76 years of Main Avenue success
Hogan's weathers Durango changes in style

J.C. Tucker, of Durango, tries on a pair of boots with assistance from Jerry Poer last Saturday at Hogan’s. The family-run business has been selling Western wear, Carhartts and Levis to generations of Durango families since 1929./Photo by Jared Boyd.

by Shawna Bethell

Known to longtime locals as a Durango tradition and to newcomers as that funky little store on Main, Hogan’s has weathered everything from historical events, such as the Great Depression and World War II, to the ever-changing economy of a tourist town.

The key to success for 76 years? According to Mickey Hogan, patriarch of the business which was started by his father in 1929, the business’ longevity can be attributed to hard work, customer service and a little modesty.

“We’ve just been lucky,” said Mickey. “We made it through the Depression by my father working late at night trying to get what business he could. He would also trade goods to the farmers for groceries. World War II was the savior. We would sell whatever merchandise we could get in those times, so many things were rationed.”

However, both Mickey and his nephew and business partner, Jim Hogan, agree that customer service has been crucial.

“We try to call everyone by name,” said Jim, “but in recent years, with the continually changing population, it’s been more difficult to remember.”

Mickey’s father, Charles D., opened the store in 1929, and it has been at its present location, 828 Main Ave., since 1939. When Charles D. opened the store, it carried all the clothing a man might need, Mickey said, from work clothes and three-piece suits to socks, shoes and undergarments. Back then, one could get a wool suit, with the works, for $35. In 1929, jeans were just becoming popular, so the store mostly carried bib overalls, the staple for local farmers.

A decade or so later, Hogan’s made some additions with women’s silk clothing and hosiery, which were difficult to acquire but sold well. In the 1950s came Western wear. By then, there were five other men’s stores in Durango. Following the philosophy of meeting customer’s needs, Hogan’s specialized in Keystone belt-loop pants, snap shirts and a full line of ladies’ Western wear. At the time, more money could be made from women’s Western wear than men’s, and Hogan’s only needed to carry one style of snap shirt for men in several colors.

When the oil boom hit a few years later, Hogan’s demographics changed yet again. “Durango attracted the geologists and land men’s offices, the professionals,” Mickey recalled. “They decided the streets needed to be paved, there needed to be better houses. It was a shot in the arm for Durango and changed the focus of the town.”

A sign welcomes visitors to Silverton. The town will be able to live up to its promise of “year-round recreation” even more now that Silverton Mountain has received the go-ahead for 475 skiers a day on 1,300 Burea of Land Management acres starting next April./Photo by Todd Newcomer

Also in the 1950s, Fort Lewis College moved from Hesperus to its current location in town and became a four-year, liberal arts college. With that, the store once again altered its focus, adding fashion jeans and shoes for the first time, catering to the needs of a new generation of customers.

In the 1960s came the ski area and more outdoor wear for another set of buyers.

While the inventory has changed with the times, one of the mainstays at Hogan’s has been family. In the past, several generations of families came through the door.

However, according to Mickey, many of those old farming and ranching families are coming to town less and less often, not always comfortable with the growing city. On the other hand, Jim said that there are some European tourists who return each time they are in the States, and that a French travel brochure even tells people to visit Hogan’s.

Family also has been a tradition on the working side of Hogans. For each of the last 76 years, only members of the Hogan family have worked the floor of the retail business. Currently, partnering with Mickey and Jim is Jerry Poer, also a nephew of Mickey’s.

“We never needed to hire outside of the family,” laughed Mickey, noting that at one point there were 33 teen-agers in the family and everybody always needed jobs. There is only one exception, a current employee who assists during the Christmas rush. “A retired Penney’s manager,” grinned Mickey.

When talking of competition and the “big box” stores, Mickey shook his head and smiled. “There’ve always been chains. My dad called them chains,” he said. “Penney’s was the biggest one we had any competition from. And Sears and Roebuck, but they were a catalogue”

Speaking of competition, Mickey recalled a time when his father was working and a young man walked into the store. “We were selling three pairs of socks for 39 cents,” he recalled. The young man objected, saying he could mail order the socks from Sears for 25 cents. Charles D. told the man he’d go ahead and sell him the socks for 25 cents, which he did. Then he took the socks, wrapped them up, and threw them on the back shelf. “Come back on Tuesday, and you can have them,” he said.

With the era of downtown businesses making way for big name chains, many communities feel the loss of stores like Hogan’s. Mickey remarked that many visitors who come through his door make statements about how they “used to have a store like this” in their town. It’s a bit wistful, to think of those stores, the service they provided and the customers they treated like old family friends, not just dollars and cents. But Durango is lucky. Hogan’s has no plans of selling out or closing soon, Mickey insists. Instead, he and the others plan to keep watching trends and staying current with the needs of each new generation that walks in their door. •

Gabby Dodd 7, and her mother, Leonie Dodd, try on cowgirl hats while Jim Hogan offers assistance./Photo by Jared Boyd.