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Energy Blend: Oil, gas production at 10-year low in Moffat County

Sluggish oil and natural gas production in Moffat County could deliver the worst year in a decade.

Annual production data for Moffat County over the past 10 years.

According to data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, by July 2018, production was less than half the total for 2017, and the number of producing wells had fallen from more than 700 in January to only 150 in July. Production for the year is also trending below amounts for each of the previous 10 years, from 2008 to 2018.

The peak of natural gas production in Moffat County, as for most of the state, was in 2008, before prices for natural gas fell on the global commodities market.

That year, according to COGCC data, more than 20,000,000 MCF (thousands of cubic feet) of natural gas were locally produced. As natural gas prices were falling, global oil prices had risen, and in 2013, oil production peaked in Moffat County at nearly 500,000 barrels.

Sales of natural gas produced in Moffat County also appeared to slow in July 2018, with about a third, or 20,244 MCF of the total amount of natural gas produced — about 66,238 MCF — in the county in July was burned by flaring. This compares to the 39,871 MCF sold. Natural gas is often a byproduct of oil production and may be burned off in the flare for the oil well without equipment to capture, store, and sell natural gas.

Table showing the amount of oil in barrels and natural gas in thousands of cubic gas (MCF) produced January through July in Moffat County in 2018.

The trend in Moffat County mirrored a decrease in production across the state. Colorado law requires oil and natural gas producers to deliver monthly reports on each well’s production.

The number of producing wells in Garfield County dropped from 13,332 in January to 1,677 in July. Rio Blanco County went from 4,177 producing wells to 127 producing wells. Routt County started the year with 38 producing wells and ended July with 20 producing wells. And, in Weld County, thought to be one of the most productive areas on the Front Range, the number of producing wells dropped from 25,992 in January to a mere 1,221 in July.

Even so, Colorado continues to be among the top states. In June 2018, the state production of crude oil — according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration — trailed Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, California, Alaska, and Federal Reserves of the Gulf Coast, but was almost twice the number of barrels produced in Wyoming.

Annual production in 2017 adn 2018 through August for neighboring counties and Weld County.

No complaints were filed against operators in 2017 or through the end of August 2018.

Two spills, or releases, from wells operating in Moffat County were reported to COGCC in 2018. Wexpro investigated a release in March and, in April, identified the point of origin as a well in the Wilson area. In August, a well formerly operated by Texaco in the Moffat Dome near Hamilton was reported for a release that appeared to result from older, historic flow lines, as there are several older plugged and abandoned wells and flowlines in the vicinity. Four operators had remediation plans primarily associated with pit cleanup.

Seven new drilling permits were approved by August 2018 for wells in Moffat County, compared to 80 permits approved in Rio Blanco County, nearly 500 in Garfield County, and more than 1,900 in Weld County during the same time period. No new wells were permitted in Routt County from January to July 2018.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Energy Blend: Despite local increase, Colorado offers second-lowest energy rates in country

Moffat County Resident Linda Pinnt noticed an increase in her electric bill in August. She said her bill increased by $50 between July and August, even though she thought she had used about the same amount of electricity, and suspected the installation of a new meter might have contributed to the increase.

Pinnt is one of many Northwest Colorado residents who are paying more to keep the lights on following rate increases by Yampa Valley Electric Association.

YVEA — a not-for-profit electric cooperative serving more than 26,000 homes and businesses in Northwest Colorado and Carbon County, Wyoming — is owned by its customers, and rates are set by a board of directors elected by those customers. The recent rate increase was based on a study done in 2016 that determined, “rates must be adjusted to cover the rising cost of expenses and distribute the costs to our members on a more equitable basis.”

YVEA purchases power from the Western Area Power Administration — a federal agency that primarily markets and transmits power generated from 56 hydroelectric plants and  the Navajo Generating Station coal-fired plant near Page, Arizona — and Xcel Energy, which in May announced, “one of the most aggressive carbon-reduction goals in the industry by cutting carbon emissions 35 percent.” And by 2030, Xcel plans to cut emissions back to 2005 levels, exceeding the goals of the Paris Climate accords.

