Familiar faces

Local couple rents ice skates and becomes well-known at arena

Andre and Marie Ellen's faces have become something to look forward to on outings to the Moffat County Ice Rink at the Loudy-Simpson Park.

They have become fixtures behind the glass window where children and adults rent their skates.

"As I say, it keeps us moving," said Marie, who's admittedly in her 70s. "It gives you purpose. Otherwise, I'd just sit around and get calluses."

The couple, who have lived here since 1983, bought a pile of ice skates from the Day Tripper sporting goods store when it went out of business in the early 1990s.

Before then, those who wanted a pair needed to go downtown to rent them, use them to skate and then return them to the store.

"We didn't want to let it die," she said. "No one else would do it."

So she and her husband relocated the skate rental to the arena so the process was easier.

"It worked out well for everyone, not having to run around town to get them," she said.

The ice arena used to a be a steel structure called a Quonset, which had an open top. Ellen said this building sometimes made skating difficult because the sun would melt the ice.

She also did not have the heated office she does now, which she shares with concessions and admissions personnel. For several years, the couple sat out in the cold with a box full of skates.

The refrigerated ice rink opened in January 2000 with the office addition, and the Ellens came in out of the cold.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Grandbouche said he's grateful for the Ellens and all they've done.

"Anybody who's ever been out here in the last 10 or 15 years (knows them)," he said. "They've always been involved out here. We're lucky to have them."

But Marie said they may not have them much longer.

Both already have retired from The Memorial Hospital but each considers this a second career. Marie said the profits from the rentals give them "play money."

They've been planning to retire from the skate rental business for three years, but they can't quite bring themselves to do it.

"Every year, we think it's our last, and it's not," she said.

It's hard for the Ellens to let go because Andre has such a connection to ice sports in the community.

He started the youth hockey league here in 1985 and was a referee for many games. While he was renting skates, he often could be found on the ice helping youngsters learn to skate.

However, he's gotten worn out from the many other sports in which he has been active -- race car driving, skydiving, running and baseball. Marie said Andre can't work much anymore because of his age.

When the couple finally does call it quits, Marie hopes the county will buy the more than 200 figure and hockey skates they own.

"When we retire from here, we hope the county will buy them, because it's convenient for the public to be able to come out and rent them here," she said.

But for now, Marie said she's just waiting for the end of the season, marked by an ongoing countdown posted on the wall of the office.

"We'll be here next week and the week after and the week after," she said.

And anyone who goes ice skating can find them there.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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