DeRose: Goodbye to Craig’s Village Inn
Paul McCartney wrote “There are places I remember all my life though some have changed” in the song In My Life. I woke this morning on Feb. 27 having dreamed about all the things that have happened to me at the Craig Village Inn. I imagine this was provoked by the closing date of Feb. 28. Living in Craig for 45 years, I ate many meals there and, being a plumbing and HVAC contractor, spent many hours there keeping the place operating. As I took a trip back through time, I decided I should share some of the best memories.
Early when I was a single-parent father, when I told Troy it was supper time, he put his coat on and many times we headed to VI. We ate many breakfasts there before school and work, and some of those were with Dave and Danny Griffith. Eilene many times would have our order already entered since we ate the same thing over and over, and I remember the look in Troy’s eyes when Danny showed him how to clean a penny with Worcester Shire sauce. We ate many meals there, and Eilene served us most of them. Troy came home from college and we went there one Saturday for breakfast, and, of course, she was our server. As she left, Troy proclaimed that she had served him more meals than his mother. When we told her she replied “I know damn well I have,” and we all laughed as she headed back to the kitchen with that loud laugh of hers.
After starting Masterworks Mechanical, one of my accounts was Village Inn, and it was there, after struggling with the east dining room heat, I proclaimed that this was my last trip to the roof. If I did not find the problem with this unit I would quit and find a new line of work. That day I finally found the $11 relay that would only fail when it snowed or rained and I was locked into my destiny. Later I took the two managers that I worked with there, Lonnie and Dawn, and told them to wear pants and tennis shoes the next day as they were going with me to the roof and see why I went up there all the time. They have both thanked me for that short training session, as they really knew how to run a restaurant but did not know what was on the roof.
In a booth there, Pres Askew shared with me the need for a Boys and Girls club and that we would only need $400,000 per year to operate one. At first I thought he was crazy, but I believed in the need, and that led me on the most rewarding experience of my life. In 2009, that organization was the fifth-largest club in Colorado.
It was also there that I shared with Pres that I was going to invest in a new locally owned bank. He told me he did that once and lost $300,000 — GULP. Thanks Dave Fleming and Yampa Valley Bank for not taking me there.
After a weekend of not sleeping and worrying, I was told in a booth at VI that Ryan Duran and Dana were expecting their first baby. Ryan had called me on the Friday before and asked if they could buy me lunch on Monday. Of course, at the time I was the president of the board of the Boys & Girls Club, and I had spent all weekend knowing they were going to tell me that she hated her job and they were going back to Denver. How was I going to run that club? Ryan looked at me and said, “our house has to be completed by October as there is going to be more of us.” That is when I realized they were expecting and I harshly instructed them to never do that to me again as I have a very active imagination, and a new Duran was not anything I had imagined.
During my service as mayor, I had struggled to keep the staff at VI from turning the thermostats down to less than 68 and freezing the coils of the air conditioning. One host was a particular problem with that. I took a post it note and wrote DO NOT ADJUST THERMOSTATS BY THE ORDER OF THE MAYOR OF CRAIG. He just could not understand why the mayor cared about the thermostats until the manager explained I had put that note there. By the way, he never adjusted the thermostats again. Mission accomplished.
We had a corporate charge account at Village Inn, and many times I would sign the slip for the meal with a tip. I would pay by statement every month. One Saturday, Linda and I went there for lunch, and Eilene told me not to order pie as it was her birthday and she had cake in the back. Of course I asked if I could get ice cream on it. She brought out our cake and I asked how old she was. 57 was the reply, so I placed a $57 tip on my charge so the corporate office would see it and we wished her a Happy Birthday.
When my son Troy was about 11 or so, he cleaned up all the scrap copper in the shop, and I told him he could have all the money but he had to buy lunch. I called everyone I could think of and the bill for lunch came to more than he made selling the scrap. When he complained, Dave Griffith said, “How many times have you seen me and your old man pay a lunch bill larger than that? That is what the high rollers do.” I think I had to make up the extra $3.
In the kitchen at the last remodel, we had removed all the equipment and cut the concrete to replace all the sewer lines. We had a 6-foot wide by 4-foot deep hand-dug trench in the kitchen, and if you had witnessed it, I am sure your heart would fear we would never have pancakes there again. Michael Scott, the CEO of corporate, gave his card to Mason and Miguel and told them he knew they were going to Mesa in Grand Junction and if they needed a part time job to go into any Qdoba or VI in Grand Junction and he guaranteed them a part-time job. He wanted them to get a degree and would not work them full time, but he was impressed with their work ethic. Miguel worked at Qdoba for sometime before he became a banker.
My first full year in business was 1989, and in February we had a cold spell that took us below zero for a week. The daytime temperature did not go above zero, and I spent all day as the only guy I had fixing frozen pipes and working on heating units. I stopped by on my way to another job west of Craig and asked the manager, Lonnie, if everything was alright. At that time it was, but before I returned to town one of the units on the roof had a catastrophic failure. Parts were ordered and we spread small electric heaters all over the restaurant. The staff came in every day and huddled around one booth next to a heater until the parts arrived. In all of that, the only pipe that froze was the flush valve on the men’s urinal that I had replaced just a few months before.
I spent many hours in that building, and this is just a few of the many memories I have. I have met many people there for meals and planned many jobs there on napkins.
As I look around now I see many familiar places I remember from my first 20 years of life that have changed or are no longer standing. Each one of those has memories like some I have shared, and, to quote another line from Sir Paul, “all those places have their moments with lovers and friends I still can recall.” I will always remember them, and, as Bob Hope would say, “Thanks for the Memories”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.