But the change might not be as bad as it seems.

Despite the rate increases, when WalletHub — a website that offers free credit scores, full credit reports, and “the brain of an artificially intelligent financial advisor” — compared the total monthly energy bills in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Colorado came out as the second lowest, with an average monthly energy bill of $252. Wyoming residents, who face an average monthly energy bill of $372, ranked as having the highest costs in the nation.

In contrast, Atmos Energy customers should have noticed a decrease in natural gas prices when the Public Utilities Commission approved a request for a rate decrease in June.

“The commission and Atmos Energy have acted quickly to pass on the savings from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act,” according to the notice.

Natural gas is a commodity traded on international markets. Atmos Energy rates are determined by the Gas Cost Adjustment, a figure calculated annually and based on the forecasted gas commodity cost, forecasted upstream service cost, and gas price management costs incurred by the company. Rate adjustments must also be approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Comparatively lower rates may not comfort those trying to make ends meet.

“I hate to see what winter is going to be like,” Pinnt said.

Both Atmos Energy and YVEA offer qualified customers budget billing, a payment method that averages the bill through the course of the year to keep monthly payments more consistent. Both companies also offer tips for improving efficiency and helping keep costs low.

To learn more visit atmosenergy.com, and click on “Ways to Save,” or visit yvea.com/content/yampa-valley-electric-association click “Energy Efficiency.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Energy Blend: Dominion Energy joins companies supporting Moffat County health care

CRAIG — Dominion Energy will give $10,000 to help build a new medical office building in Craig.

Operating in Northwest Colorado as Dominion Energy Questar Pipeline, the company formed about a year ago, when Dominion Energy merged with Questar.

Dominion owns and operates about 2,000 miles of pipeline, transporting natural gas in six major producing areas, including the Greater Green River, Uinta, and Piceance basins to markets across the West and Midwest.

“Company-wide, we have a large foundation that grants a lot of money every year,” Porter said.

Redbud trees were given to Moffat County Educators through Project Plant It earlier this year, and in 2013, the company supported the Memorial Hospital Foundation in Craig to help purchase an electronic medical records system for the hospital.

The new $10,000 gift will help the Memorial Regional Health Foundation in its goal of raising $1 million to leverage matching dollars from sources outside the community. The foundation is nearing that goal, having now raised about $820,000.

"The campaign is still going and is in full swing," said MRH Foundation Executive Director Eva Peroulis. "We appreciate the support."

The 60,000-square-foot Medical Office Building will be adjacent to the hospital on an existing 17-acre lot. When complete, it will replace the clinic on Russell Street, which was built in 1949 as the original hospital and is "a hodgepodge of several add-ons that have been cobbled together over the years," according to MRH officials.

The project bears an estimated cost of $29 million, including equipment and furnishings. The health system’s general operating budget, grants, and a USDA loan will pay for the new building. No new tax mills or bonds are being considered for the project.

Dominion's announcement of support came in September after Trapper Mine gave a $25,000 donation earlier this year.

Trapper Mine — after the Bank of San Juans and Severson Supply and Rental — was the third company to step forward with a $25,000 donation.

"I'm new to the area, but the mine has had a long history of supporting the community. Our donation continues that long history of support," said mine President and General Manager Michael Morriss when he presented the check in January.

During efforts to build The Memorial Hospital, Trapper Mine, Rio Tinto, Shell Oil, Questar now owned by Dominion, Entegra Gas Pipeline, and Peabody Twentymile Coal Company all donated.

"They were a significant part of the success in raising money to build the new hospital," said MRH Foundation President Kristine Cooper.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Energy Blend: Waste not — BioDigester tests waste-to-power production in Yampa Valley

Sniff food that’s been left out too long, and the nose is assaulted by biogases. But, given the right system, these same biogases can be transformed into power and fertilizer.

