foremost, can you tell us a little bit about your work at Clark’s Market?
It’s a great story. My father started Clark’s in 1978. He was in Aspen with my mom on their honeymoon and saw that a space was being built for a grocery store. My dad thought it looked like a neat opportunity and approached the builder and said he’d like to lease the space. The builder, Jim Truman, didn’t take him seriously at first, but my dad was persistent, and the rest is history as they say. So I grew up in the grocery store doing everything that needed to be done including making doughnuts at 4AM before school when I was a junior and senior in high school. My dad officially retired in 2020, and I want to honor his legacy in this business by continuing to strive for the highest-quality food, best customer service and most community-centered grocery store.
What is your mantra when it comes to your business?
Fresh, healthy, delicious.
What do you love most about working in Aspen?
I love the accessibility to so many incredible cultural and outdoor activities. I can literally put my hiking shoes on or hop on a bike and do everything from a world-class hike to grocery shop within a few minutes of where I live, and that’s a similar story for almost everyone in the Roaring Fork Valley. It’s also such an incredible opportunity to get to operate a grocery store in a place where our customers are as passionate about quality as we are.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Making people happy with great food. Isn’t that one of the simplest keys to life?
What will surprise visitors the most about Aspen?
The possibilities are endless. I think people who are new to Aspen or visiting for the first time are blown away by how much there is to do and how many times you can visit or how many years you can live here and still not experience it all. It’s also so cool that you can ski Walsh’s on a powder day and find yourself having a five-star dining experience at Cache Cache in the same day. Aspen is for everyone. Plain and simple.
Sunrise to sunset, describe your perfect day in Aspen.
The perfect day in Aspen happens organically. Just showing up and being open to what the day brings will lead you to unexpected fun. See what’s going on in a given day and then dive in.
Where’s your go-to spot for happy hour?
The Casa Tua outdoor back patio is like walking into a different little world. The vibe is intimate and fun and happy. One of my go-to drinks is the Casa Tua gin and tonic. If you love a good G&T, they nail it. Plus the creative and fun garnishes make it feel like a celebration.
What is the number-one place tourists have to check out?
You mean besides Clark’s Market? Belly Up is a true treasure and an experience to have, even if you aren’t sure you love (or even know) the band—just go.
Finally, what are some of your favorite outdoor activities?
I love trail running, paddleboarding and early-morning or afterwork skins up Tiehack.
Photography by: From top: PHOTO: BY PRESCOTT HORN/UNSPLASH; PHOTO: COURTESY OF TOM CALRK