Moffat County Locals: Building places and spaces is Kirstie McPherson’s purpose in this life
Kirstie McPherson, owner of The Find Co. and 518 Wine Bar on Yampa Avenue, is deeply invested in building up Craig and helping to envision a future for local residents once Craig can no longer depend on coal as its primary industry.
McPherson started her career as an economic development consultant which involved traveling to other communities and helping them renovate their downtown area and it has since blossomed into doing community-building right here in downtown Craig.
“At some point someone looked at me and asked, “Well what do you know about renovating a downtown?”” McPherson said. “And you know what, they weren’t wrong.”
As a native of Craig McPherson never intended to move back to Craig after college let alone own a wine bar, but it happened to align with what she considers her higher calling and purpose in this life, to build places and spaces.
The Find Co. opened its current location in downtown Craig in June 2019, with the 518 Wine Bar opening shortly after in September 2019. Little did she know, the pandemic was right around the corner and both businesses were launched in a constantly changing market.
People may have thought McPherson was crazy and some said a wine bar would never work in Craig. But after the initial closures of the pandemic in 2020, McPherson was told by her patron, “we didn’t know how much we needed a wine bar until we couldn’t come here for four months.”
In the past three years, the Find and Wine Bar have become staples of the downtown area where people can shop and gather.
In a time where it’s easy to become isolated through technology, McPherson has put many thoughtful details into making the 518 Wine Bar a place where people can connect. That includes intentionally not posting the WiFi password so patrons can come up to the bar to talk with staff and spend more time connecting with one another.
One of the most heartbreaking things when she first opened the wine bar, was the people who would come in and talk about how hard it was to connect with people in the community. McPherson said she understands how hard it can be to make connections in Craig, it’s not that people are unfriendly, it’s just that many community members have known each other forever.
“The connection piece is the most important part,” McPherson said, adding that if people have a place to connect with others in the community, they are more likely to eat out at local restaurants and spend time in Craig on the weekends rather than leaving.
“Whoever you are and wherever you come from, there is something for you at the wine bar,” McPherson said.
The 518 Wine Bar is focused on its wine and whiskey selections and it also has several beers on the menu and a variety of non-alcoholic choices. The bar serves charcuterie boards, a patron favorite that will be incorporated in the retail side in 2023.
McPherson said next year the storefront shop will still have everything people have come to love about The Find Co., in addition to a selection of specialty meats and cheeses with grab-and-go charcuterie lunch boxes, build your own meat and cheese boards.
“Everything we do is going to be about crafting an experience,” McPherson said. “It will be bringing something that right now you have to go elsewhere to get.”
The inspiration for the Find and wine came from Chelsea Market in New York City, where McPherson found a retail and home goods store where customers could wander through until suddenly there is a curtain door leading to a swanky wine bar on the other side.
“There are brilliant people doing amazing things in the world, and if we can bring just a slice of that back here it helps us tell our own story of our community,” Mcpherson said. “So that when people come here they can take that story elsewhere.”
McPherson also runs an AirBnB downtown, which offers a nightly place to stay right downtown for hunters, visitors, or temporary workers. She is also the community and economic development manager for the Just Transition, where she works with communities across the state who are transitioning from a coal-driven economy.
Every coal-transition community is vastly different but McPherson is seeing Colorado communities make graceful transitions from a predominantly coal based economy to have several new businesses opening, expand on tourism, and build up their outdoor recreation industries.
It’s predicted that people leaving coal-industry jobs in Moffat County will either find a similar job elsewhere, stay and take a lower paying job, or open up their own business, which we are already seeing happen in the Craig community.
For many local residents, the future in Craig may involve stepping out of the comfort zone which is not new territory for McPherson. She said that almost everything she does these days is outside of her comfort zone.
“It’s a really cool time to be in Craig, and it’s also scary too,” Mcpherson said. “There are certain things we are all trying to maneuver around. But the cool thing is that the whole Yampa Valley is starting to work together and realize that we need each other.”
McPherson also serves as the board chair of the Moffat County Affiliated Junior College Board, which is currently exploring ways to reshape the future of higher education in Moffat County.
And no matter how those efforts unfold, McPherson feels what’s most important is that the community is coming together and trying.
“We get to control what happens to us,” McPherson said. “It’s really about taking ownership over what our future looks like. There are some bold people doing some bold things.”
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