"We trying to close the loop on everything," said Mark Berkley, as he described his vision to repurpose food waste from his Routt County agricultural business, Innovative Ag Colorado, which grows microgreens, edible flowers, herbs, and mushrooms for sale to restaurants and individuals.

Biodigester used by Innovative Ag Colorado to convert food waste to energy.

To reduce the impact of his business, and others, Berkley and his partners are seeking to reduce the need to haul waste to landfills and make the most of every part of his product through the development of Innovative Regeneration Colorado.

"We are trying to do self-power through food waste," he said.

And on a small scale, it's working.

How it works

A biodigester is like a stomach — food goes in and, in the absence of oxygen, bacteria breaks down this organic material to produce methane gases and fertilizer as by-products. The biogases are used fuel a natural gas generator.

The diversion of the biogas into natural gas generators is also being used to transform poop into power, as elsewhere, this sort of digestion — anaerobic digestion — is treating animal waste at farms and human waste in sewer treatment facilities.

"Animal waste can also be used, but it is hard to digest. Asian counties are using horse and cow manure. There are systems designed to create self-powered dairy farms," Berkely said, "On my end, I'm looking at a more flow-through system to purchase or build."

During the summer, he used a small biodigester to prove-out some of the processes.

By Berkely's calculation, small systems require about a gallon of food waste per day to create one to three cubic meters of methane per day, “allowing a family of four to cook three meals a day or me to run a generator for a couple hours a day," he said.

Restaurants are often left with up to 125 pounds of food waste per week, and a typical grocery store can end each week with more than 3,500 pounds of food waste.

Closing the loop on a business or within a community requires scaling up.

Scaling up

Berkely and his partners at Innovative Regeneration Colorado are working to scale up, seeking help to raise $125,000 via a GoFundMe page to cover start-up costs and the purchase of an organic waste recycling system, called a HORSE — High-solids Organic-waste Recycling System with Electrical Output.

Once the machine is fully operational, it will be able to handle more than 135 pounds of food and organic waste daily, and Berkely sees that as useful, not only in closing the loop on his own business operation, but also as a solution for other businesses and neighborhoods seeking a way to divert significant amounts of food waste from landfills.

"I am by no means an environmentalist," Berkley. "I just see that there are better, more efficient ways of doing things, and we have to break out of the mindset that we have been locked into."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Energy Blend: Moffat County oilmen talk of boom, bust times

CRAIG — While coal keeps the lights on, the world runs on petroleum.

"When you think of all the products made by petroleum — from fuel to plastic — it makes the world go around," said Jamie Dschaak, a Craig businessman who is following in the footsteps of his father, oilman Jim Dschaak.

Jim Dschaak got his start with Texaco in 1971, working first in Watford City, North Dakota, before being transferred to Montana. Then, in 1989, he was transferred Craig to become production supervisor for the company's Wilson Creek, Maudling Gulch, and Danforth Hills operations.

As production supervisor, it was his job to take care of the entire field and its employees, working to produce about 90 percent oil and "a little bit of gas," he said.

Jamie Dschaak followed his father into the oil fields at an early age, working as a roustabout while still in high school. For a time, he broke with family tradition and went to work for Trapper Mine before returning to work with his father.

Oil and natural gas production can take a toll on both body and spirit.

"It's a tough job. I call it my oil field body," Jim Dschaak said with a grin, referring to the aches and pains he feels now, in his retirement years.

"Let me give you an example," Jim Dschaak said. "In Wilson Creek, we relied on snowfall to insulate the pipes near the surface and prevent them from freezing. Sometimes, you'd get a section of pipe 15 feet or longer that would freeze, and we'd go get sawdust with oil in it. We'd slid down the hill spreading the sawdust along the pipe. Then, we'd light the sawdust. It'd burn up real fast and usually unfreeze the line."

