Museum of Northwest Colorado: ‘Big Box’ hardware store comes to Craig
Minnesota born and raised Mark Maurin Jr. grew up in that lake state and developed a real love of the outdoors. He started working in 1934 for the Gambles Hardware chain at age 20. The first Gambles store had opened in Minnesota in 1914 and by the 1940s could be found throughout the nation. After World War II, Maurin moved with his wife, children and his widowed father to Craig to take over the Gambles franchise here. The store was located at 29 W. Victory Way which today houses the Jungle Pet Store.
The Maurins’ store was truly a family run business. Maurin’s father, Mark Maurin Sr. assisted in the general operation of the business; Maurin’s wife Margaret was the bookkeeper, and their two children, Mark III and Marne, also liked to help out when not in school. Carrying a full line of automotive hardware and accessories in addition to general household items, the store filled a real niche in the local marketplace.
By the time cartoonist Chet Klock came to Craig in 1956 to create his Familiar Faces column for the local newspaper, the Maurins were operating a well-established business. From paints and tools to tires and furniture, the store catered to the needs of the small rural town. As with most small business owners of that era, Mark was active in local civic organizations, and could be found at Chamber of Commerce and Knights of Columbus meetings, or helping out with Elks Lodge projects.
When not involved in his town and business activities Mark, like so many of the business owners who came to Craig in the post-war era, was an avid outdoorsman. It was precisely this aspect of Craig that had attracted him to Northwest Colorado. That still holds true of many newcomers to the town today. Craig has continued to attract those who have a real love for the outdoors and the rural lifestyle. Those newly transplanted residents often bring with them an enthusiasm and work ethic that reaps huge benefits for our region.
The Maurin family managed the Gambles store until 1960, when Mark’s health indicated a change would be beneficial. He sold the store to George Rathburn and continued to be employed with Gambles under Rathburn’s direction. Rathburn moved the store that year to 461 Yampa, which today is home to Masterworks Mechanical. A few years later Mark took employment at the Big Country Meat Processing plant. He died suddenly in 1972 of a heart attack at the age of 58.
The Gambles store continued to operate in Craig under various owners until 1985 before finally closing its doors. Small business owners, like Mark Maurin, have traditionally been great contributors to the general well-being of our community. Today, those owners still can be found actively serving in various community and volunteer positions, bringing vitality and benefit to the Craig region.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado, located in downtown Craig, strives to capture and preserve the history of our unique town. Whether the subject is local businesses or area families, the museum staff is diligent in their efforts to document all aspects of our regional lore. Include the museum in your fall plans — admission is free and it is open Monday through Saturday. For more information call 970-824-6360.
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