Mancos on the move
Small town works to buck economic trends

by Stew Mosberg

It seems unlikely that tiny Mancos, with less than 10 percent the population of Durango, could spark its very own economic stimulus program. But that is exactly what is happening. On Sat., May 16, this gateway to Mesa Verde is celebrating “Mancos on the Move,” an economic and social renaissance of sorts, including the opening of seven new businesses. The array includes art galleries, a wine bar, a rum distillery, a custom boot maker, a silversmith, and a BMW motorcycle restoration specialist.

Jamie Bade, the director at Goodnight Trail Gallery, explained that late last year when artist and gallery owner Veryl Goodnight moved into her new space, she planned a grand opening for May 16 to coincide with a visit from Museum Board members of the Autry National Center of Los Angeles.

“We also had the new Mancos Valley Distillery open last year,” said Bade, “and the next thing you know, we had seven new businesses. We thought maybe we should just have everyone’s grand opening on the same day and make it a big celebration.”

The plan hatched from there, and this Sat., from 1–7 p.m., Mancos will be moving with an authentic downtown street festival. The event will be held rain or shine, but if it does rain, the local VFW has offered up the Opera House for the scheduled musical entertainment. Adding to the festivities will be vendors, food and art demonstrations. It has become truly a communal affair, with more than a dozen local businesses sponsoring the affair.

Bade said this is the first time in a long time that Mancos business owners have joined together toward a common goal, which is to put Mancos on the map. “We’re very excited about the possibilities of so many different businesses opening up at one time, particularly in this economic slump,” she eagerly remarked. “We have so much to offer in this little town, it’s just that very few people know about it. So our goal is to bring them all in and show them what we have.”

Not long after Goodnight Trail opened, photographer Steve Sykes and business partner Marilyn Kroeker, a potter and watercolorist, decided to open Raven House Gallery. Kroeker is also a singer/songwriter and guitarist and will be one of the performers on Saturday. Like many of the new store owners, she has lived in Mancos for years and showed her work at the artist cooperative in town. It was during the Mancos Valley dog sled races last winter that Kroeker and Sykes started discussing the idea of combining forces and eventually decided on opening their gallery.

Rena Wilson saw the light about the same time as the others. Also a long-time resident of Mancos and an interior designer and artisan, the fun-loving Wilson missed having a wine bar in town, so she decided to open one. Her “Arborena” offers wines, as well as light fare, contemporary art and Wilson’s own recycled tree art. When asked why she chose to open in Mancos, Wilson said, “I love this town. I want people to know about us and visit. We have a lot to offer, especially now with all this new activity.”

Richard and Anne McClelland previously had a shop in Mancos, but relocated to Telluride a while back. because the more upscale clientele could better afford their hand-made Italian leather goods and custom boots, Anne McClelland said. However, the economic downturn affected sales in Telluride, and the couple will be selling a lot of their merchandise from the Telluride store at half price at The Bounty Hunter, their new place in Mancos. When asked why they’re reopening in tiny Mancos during a recession, Anne admitted, “I have second thoughts on the economy ... every day. There might be a downswing, but we want to get (the new store) up and running and see what happens.” She optimistically added, “This is as good a time as any.”

Roy Jarbow, another established resident of Mancos and a silversmith, is opening Spirit Horse. When asked why open at this point in time, he reflected much the same confidence as his neighbors, “I’m not sure it’s as bad as people think,” he said. “It’s certainly not the Great Depression.”

“Mancos on the Move” takes place from 1-7 p.m. this Sat., May 16, in downtown Mancos. The event includes vendors, art openings, demonstrations, food, drink and musical entertainment. For more information, call 533-1177. •