In 2002, Jim Dschaak retired from Texaco and began a consultancy business. He later started a trucking business and Thunder Rolls Bowling Center.

Sitting beside his father at Thunder Rolls Bowling, Jamie Dschaak grinned and said, "I remember that. Slipping down the hillsides."

The oil business has been good to the Dschaak family, but they had to learn to ride the 10-year boom and bust cycles. Jamie Dschaak's trucking business — Dschaak Trucking, which he took over from his father in 2016 — has been able to shift between oil field work and construction.

"When oil prices go down, construction tends to go up," Jamie Dschaak said.

Not all businesses that serve the extractive industry are diversified enough to last through the lean times, and both Dschaak men have experienced the hardships that comes with a bust.

"All of it was due to oil prices. People get greedy, and that controls the cycles,” Jim Dschaak said. “And, when it's shut down, it's shut down. Just like turning a light switch off.”

Now, he said, he's seeing signs of an upswing, particularly in Texas and North Dakota where oil fields are "coming alive,”

But things are moving slower in Colorado. Both men think that has a lot to do with regulations handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

"The industry has cleaned up a lot," Jim Dschaak said. "We have what I call the old oil field and the new oil field. People need to get educated on how it works, what it's doing, and how safe it is."

Despite improvements in technology and best practices, Jim Dschaak said he's had to start crews late and end work early just to allow for the two hours of paperwork needed.

"There's so much paperwork. Most of it is for EPA and safety, regulatory stuff. They have made it too hard for small people to operate in Colorado," he said.

Currently, Jamie Dschaak is sending his trucks to Wyoming, but he'd prefer to bring all his business to Colorado.

"The worse thing about a boom is that everyone thinks there's so much work there; everybody floods the economy with businesses,” he said. “They buy so much that, when the light switch does go out, they are scrambling for work. That affects the trucking prices bringing them lower. Then, everyone takes the hit. … It's a vicious cycle."

Jim Dschaak said his family worked hard during the booms to pay for the things they had purchased so that, when the boom ended, there would be fewer bills and less stress.

Jim Dschaak estimated the oil field in Craig is supporting fewer than 100 people.

"It's tough," Jamie Dschaak said. “We get into slow times, and we battle. We live on a tight, tight budget. When it slows down, I can't just cut my drivers off. If and when it does pick up, who are you going to look forward to jump in your trucks and get going? There is no win to this game; it's about keeping people fit."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Open for Business: Craig’s Boy-Ko makes clean sweep

CRAIG — It's an unassuming business, one at which people go about their work  cleaning up problems, especially for their customers.

"Boy-Ko Supply is the place for all things janitorial and maintenance supply," said owner Jim Baker, who purchased the business in 2008 from previous owner Steven Green as part of a package deal that included the Steve Green Company in Steamboat Springs.

Boy-Ko Supply provides janitorial supplies including a line of cleaners made for the Rocky Mountains.

"We are in a dirty business, but we do come clean eventually," said General Manager Dick Conner, with a laugh and a big smile.

Conner has worked for the company for 34 years, and through the course of those years, many of Boy-Ko Supply customers have become his friends.

"I want to thank all our customers, as none of this is possible without them," he said.

Getting to know and become part of the "circle of friends" has, for Baker, been one of the perks of buying the business.

"I've been working in the Steamboat location for most of my adult life, and it's been exciting and new to come to Moffat County. When I pick up the phone, I don't know who’s on the other end. It's like having a new job compared to Steamboat," he said.

Some of their biggest customers include area mines, the power plant, and Moffat County and Rio Blanco County school districts, said Assistant Manager Billy Collier.

Collier and Conner have part-time help from local pastor Len Browning. Three vehicles are used to make deliveries to Hayden, Rangeley, and Meeker.

Deliveries of cleaning supplies are made around the region by Boy-Ko Supply.

"If you're local, we try to get you your product today," Collier said. "Every customer outside of the city limits has a set day for deliveries."

