Blog note: This is part one in a two-part feature series on Chuck Frias. Part two will publish next week.
After more than 40 years in the Aspen property management business, Chuck Frias has seen it all - from Aspen's quiet 1970s to the celebrity allure of the 1980s, through the real estate and market boom of the 1990s, 9/11 to the 2008 market collapse and the challenging years afterward, all the way through to the recent market recovery. Through it all, Frias and his business - most recently known as Frias Properties of Aspen - has not only survived, but thrived in the Aspen marketplace. Today, Frias Properties is the town's largest property management and vacation rental company - representing more than 200 condominiums and private homes - and also one of Aspen's top employers. Spend any time at all in Aspen, and you're bound to see one of Frias' white maintenance trucks with the familiar company logo on the side.
Originally from Dartmouth, Mass., Chuck came to Aspen in the mid-1970s. An adventure-seeker, skier and avid surfer, Chuck first visited Aspen in August 1974 on his way west to San Francisco. In October 1974, he drove his car over Independence Pass and landed in Aspen for good. He quickly landed a job as a housekeeper for Coates Reid Waldron, which at the time was Aspen's largest property management company. During the winter of 1975, Chuck would be promoted to property manager. Over the next 11 years, Chuck would cut his teeth on the front lines of Aspen property management. At the time, a two-bedroom condominium in Aspen sold for around $40,000 and rented for about $100 a night. According to Chuck, the market was different back then.
"In the 1970s to the early to mid-1980s, Aspen properties booked far in advance for one-week minimum stays and little marketing needed. There were few destination resorts with airport access, so Aspen was unique with little competition.""The rental and management business in the 1970s and 1980s was far different that today because of the usage patterns of Aspen property owners, and the lack of other competing resorts," Chuck said in a recent interview to celebrate his 40th anniversary in Aspen.
Back then, owners used their Aspen properties for only a few weeks annually and there was a lot of available space to rent, Chuck said. "Most Aspen owners and guests came from the Midwest, then New York and New England. Fewer guests and owners came from Texas, the West Coast or internationally. These regions still had not yet developed the customers Aspen would welcome in the future."
Despite the differences from today, winter lodging was scarce. "Occupancies were 90-plus percent all winter. Summers were not as popular and rates were far lower," he said. "Aspen property owners were younger and still growing their businesses and families. They seldom visited for more than a week. Tax laws were far different for investment and rental properties, and Aspen vacation rentals made a net profit after taxes."
"Music students filled the downtown core and you would hear music coming from most buildings during the music festival," Chuck said. "Aspen locals spent more time participating in softball leagues, tennis and hiking. Biking and golf were far less popular."Chuck added that, in the 1970s and '80s, Aspen property owners knew little of what went on in the Aspen community, and that most local employees lived in Aspen and skied. Off-seasons were empty as locals left town for warm and dry climates. Summer was less busy and there were few events outside of the World Cup races and Winterskol in the winter, and the music festival in the summer.
Part two publishes next week.