Caroline Dotson, who has worked at Downtown Books for two years, is gaining full ownership of the store and plans to keep it open. Carol Jacobson, the previous owner, died July 29 in a rafting accident near Dinosaur National Monument. At the time of Jacobson's death, Dotson owned almost half of the business.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Caroline Dotson, who has worked at Downtown Books for two years, is gaining full ownership of the store and plans to keep it open. Carol Jacobson, the previous owner, died July 29 in a rafting accident near Dinosaur National Monument. At the time of Jacobson's death, Dotson owned almost half of the business.

Downtown Books to remain open under Caroline Dotson

Caroline Dotson is putting books away on the shelves of Downtown Books the way she always has.

The door still rings when a customer enters, and Dotson greets them by name.

The bookstore still is filled with unique titles, new and used, colorful children's books, vintage posters and small gift items.

But it's missing its founder and former co-owner, Carol Jacobson.

Jacobson died July 29 in a rafting accident in Dinosaur National Monument.

But Dotson, now the full owner of the store, plans to keep it open.

"She would have wanted it that way," Dotson said.

Jacobson and Dotson had a strong friendship to complement their business partnership.

While Jacobson had deep roots in the community and infinite connections to authors and local organizations, Dotson had a hold on the business side of things. It worked out perfectly because balancing the checkbook was about the only thing Jacobson wasn't organized about, Dotson said.

"We didn't want to do anything by ourselves," she said. "She was great with the older books and people in the community, while I knew a lot of the new people and high schoolers. I handled all of the accounting because she could barely add two plus two."

The two planned on having an equal share in the business sometime this year.

Jacobson had no will, but Dotson said they often casually talked about what would happen if one of the two were no longer around.

"She was kind of always having me take on more and more," Dotson said. "She would say, 'This is all going to be yours,' because she just had so many other things going on in the community. She was kind of fading herself out a little bit."

For Dotson, in the three weeks since Jacobson died, the store has been quiet without its founder.

"A lot of people I know come into the store because they want to be where she was," Dotson said. "They want to be where her energy is. Others called me and said they really wanted to come down but just thought it would be too hard."

But Dotson said she thought it was important for the bookstore to be open as soon as two days after Jacobson died, to give people a place to go.

Terry Carwile, Jacobson's husband, said he is happy to see Dotson take over the bookstore.

"Caroline had already started putting a bit of her imprint on the store itself, and I expect she'll advance that," he said.

Dotson and Carwile agree that Jacobson left an indelible mark on Downtown Books.

The store "reflects the depth of her knowledge of literary items," Carwile said. "She was one who would just scrounge and scrounge through thrift stores and yard sales and things like that."

Dotson said Jacobson's legacy was the wealth of information she passed down to Dotson, volunteers and the rest of the community.

"She was constantly teaching," she said. "She was always showing us what to learn, and how to tell how much books were worth. She really spent time learning the angle of Northwest Colorado."

In Craig, she said, customers gravitate toward local writers, history of the area and books related to hunting and other local activities. People in Craig don't always have to have the newest books, which is why Downtown Books' focus on used and unique titles has been successful.

Jacobson also left Downtown Books financially secure.

Although the bookstore wasn't as well off this year as in years past, Jacobson took it upon herself to try to alleviate any debt.

Dotson said Jacobson had just finished paying off all of the store's debt only two days before she died.

As for the future of the bookstore, Dotson hopes to soon begin expanding into more gift items and beads.

"Neolithics is closing, and I think there will be this need in the community to sell those beads and things," she said. She gestured toward a corner in the back of the store where she hoped to set up a small bead area that her mother-in-law, Vicky White, would help run.

"But the bookstore itself will stay the same," she said. "We hope to keep doing book signings and getting authors here."

Carwile said he is glad Jacobson left her legacy with the bookstore and that Dotson will be the right person to carry it into the future.

"She'll apply herself, and she's motivated to do that," he said. "A bookstore is a crucial element to our downtown structure."

Dotson said she's going to put on her "big girl pants" and try to fill Jacobson's shoes, even though it means being at the store extra hours and running events such as book signings, which usually were Jacobson's domain.

"The community support has been phenomenal, though," she said. "People have come in and said, 'What do you need? Time? Money? Anything I can do to help.' I'm so grateful for it. I just want to keep it the way we envisioned it. I think we really figured out what the community needs."

It won't be easy, but Dotson can't see herself doing anything else with her life.

"It'll be hard for me," Dotson said. "But she spent so much time and energy teaching. She had so much faith in me. She's the only reason that I can go forward with it."

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