Customers are able to create and manage their account online at chimpko.com.

The company produces a line of cleaning products.

"We recognize that most products can be bought at a lot of places, so we wanted to differentiate with a product designed for the higher altitude and softer water we have here in the Rocky Mountains," Baker said.

They also provide advice.

"You can buy similar products at other places or order it, but here, we feel like you can get help. We can suggest products that we have experience with, and you can tell us exactly what your challenges are, and we can direct you properly," Baker said. "It's all about customer service."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

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Open for Business: Data suggests future growth in Moffat County to come from within

CRAIG — Pioneers are credited with laying the foundation of Moffat County's mineral and agricultural economy, and according to the newly completed Business Opportunity Toolkit, pioneers of a different sort might provide the next wave of growth for the region.

"Moffat County is Colorado's last frontier," declares the first line of the toolkit report.

According to a claim in the Colorado Rural Health Center, Snapshot of Rural Health in Colorado 2018, when the population is compared with landmass and services, Moffat County is not only rural, but also frontier.

Moffat County Population and jobs.

As in the past, the notion of a frontier is expected to lure visitors and new residents, providing conditions favorable for expansion of already existing businesses.

"… The next generation of pioneers have continually looked further afield to find the next area to settle. … In the coming decades, it will transform the county and the city of Craig, bringing new business opportunities and shopping and services," according to the toolkit report.

Despite anticipated continued declines in legacy business sectors, such as mineral extraction, the next generation of pioneers is expected to keep the county population level.

"Moffat County has obstacles that prevent it from competing effectively for most outside business investment, and there are no significant gaps in existing industry supply changes that might be filled local," according to the toolkit report. "… The county does have the opportunity to develop from within, promoting entrepreneurship, growing its small businesses and agricultural sector, growing its tourism base, and attracting the next wave of settlers who will often create or bring their own small businesses when they relocate."

These conclusions fit with Colorado Department of Labor predictions, which foresee the greatest increase in Moffat County jobs in the near term will be seen in health care, transportation, agriculture (animal production), and the retail sector.

An analysis of 20 years of business activity in the county, compiled from Dun & Bradstreet business listing data and performed by consultants Place Dynamics, suggested there are few, if any, gaps requiring new business development.

"The county's small and stable to decreasing population and changes within the retail industry will make it difficult to add new businesses or grow sales at existing businesses without tapping the potential of the great number of visitors coming to the area," according to the toolkit report.

A table shows the amount of “leakage” of dollars from Moffat County.

The problem, as identified by the study, is that significant numbers of visitors are visiting far western parts of the county, then traveling to Vernal. Residents also travel out of the county to find greater retail selection and dining options.

This, according to an analysis of sales data, results in $26.5 million in market potential flowing to stores in other places and $10.9 million lost to restaurants outside the area.

Reducing the leaks and capturing more visitor dollars will require changes to business practice; investment in tourism infrastructure, such as improved way-finding and increased marketing of area attractions, according to the toolkit report.

"… The county is best served by a strategy of helping existing retail businesses to improve their performance, rather than by trying to attract new businesses for which there is insufficient demand."

Modern pioneers travel with mobile devices and need a different set of provisions than those who originally settled Moffat County. Orienting products and services toward visitor needs and improved mobile/web marketing are thought to be two of the ways area businesses might begin to capture a greater share of those dollars.

A chart shows estimated market potential and sales for major sectors in the Moffat County economy.

The Business Opportunity Toolkit was funded by $55,000 from a Department of Local Affairs REDI — rural economic development initiative — grant, a $25,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture community development grant, a $15,000 cash match from the Local Marketing District, and a $27,000 in-kind match from the Smart Business Alliance.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.






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Open for Business: Customer service key to Craig Locksmith’s success

CRAIG — Throughout history, men have held the keys to cities.

Part of that legacy is Roy McAnally, owner of The Locksmith of Craig — the longest-serving of Craig’s two locksmith businesses.

