BizBuzz, Thursday, June 26

A Grand Junction couple with decades of retailing experience decided last month to wind down their Western haberdashery and start taking a few days off during the week. The only problem is, owner Jerry Derby and general manager Sally Basham might have to keep Rocky Mountain Hats & Boots, 2718 U.S. Highway 50, open until Christmas to sell the more than 12,000 pairs of cowboy boots and other Western wear the store has in stock, Basham said.

Derby, a renowned hat maker, will eventually wind the retail business down until only the hat making shop remains, Basham said.

“This decision has been in the making for a few years,” Basham said. “He can’t hardly give it up. Jerry has owned 59 stores in seven states.”

Derby will not be selling the building where the store operates but he would be willing to listen to offers for the business, Basham said.

“He’s getting a little older and it’s harder to stay open seven days a week,” she said. “Eventually we want to have a custom hat store and just be closed a few days a week.”

Many loyal customers return time and again to buy, Basham said, including people from out of state.

Discount prices for every style of boot imaginable may be a big draw for the store, but customer service is what sustained Derby’s many businesses over the years.

“You won’t have a more pleasant experience anywhere else,” Basham said. “We’re mom and pop and we make it fun.”

In addition to the in-store inventory, Derby has nine 18-wheel trucks and three warehouses full of boots, she said.

■ A medical doctor by training, but a businessman at heart, Joe Davis of Delta County announced this week that he purchased Hi Quality Packing, a longtime Delta food distribution company, for an undisclosed amount.

“I tell people I’m the vice president in charge of hello,” Davis said, his soft Texas drawl turning to a chuckle.

Mike Gibson is the company’s CEO, he said.

Davis lived in Grand Junction and practiced medicine for a short time here before moving back to Texas to take another position. He’s been traveling back and forth to the Western Slope since 1995.

About 10 years ago, Davis sold property where Texas Roadhouse and MindSprings, a mental health hospital, are now located.

Davis said he and his wife were living on Rogers Mesa four years ago when Davis took a trip to Naples, Florida. His wife declined to join him. There he spent a month with a giant blackboard planning the launch of a vertically integrated food company. It was a vision he said he created after consulting with the Lord.

Davis said he wants to grow Hi Quality’s business so that it distributes locally produced food for 12 months out of the year, not the five- or six-month business season it has operated under in years past.

“The goal is to get the food to Laughing Goat Farmers Markets,” he said, another venture he has started.

“We’re already dealing with fruit packaging,” he said. “But then we want to extend that to locally produced cheese, milk, corn and beans.”

In addition to packaging and distributing food, Davis wants Hi Quality to become a food processing plant as well.

“I want to sell value-added products like locally produced honey, fruit snacks — anything that’s processed in this area,” he said. “We’ve got to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs that’s happening.”

He wants people who have small acreage to be able to make a living selling fresh produce.

“The inputs are so high,” Davis said. “Land prices are so high — it’s a challenge. But I honestly believe that the pendulum is swinging back and we’re seeing a renaissance in agriculture, particularly here on the Western Slope.”

Because of access to water, a good growing climate and arable land in Mesa, Delta, and Montrose counties. “This area is going to become very important in feeding large numbers of people when industrial farming unwinds — and that’s not far in the future.”

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