The family legacy of Craig’s Michael John Kawcak, or M.J.K.
March 19, 2018
Michael John Kawcak better known as M.J.K., or Mike, had humble aspirations when he started the family business.
But his hard work resulted in some of the largest retail construction projects in Moffat County's history. Kawcak businesses grew from Mike’s roots in agriculture.
His success as a businessman and his service to his county and communities was substantial, though Mike’s greatest legacy may well be his family.
Mike's firstborn son, Lonnie Kawcak, initially managed the supply store side of M.J.K. Sales & Feed.
Lonnie married Lorraine Thomas, and together, they added ACE Hardware, eventually purchasing ACE Hardware M.J.K. Sales & Feed from the family.
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The couple gave Mike and his wife, Colleen, their first grandson — Blaine Kawcak — in 1985. Blaine's brother Blake followed in 1988.
As Blaine and Blake grew, they learned the value of hard work.
"We've done a lot to get where we are now," Lonnie said in an earlier interview with the newspaper. "It's something you've got to work for. It's not given to you."
When Lonnie and Lorraine decided to relocate the business from Ranny Street to 2315 W. First St., Mike worked with Blaine and Blake to prepare a building site for construction.
"This has been kind of a family project," Lorraine said in an earlier interview with the newspaper. "I am proud of that."
The new store opened in 2013 and operated in both locations until fall 2017.
Lonnie did not survive to see the consolidation of the store. He died Sept. 12, 2016 after a two-year battle with cancer.
Lorraine, Blain and Blake carry on the family legacy as owners and operators of Ace Hardware M.J.K Sales & Feed.
Kenneth "Kenny" Kawcak
Kenny is Mike and Colleen's second born. He helped run the feed side of M.J.K Sales & Feed until taking over management of Mike's ranchlands and hunting operations.
"My dad elected to put his land in a conservation program," Kenny said. "It reduced the farming operation and maintained everything else. That was about 25 years ago."
In 1987, Kenny and Candi Green welcomed twin sons, Jason and Justin Kawcak, into the family. They learned about "pickin' rock and fixin' fence" from their grandfather Mike.
Jason died in 2012 in an accident at Colowyo Mine.
"He left his own legend. He passed away too young. He had a lot of goals," Kenny said. "It's hard to see someone go, after getting through the hard part of their lives and having everything to live for."
Kenny's son, Justin, is a finance and insurance advisor in the Craig area.
"Justin has always had good leadership skills. He was president of Mesa University. He volunteers his time to the community," Kenny said.
Justin married Ashley Wiseman in 2015. The couple welcomed Mike's second great-grandson, John Jason "JJ" Kawcak June 1, 2017.
Kenny is married to Michelle Schenfeld. Together they continue to manage Mike's farmland and hunting operation.
Mike "Junior" Kawcak
Junior was Mike and Colleen's fourth child. Their third child — a daughter they named Patricia — died when she was about six weeks old.
As with Lonnie and Kenny, Junior joined the family business.
"I like to say that I grew up on a 75-20 John Deere tractor," Junior said. "We were all drawn into the family business by my dad. He asked for our help in getting things going. And we were never pushed away. We were welcomed."
Junior and his wife, Susie, own and operate Frontier Station, an agricultural and supply store focusing on fertilizer, seed and chemicals.
"As the grainy and hardware store evolved, so did the fertilizer business. It developed. I've enjoyed the opportunity to be in the field helping other producers," Junior said.
In 2015, Frontier Station, Inc. built a new facility at 277 S. Ranney St., across from the original M.J.K Sales & Feed company.
"The challenge for my dad was hard work and finance. Today, it's hard work, finance, technology and politics and everything else on top of it," Junior said.
Junior and Susie's son, Mike's youngest grandson, Clayton Kawcak, is also part of the family business.
Clayton, who recently married Miranda Blomquist, earned a college degree in agricultural ecology, then returned to Craig to join his parents in owning and operating Frontier Station.
"My dad told Clayton that he had seen more changes in his lifetime than he ever imagined and that if Clayton sees as many changes, the future will be incredible."
Editor’s note: Read more about Mike Kawcak’s life and contributions at CraigDailyPress.com.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.