"Craig is the metropolis of Moffat County and the county seat. It is a beautiful little city with a population of 1,000!" wrote a "recent settler" in a column in the Moffat County Courier Dec. 14, 1916.

At that time, Craig "boasted" a "beautiful brick (train) depot and as commodious a school building as would grace a much larger city … water works, a good sewage system, two national banks … two livery barns and three locksmith shops."

The settler added, "A word to those who care to and contemplate filing on land in Moffat County, Colorado: Don't wait too long, as the homesteaders are coming very rapidly."

McAnally isn't sure if his business dates back to one of those original three locksmith shops.

As far as he can recall, back in 1974, the business, under another name, was located on Yampa Avenue and owned by Forrest Conrow.

In 2010, McAnally purchased the business from Wesley “Rocky” Innes, who originally, along with Skip Duncan, purchased the business called Five Star Locksmith from Tony Montoya, who purchased it from Conrow.

"When we bought it, the economy had tanked two years earlier, and real estate wasn't cutting it," said McAnally, who owned American Northwest Realty before its sale. "Everything was tanking, so we bought it to bring in a second income and were able to stay in both businesses."

His retail business offers keys, locks, and safes. Services include re-keys and lockouts, and while he has cracked a few old locked items, McAnally sends more difficult safes out to a special consultant.

"I learned everything I learned in two weeks from Rocky. I learned just about everything I know doing it on my own," McAnally said.

In eight years, he's come to particularly enjoy building locks that use more than one key "… those are challenging; you need math. The pinning process is a mathematical process."

Often, his greatest challenge is sourcing parts.

"That's not unique to this business. We are at least 150 miles from many suppliers, and sometimes, clients have to wait, and that's frustrating," McAnally said.

When he bought the business in 2010, his was the only locksmith shop that served the northwestern corner of the state.

"Aside from Steamboat, there wasn't another locksmith in the northwest corner," McAnally said. "You'd have to go clear to Rifle. There are three in Steamboat, but they won't come down here."

His call-outs have ranged as far as Laramie, Wyoming, and the wide service area — coupled with his attention to customer service — has been key to the business's success.

"When someone gives me a call, I try to be there within 24 hours, and if I can be there the same day, then I am," McAnally said. "There is a great deal of satisfaction in this business, because when people come to you they have a problem, and you get to fix that issue. There's a great deal of satisfaction in that."

Sometimes, the problem has less to do with the locks and more to do with people, such as the story of a local property flipper who called for a re-key, telling McAnally he'd have to break in.

"When I opened it, it didn't look right. There was food in cat dishes; the plants were green," he said.

After calling to reconfirm the location with his client, he re-keyed the property. A few hours later, he received a call from a woman asking if he'd let her into her house where her keys suddenly didn't work.

The developer had mixed up two yellow houses, both on the corner of the same street.

Or, there was the time a woman asked him to re-key her home, providing proof in the form of a driver's license that the residence was hers. A few hours later, McAnally received a call from a man.

"He said she hasn't lived in this house for a year. Even when they show that they live there, it's not a guarantee. That's a little bit of a worry, especially on cars," he said. "Most troublesome, I used to get a lot of callouts at 2:30 a.m. On several occasions, the driver was inebriated."

McAnally said in those cases, he'd request they get a designated driver, but often, that suggestion was met with anger, forcing McAnally to stand his ground.

The Locksmith of Craig is again up for sale, as McAnally is looking to retire. He believes there will continue to be a demand for someone willing to travel to assist people when they lock themselves out or need a property re-keyed.

"Security is getting to be more and more a part of the business, with the electronics end starting to become bigger. Styles of locks are changing," McAnally said. "It's a long, slow process in transitioning to new designs. It's continuing to progress and change."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Open for Business: Craig businesses then and now

The staff at Museum of Northwest Colorado searched their extensive database of historical photos for a now-and-then retrospective of some of Craig’s oldest business and the historic downtown.

