On Thursday afternoon, as late-season snow fell outside, Craig resident Terry Carwile wandered through a darkened, chilly bookstore.
Carwile is the new owner of Downtown Books, 543 Yampa Ave.
For the time being, the store is closed, but that won’t last long.
Downtown Books has changed hands a few times during the past two years.
Before Carwile’s purchase earlier this month, the store was owned by Heather Stirling and operated by Vicky White.
Before that, it was owned and operated by Caroline Dotson. And before that, the store was owned and operated by Carol Jacobson.
Jacobson opened the store in October 2006, and served as owner and manager until her death from a rafting accident in 2009.
Carwile and Jacobson were married at the time of her passing.
“This is, in large part, an effort to preserve a legacy,” Carwile said.
The business had been in decline the past two years and Stirling put the store up for sale, Carwile said.
“Heather has since decided that she doesn’t want to be in the book business, which is fine,” Carwile said. “The business hasn’t been faring that well. … It was getting too close to a situation where either someone was going to have to take over and do something with it, or it was going to go down the tube.”
Carwile said he felt compelled to buy the store to preserve Jacobson’s memory for himself and her three adult sons.
“Carol’s boys are still interested in the fate of what happens here,” Carwile said. “It would be difficult for me to go to them and say, ‘You know, the bookstore failed.’”
Carwile hopes his vested interest in the store will help overcome tough odds in a down economy. A downtown business, Carwile said, faces even greater challenges.
“Small town, downtown business communities have a tough time,” he said. “And in this sort of economy, you don’t have to go to very many small towns to realize it’s a fairly widespread problem.
“So, we’ll be in there slugging away with the rest of them.”
By “we,” Carwile is speaking of the store’s new manager, Marilynn Hill.
Hill is also director of the Moffat County Tourism Association, a part-time position.
Hill said her new duties at Downtown Books won’t interfere with her work for MCTA.
“It doesn’t affect anything,” she said. “As a matter of fact, it will allow me to gain some new knowledge to bring to the MCTA.”
Hill said the store’s setting will allow her to interact more personally with tourists in Moffat County.
“It’s an opportunity to have a conversation,” she said. “We have great conversations over at the Visitor Center, but when you’re in a bookstore, it’s a different kind of conversation,” she said. “It’s a more intimate conversation.”
Carwile said Hill’s contacts within the community will be an asset to the store.
Community involvement, Carwile said, was the key to Jacobson’s successful management.
“You’ve got to be out there,” he said. “Having the doors open and operating the cash register is a very, very small part of what needs to be done. You have to have creative propulsion, intellectual propulsion and you have to be out there.
“Carol was out there.”
Carwile said his wife drummed up business outside the store.
She served as an adjunct faculty member at Colorado Northwestern Community College, taught a memoir writing class in Baggs, Wyo., and would visit the Golden Cavvy restaurant every morning to solicit book orders from diners.
“She had a general desire to get out and get her hands on other things that were going on in the community,” he said.
Jacobson also had intuition.
“When she was in the store, she would do a hundred dollars a day in business because she had ‘the sense,’” Carwile said. “When people came in and didn’t really know what they wanted, she could tell them what they wanted.
“She was intuitive.”
Carwile conceded that he doesn’t have the same knack that his late wife did.
“I don’t bring a lot of resources to this exercise, but Marilynn Hill … if there’s anybody around here that can do it, it’s Marilynn,” he said.
The store will re-open at 6 p.m. Tuesday for a previously scheduled event — the Carol Jacobson Memorial Poetry Contest for Craig Middle School eighth graders.
Carwile is unsure whether the event will coincide with the store’s official reopening.
“The formal grand reopening might be subsequent to that,” Carwile said. “We’re very much in the sketch phase.”
In the meantime, Carwile said he’ll be busy with paperwork — forming a new limited liability company, securing a sales tax license, opening a new bank account and more.
Although preserving Jacobson’s legacy compelled Carwile to purchase the store, he said he’s not worried that economic conditions are unfavorable, and the store could potentially falter under his ownership.
“I guess I’m less concerned about that than I am about standing by and seeing it fail,” he said. “I think I could tolerate a failure of my own more than standing by and letting the cards fall where they may.”