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March 2020 – Sarah Broughton, Founder and Principal of R+B, Shares a Personal Journey to the Mesa Store

Sarah Broughton Shares a Personal Journey to the Mesa Store, Rowland+Broughton’s Aspen Studio, March 2020


Ever since John Rowland and I moved to Aspen over 20 years ago, we have loved the Mesa Store building. Sitting proudly at the crest of Main Street at the entrance to town, it is the sole survivor of the row of buildings that once provided commercial offerings to the surrounding neighbors. Now, in singular beauty, it reminds us of Aspen’s rich history.


We put Mesa Store under contract on New Year’s Day (It seemed a fitting way to start a year, we thought!), and then spent the next six months working out how we could afford to buy it!  Our original plan had been for a larger project, including an adjoining parking lot that would become our house, but after receiving the bids to build, we knew we needed to rethink our plan.


Taking advantage of Aspen’s clever historic incentives, we were able to ask for a historic lot split, which allowed us to create two lots. The second lot, which became collateral for our bank loan, is now a garden next to the historic structure. It was a stretch, for sure, but it worked out!


Together with our R+B team, we set forward to do a preservation of the building. We poured over historic photos and, from this research, we came up with our plan. As a result, the historic double hung windows have now been introduced and placed in their original location. The historic front porch that has long been an emblem to the building was painstakingly restored down to the original wood dentil detailing. We found the original 22’ long wood studs in the walls, replaced charred wood roof trusses that had suffered from several fires, and restored three of the original brick chimneys. Over the years, the building had been yellow, red, and, most recently, blue. We felt strongly that the building should remain a bright color and retained the blue. We feel lucky that the blue is also the color of our company logo!


During construction, we worked with a dear friend who is a shamanic monk. He was able to divulge spirits who had been residing in the building and lead them to the light. One, a shopkeeper who had lost her son in stagecoach accident on Main Street, was still searching for him. Another, the owner of the store next door, which had been ravaged by a bear, was still searching for the bear with his rifle in hand. His buffalo spirit animal led him to the light. It is in his honor, and to remind us of our ancestors, that we have a buffalo head hanging over an interior stair. As a final touch, we smudged the building with sage and made positive intentions for the future in the Mesa Store building.


We feel honored to be stewards of the Mesa Store building. Our studio encompasses all three floors and is now accessible with an elevator and two sets of stairs. The natural light that filters in through the historic window locations is fantastic.


We set a conference room along Main Street on the upper level with great views up to Independence Pass and out to Shadow Mountain.   We designed a healthy work environment with stand up desks, good ergonomics and biophilia. Right inside from the covered porch is our entry with a café where we gather as a team both formally and informally. A lot of friends honk and wave as they pass by!