From the cover: Browning family of Craig unified in business as in life
Spend enough time with the Brownings, and you’ll notice several common threads.
Entrepreneurship is one of them.
Before he was pastor at The Journey at First Baptist Church, patriarch Len Browning, 52, tried his hand at a variety of ventures, from owning an alfalfa sprout business to selling sanitation supplies and equipment.
His business ambition was passed down to three of his children, who own their own businesses in Craig.
Sons, Joel Browning, 27, and Jeremy Browning, 34, own Identity Graphics and Chaos Ink, respectively. His daughter, Courtney Jenison, 32, and her husband Justin own Jenison Custom Builders.
When one sibling needs help in his or her business, the rest of the family pitches in — like the time they helped Jeremy fill an order for 3,000 shirts shortly after he purchased Chaos Ink.
“Everybody in my family helped us put that first big order together,” he said.
The other distinguishing feature is the family’s approach to what would typically be routine events, like family meals.
When you’re at the Brownings, dinner isn’t just a gathering — it’s an event.
“We luxuriate over a meal for two or three hours,” Len said.
The family camps together, goes to movies together and plays cards together.
Birthdays are a big event, and with more than a dozen in the immediate family alone, there’s no shortage of those.
The family includes Len and his wife, Cheryle, and their five children and spouses: Jeremy and his wife, Cyme; Nathan, 29, and his wife, Karina; Joel, 27, and his fiancée, Cori Hall; Courtney Jenison, 32, and her husband, Justin; and Lindsey, 21. There’s also the next generation — there are six grandchildren and another two on the way.
With the exception of Lindsey, who is attending the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, all of Len and Cheryle’s children live in Craig.
There’s always something going on, Cheryle said.
“Always,” she said with a laugh.
It started in the 1960s, when Len and Cheryle moved to Craig with their families.
Len and Cheryle knew each other from the time they were in fifth or sixth grade, Cheryle said, and they married in the fall of their senior year — Len was 16 and Cheryle 17 — just before graduating from Moffat County High School together in 1977.
Through the decades of their marriage, they and their children would leave Craig for a time, but they always found their way back home.
“I’ve always loved Craig and wanted to … stick around here,” Joel said.
Jeremy’s the same.
“As you get closer to graduation, all your friends are talking about how they can’t wait to get out of here,” said Jeremy, who owns Chaos Ink with Cyme. “And I was never really part of that crowd. I never really was ashamed of Craig.”
He attributes much of that outlook to his father.
“I have zero problem with Craig, Colo.,” Jeremy said, “and a lot of that comes from my father because if you listen to my father talk, he is quick to reiterate that the place doesn’t trump the person at all.
“You find great people in the smallest places and you find horrible people in the largest places and everything in between.”
Nathan works at Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station, and is married to Karina, a lifelong Craig resident.
“I like the outdoor activities,” he said. “I like the small town and I like that all my family’s here,” he said.
By “all,” he means more than 30 relatives, including aunts, uncles and grandparents.
The attraction that’s kept Karina in her hometown?
“Nate,” she said, laughing. “Nate and his big family.”
The love and support in this extensive family is what makes it worthwhile, she said.
“It’s nice to know that if you have a problem, there’s family there that will help you anytime,” Nathan said.
Justin found support in that family when he, a native of Chicago, came to Craig in 1999.
“They were kind of a surrogate family to me when I moved out here,” he said. “They kind of took me in.”
It may not have come as a surprise, then, when he married Len and Cheryle’s daughter, Courtney.
“Let’s just say I married Courtney for her family,” he said.
“That’s the truth,” Courtney said, laughing.
Life for the Brownings, as for any family, isn’t perfect. Siblings fight and sometimes get on each other’s nerves.
“Oh, sure,” Cheryle said. “Even still.”
But, one rule always applied in their home.
“You love and respect each other and that was part of being a family,” she said.