Downtown Books, Craig’s only bookstore, to close in January | CraigDailyPress.com

Downtown Books, Craig’s only bookstore, to close in January

Janelle O'Dea

Terry Carwile, mayor of Craig and owner of Downtown Books, said the store will close Jan. 15 even though he is $10,000 ahead in sales. Carwile said that while it has been a struggle economically, he's closing the store for personal reasons, too.

— Craig Mayor Terry Carwile will close the Downtown Books chapter of his life Jan. 15.

Carwile currently owns the bookstore and said that while it has been a struggle economically, the decision to close is more for personal reasons.

Carwile said he is ahead in sales by $10,000 and is willing to "make someone a very good deal" on the business.

"I'm a motivated seller, as they say," Carwile said.

The vacancy leaves another 2,040 square feet of unoccupied commercial space in Craig, bringing the total amount to 217,954 square feet, according to data gathered by the Craig Daily Press.

Downtown Books is the brainchild of Carwile's late wife, Carol Valera Jacobson. Jacobson moved the shop to its current location at 543 Yampa Ave. in fall 2007.

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After she died in a 2009 in a rafting accident, Carwile signed CVJ, the LLC with a name derived from Jacobson's initials, over to Jacobson's junior business partner.

"She turned right around and sold it to a woman (who) almost immediately had buyer's remorse," Carwile said.

Eventually, the lack of capitalization and development of the business led the then-store operator to confront Carwile with bad news in the latter part of 2010.

"She said she was going to have to close it because it was on a really bad trajectory," Carwile said.

After taking the news to Jacobson's son, Carwile didn't want to take the news to anybody else.

"I took that story to one of Carol's sons, and it made him cry," Carwile said. "So when there was no buyer forthcoming, I didn't want to, in the early part of 2011, take the story of the business's failure to her employees."

Instead, Carwile came up with the $20,000 needed to purchase the business because he felt that'd be easier than watching the hard work of his late wife dissipate.

Carwile describes Jacobson as "almost telepathic" in the book business.

"If you came in there and said, 'Well, I just can't figure out what I want to read,' she would just, like, look at you and say, 'Come with me,' and she'd show you around there and throw out three or four really good suggestions," Carwile said.

He said that while he hates to close the store, he doesn't feel he has the same kind of connection with the bookselling industry as Jacobson did.

In addition, Carwile is a recent newlywed to Dr. Kathryn Deitz, a professor at Colorado Northwestern Community College, and he said selling the bookstore will help him move on.

"In the interest of fairness, I have a new wife, a new life," Carwile said. "That bookstore is a part of a previous life."

Carwile also said he would not run for mayor again.

"This makes 10 years in city government for me, and Carol and my's plan at the time was for me to, assuming I got myself elected, do about 10 years," he said.

The absence of Downtown Books means an absence of a community gathering spot, complete with eclectic tabletops, warm drinks and free Wi-Fi.

As current manager of Downtown Books Marilynn Hill put it, "A town without a bookstore is a town without a soul."

She and fellow employee Shirley Simpson said they aren't sure what they'll do when the store closes.

Hill writes grants and has another job as a stocker for Frito Lay at City Market and Walmart.

"Being a single mom, you gotta do what you gotta do to keep your head above water," Hill said.

Simpson said she's not worried and is just going to "ride it out," but at the same time, she will miss the cozy spot downtown.

"I'm going to be lost after being here for three years," Simpson said.

But Carwile hasn't, and won't, give up on a future for the bookstore. He said he hopes someone can come in and "take it to the next level."

Simpson, Hill and Carwile agreed that having a stronger online presence while maintaining a solid physical presence in Craig is the key to success for a profitable and sustainable bookstore business.

Hill said when the employees have time to upload stock onto the Downtown Books Amazon storefront; they do well and receive traffic from all over the world. She said the last book sold online went to Switzerland.

Carwile plans on selling all the bookshelves and has found a home for the espresso machine. A friend of his at West Side Books, an independent bookstore in northwest Denver, will take all of the collectibles.

And there's still time for the new owner to show up, Carwile said. He's even willing to extend the closing date under certain circumstances.

"You never know, and I want to emphasize that," Carwile said. "If there was somebody who I considered to be very serious about their acquisition of the business, I'd push that date back and let them try to work out what they need to work out."

Carwile's approach to selling the business also comes from a desire to walk out with no strings attached.

"I don't want to finance," he said. "I walked in there and gave somebody a check, and they walked out, and here we are today, and I want that same thing to happen."

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.