Stories of three people who have the will to fight hard times back

1 - Michelle Knapton

It would have been easy for Grand Junction bartender Michelle Knapton to continue slinging drinks for other bar owners as she had for the past decade. The money was decent, and she liked the social scene. But something was missing.

Knapton, 29, saw ways to make the experience better for patrons, but as an employee her suggestions often fell on deaf ears.

“We’ve spent our lives busting our butts for other people with nothing in return,” she said.

After deciding to take a leap from being employees to owners, Knapton and three friends who have long worked alongside each other in the local bar scene — Mandi Kelley, Ben Dial, and Justin Morgan — banded together to start their own venture.

They were well-versed in the horror stories of attainting a liquor license and starting a business in a depressed economy.

Yet their recent opening night brought a bar filled to capacity at 7 p.m. with a line down the street, and it served as their first indication that Tenacious Brothers Pub, 118 S. Seventh St., could be a success.

“We just wanted to take a chance,” Kelley said. “We’re all pretty innovative, and we figured it was the best time.”

In many ways, it was a fine time for the first-time business owners to take a chance.

A number of their friends who were out of work earned extra cash by helping renovate the interior, laying new flooring, painting walls and refinishing wood.

Although the four started the process about six months ago when consumers even more tightly clutched pocketbooks, their business should be well-established when the economy straightens out, they figure.

Because their business model is centered around reviving an arts scene, the building’s owner chose to rent the facility to the four over a host of other people interested in renting the space, they said.

While they planned to open a bar somewhere in the Grand Valley, the downtown location is more than they hoped for.

“We got lucky. We thought we would have to open some small bar in Clifton, and we got this,” Knapton said, gesturing around the bar toward a stage, dance floor and two lounges.

“We never expected to get a place this nice.”

It’s quite possible no one has been immune from our embattled economy.

For some it has meant the loss of a job or home or any number of hardships that have painfully unraveled during the past year. Yet, through the countless stories of heartache, most of us are surviving. Some of us are taking risks during the dark times, refusing to put long-held dreams on hold.

The following are stories of three local people who aren’t letting a poor economy get the best of them. Instead, they are persevering, achieving and serving as examples of hope.

3 - Alisha Horrocks

It’s been some time since life was this good for Alisha Horrocks.

A single mother of two children, ages 7 and 10, Horrocks is thankful for the job she landed in August. After surviving a nasty divorce, she now provides for her children by working as a property manager for the Grand Junction Housing Authority.

“I have wonderful hours, and I get to do a little bit of everything,” Horrocks said from her office last week.

Horrocks earned an associate’s degree in business a couple years ago, but she wasn’t particularly proud of her work as a receptionist.

After scouring ads at the Mesa County Workforce Center, Horrocks earned a paid internship through the center to work for the Housing Authority. The internships are designed to temporarily pay employee wages to assist local businesses in the hopes that those businesses will hire employee interns. It worked for Horrocks, who finally has found meaningful work.

“I’m one of those people who never really knew what they wanted to do when they grew up,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been very blessed. There are jobs out there if you want one.”

Yes, there are jobs available in Mesa County, said Gilbert Lujan, supervisor of the Mesa County Workforce Center. However, the market is highly competitive for job seekers. More than 9,000 applicants and 91 job orders are available, Lujan said.

A job order can mean that one or more jobs are available for that order. A year and a half ago, the situation looked much rosier. At that time there were about 3,000 applicants and 450 job orders.

“It’s been a huge shift,” he said. “It’s a full-time job in itself to find a job.”

Horrocks feels it was partly because of her positive attitude that she was able to find work. She’s a hard worker and laughs easily with others, describing herself as a friendly person.

“Life’s too short to have a bad attitude,” she said. “You got to have hope and got to find something to make you happy.”

2 - Guy Clark

Guy Clark always a had a dream of becoming an automotive mechanic, but life always seemed to get in the way. For 10 years, the Grand Junction man, now 32, wanted to go back to school. Soon after he married, two children came along, and his time seemed better spent working to make ends meet.

When the recession hit, money seemed tighter than ever. Clark, weary of watching his family struggle, opted this year to enroll in school, in the hopes of changing his family’s circumstances for good.

“I was so tired of feeling like a failure to my family,” Clark said last week after a class at IntelliTec College, 772 Horizon Drive, in Grand Junction.

Clark said he works 60 to 68 hours a week on the swing shift at CoorsTek, 2249 Riverside Parkway. He enjoys job flexibility with his school schedule. But his true passion is working on cars.

Although going to school detracts from the family’s income, Clark thought if he didn’t go back to school now, he never would. A recession wasn’t about to stop him from getting an automotive degree.

“The main thing is my family comes before anything,” he said. “Fifteen months (of schooling) will definitely improve our lives. Right at first, I would really love to work for a Ford dealership and get some experience with business management and then try to open up my own company.”

Clark is hardly alone in wanting to increase his skills during the recession. Enrollment at Grand Junction’s IntelliTec campus is up more than 25 percent from 2008, according to Director Mike Grove. The male population has more than doubled, from 60 enrolled male students at the beginning of the year to 135 enrolled male students now, he said.

Clark is in school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and immediately heads to work from 1:30 p.m. until after midnight. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for family time. The sacrifice should be worth it someday, he said.

“I’m not home for four days a week, but two days a week they know every second of the day is devoted to them,” Clark said about his 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. “It will pay off in the end.”


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