My Life, My Words: Kevin Willbanks — A laid-back lifestyle
“I grew up in Dolores, Colo., in the southwest corner of the state. I graduated from the high school there. I then went to college in York, Neb., because that is where a short white guy can play basketball. It was my passion. I really liked sports and wanted to be a coach. Everything kind of changed, though. I thought I’d be with the sport of basketball for a long time and that’s how I would get my living. I even got as far as doing my student teaching in the field.
“I had this idea of what coaching was. It is a lot of work for very little pay. I made the basketball team as a freshman when I got there, but didn’t play a lot. At the end of my freshman year, I decided to get into business and marketing and ended up getting a degree in that, which has served me very, very well.
“I came to Craig in 1986 to manage a sporting goods store for awhile. My friend hooked me up with the job. The guy that ran the store said I had a college degree and he could use me. I thought that job would last about six months. It was one of the coldest winters they had ever had. In Maybell that year, it was 67 degrees below zero. Dealing with that, I didn’t think I’d last. But, I think everyone has the story where they meet the girl and they kind of change things.
“I have been married to my wife for 23 years after I met her here. We have two sons — the oldest is 19 and the youngest is 15. They are the biggest reason I stayed here. We enjoy the life here. We like to camp, fish and just stuff like that. My passion is really archery hunting. My boys play basketball and I tried to show them a few things. My oldest one is good at defense and he just graduated and got a lot of defensive awards. I was a shooter and scorer, so it was hard sometimes to teach him things.
“Once people get used to Craig, I think that they realize if they like the outdoors, fishing and hunting, it will grow on you. If people like shopping and the social activities, it may not be for them, but that is why it grew on me, because I like the laid-back, ranching lifestyle. If people enjoy sports and being outdoors, Craig is a great place to be.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
“After the sporting goods store, I sold cars for a while at Cook Chevrolet. Then, I got into the industrial distribution business, dealing with bearing and hydraulics for 17 years. At the end, they required I either take a big pay cut or transfer to Salt Lake City, Utah, or Albuquerque, N.M. I had kids in school and I really didn’t want to move. I finally got a job here at Craig Power Sports six years ago. It opened up and I took it thinking again that I wouldn’t be here long, but it really is a good business.
“The store was an infant business when I came in. It wasn’t well-developed. It is a challenge, and I like that. When I first started, we only had two manufacturer lines and now we have eight. Other businesses have gone out of business and we bought them out. It’s like having seven wives and trying to care for them all.
“People can get emotional with the things they buy here. It is like a toy to them. If their toy doesn’t work, it brings out emotions that people have never seen. It is a big challenge to deal with that. Plus, people always think that you can buy things cheaper out of town, but that’s not right. This business is rated as one of the top in sales in the state in our line of work. Nobody buys better than we do and we sell a lot of units. People think just because Grand Junction is a bigger town they can get a better deal, but that is just not true.
“Our business is open Tuesday through Saturday until 5:30 p.m. With this kind of small outfit, I have to clean the toilets and put away parts and wash units. I may have a title on my card, but that is all it is. We all have to do whatever it takes especially now in the economic downturn. I have a good crew and we are pretty self-sufficient. Craig has been lucky to keep the core jobs like the power plants and the coal mines, so we all here feel blessed.”
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include a response from the Bureau of Land Management’s national office.