A building remembered
The Country Mall housed nearly 70 years of Craig history
Craig — The Country Mall, located at 356 Ranney St., caught fire and burned Monday night. With it went almost 70 years of Craig business history.
The building was constructed in 1945, according to the Moffat County Assessor’s Office. Initially, it housed the grocery store of Bill Bilsing, one of Craig’s youngest businessmen at the time.
An entrepreneur raised in Moffat County, Bilsing began his career working for a Denver Safeway. He later returned to northwest Colorado and in 1938 bought the meat department housed in Burke’s Grocery, located in downtown Craig, the Craig Empire-Courier reported.
The next year, Bilsing opened Bill’s Market and Lockers on Ranney Street. There, he offered meat processing, packaging and curing services. He also rented meat lockers to the public, as home refrigeration during that time was scarce.
He grew his business on Ranney Street and by 1947, it offered 900 meat lockers, two chill rooms, four freezing rooms, a meat pickle room and cement holding corrals and a small line of groceries, the Craig Empire-Courier reported.
In 1948, Bilsing opened his newly constructed supermarket store and continued to develop his business. He built additions and added a new brick storefront over the original log building. In 1962, he added a bakery to the supermarket, increasing its staff to 34 individuals.
In 1972, Bilsing sold the building to Dwayne Gearhart. Upon buying the building, Gearhart remodeled the building to suit the tastes of the 1970s, adding a false front to the building and installing new carpet and tiling.
He opened the newly remodeled building as the Country Mall in 1973.
In its new life, the building housed numerous businesses, from the ABC Kiddie Store to She and He Redkin Syling Salon.
The mall offered business space to pre-existing businesses as well as new ones. Len and Pat Collupy, owners of a business that combined elements of a flea market, sales catalogue outlet and furniture store, moved their business to the Country Mall in 1987 to “expand their inventory to further to include quality used furniture,” the Daily Press reported.
For some, the mall brought a touch of urban commerce to Craig.
“The Mall is a big-city concept in a small town,” one of its merchants said in a 1976 article of the Craig Daily Press.
Later, organizations including Horizons Specialized Services and the Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center took up residence at the Mall.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado contributed materials for this article.
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