Spirit Pass set to close in September as owner fights cancer | CraigDailyPress.com

Spirit Pass set to close in September as owner fights cancer

After 14 years, owner Chris Muzik is forced to close her store to fight pancreatic cancer

Chris Muzik, owner of Spirit Pass, prepares to close her store after 14 years to focus on fighting pancreatic cancer.
Sasha Nelson

— Residents and visitors in Craig will soon have one less place to shop when gift store Spirit Pass closes in September.

Owner Chris Muzik’s decision to close was a difficult one, yet, necessary, to provide the resources she needs as she battles pancreatic cancer.

“I don’t want people to think that we are closing because of the economy. We were looking at renewing our lease and retiring here with the store,” Muzik said. “We weren’t making big money. We changed the way we did things to make it work.”

Feeling unwell and believing her troubles were caused by tooth decay, Muzik had her teeth pulled. She sought medical advice when the dental work didn’t help her feel better. Then, on June 27, Muzik learned that she had stage three pancreatic cancer. A large tumor sits at the duct of her pancreas.

Muzik lost nearly 50 pounds, developed diabetes, vision loss and dizziness since her diagnosis. She also is quickly loosing her hair. Her long raven locks, once a trademark, are graying and thinning due to the chemotherapy she receives.

Selling her stock and closing was a painful choice. She had been too weak to run the store. Muzik knows that she will need every penny and minute to battle a cancer that, according to the American Cancer Society, has a survival rate of only three to 41 percent, depending on the success of treatments including surgery.

Surgery is the next step in Muzik’s treatment and she has a surprising way to think about the tumor’s removal.

“I don’t have cancer. That word is too scary. I have a daffodil. A daffodil is a bulb and once removed from the earth never grows back unless it’s put back into the soil. I’m removing the daffodil,” Muzik said.

Pancreatic cancer has visited Muzik’s family before as her step-father died of the disease 15 years ago. A year later, a few days after Thanksgiving, Muzik opened Spirit Pass. Her original lease was for 30 days to provide a short-term location where she sold handmade jewelry.

“I recall thinking that I wouldn’t make it to seven years and then realized I’d been in business for 10 years. I thought, well heck I might as well keep going,” she said.

Karen Brown, director of the Community Budget Center, was “devastated” when she learned of Muzik’s plight.

“She has such a great store. She has been an asset to the (Centennial) Mall and has drawn people down there. We are going to miss her and wish her the very best,” Brown said.

The store provided specialty gift items including handicrafts from Native Americans and artisans. For Muzik the store has always been about a mission larger than her bottom line.

““I wanted a place that people could come for a hug or a smile. I really believe in people. Everyone who came in became part of the family,” she said. “And it’s your turn to work today.”

Today, it’s Muzik’s husband, Drew Muzik, and friend Jennifer Kidwell’s turn to work. The pair have been keeping the store going during the past few months.

“I don’t know how people will find a better place to shop,” Kidwell said. “I’m sad. I’m also excited that she’ll be able to travel and enjoy her life after the treatment. Working seven days a week for 14 years takes a toll.”

Kidwell is optimistic about Muzik’s chances.

“I think she’s the type of person who can beat cancer. Her spirits are high,” she said.

Her spirits are high, but, her prices are low and set to go lower. Right now everything in the store is 30 percent off, and, after Labor Day, the discount will increase to 40 percent off.

“I hope the community will come in and shop like crazy to give back to someone who’s given so much to the community,” Kidwell said.

There are deals to be had on a wide variety of unique and specialty items, art, home decorations, books, jewelry and more.

“I want people to come in and shop, to take advantage of our sale, to enjoy special things at special prices. Please come in,” Muzik said.

In addition to buying until the store is bare, an account has been opened at Yampa Valley Bank in Drew Muzik’s name. Anyone may give any amount and the money will be used to offset costs of travel, meals and accommodation for the two months that Muzik will need to be in Denver for treatment.

When others might be hopeless or dwell only on their plight, Muzik continues to show a fighting spirit and hope for the future.

“My parents were from a small town in Kansas that almost disappeared. We are not going to be one of those towns. We have so much to offer. You never know what my next adventure might be after this speed bump,” Muzik said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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