Open for Business: Maybell General Store dishes out down-home hospitality for locals and visitors

MAYBELL — Sitting on its original concrete footprint, the Maybell General Store has been serving Moffat County locals and visitors alike for the past 85 years.

"Since 1933, yeah," said Mary Schminkey, who, with her husband, Joe, has operated the store since they bought the business in 2014. "That's what the sign says, anyway," she added with a chuckle.

Having existed for nearly a century, the store is rich in local history. The Schminkeys acknowledged they don't know who originally founded the store, but with the help of a group of locals who'd gathered there on a brisk, October morning to drink coffee and chew the fat, they were able to trace ownership through several families and a number of years.

In chronological order, the family line of ownership goes something like this: the Trevenens, the Barbers, the Ruckmans, the Souths, the Stubblefields, the Haskins, and finally, the Schminkeys.

Farther back, there may be even more owners, but no one on hand in the store that day could recall.

"That's the last handful I can remember," Mary said. "… with help."

Though the store has occupied the same location throughout its 85-year history, the building itself has changed through the years, and the Schminkeys think that, at some point, the building was probably demolished and rebuilt on the same foundation.

"So I guess originally it was just this part of the store," Mary said, indicating the main area, which is lined with aisles of goods geared toward resident, traveler, and hunter, alike. "There had been a coal burner stove where the freezer is …"

In its early days, the business served not only as a local hub for commerce, but also home for several former owners and, in a very real sense, a kind of town center for early Maybell residents.

"Most of the families lived close in," Mary said. "Joe and I live farther out, but they actually lived pretty much on property. … When we took down one of the trees, Jeff Trevenen came over and said, 'Oh, that one used to have my treehouse in it.'"

Joe added the property didn't have electricity until the 1940s, and indoor plumbing came in with the sewer line during the mid 1980s.

"It didn't have indoor plumbing until then," Joe said. "Everything was out in the shed. I don't know when electricity was actually brought in," but both Joe and Mary thought it might have been in the 1940s.

Showing more historic photos, the Schminkeys presented a pictorial retrospective of the evolution of the store, which has included several expansions and upgrades undertaken by several past owners.

"Some of these people are still around," Mary said. "They'll stop in the store from time to time."

These days, the Schminkeys are working to preserve the store's local flavor while also appealing to the tourists who pass through.

"What we've kind of determined is, our Maybell customers aren't going to buy their weekly groceries here," Mary said. "So, if they have a craving for pizza or want to have ice cream or remember something they forgot from town, that's what they buy from us."

She added the store also sees its share of travelers.

"In the spring, it starts with rafters; then, you get your bicyclists," she said.

"And the people who want to play in the Sand Wash," Joe added.

"Yeah, we get a lot of Sand Wash people for the horses and dirt biking," Mary agreed.

She said it was gratifying to be able to serve the scores of firefighters who were in the area during the summer months.

As for catering to the broad range of customers, Mary said the task of running the store has been fun.

"We've tried to mix things up a bit," she said. "I had worked for the previous owner, and at that time, the local families had school-age children, so we did sell more groceries. … Now, because most of those kids are grown up and gone, we've re-merchandised to have more specialty things and more for the traveler."

Gesturing to a tray near the cash register, she said, "My biggest challenge was, could I sell truffles at the Maybell General Store, and the answer is 'yes' … They come out of Wyoming, and I can hardly keep them in the store."

Earlier this year, the couple undertook several upgrades, including an interior wrap on the woodwork Joe completed himself and adding historic photos to decorate the walls, and they said they are eager for their seasonal customers to see the changes.

"So now when we get the hunters back in, they haven't seen it," Mary said.

Going forward, the couple said, their goal is to continue the traditions associated with the Maybell store while embracing the business's future.

And the strategy seems to be working.

"There's times the benches are full and I have to bring in chairs," she said. "And, the coffee pot's always on for the locals and the travelers."