Downtown love story
This is a love story about people and business — subjects that go hand-in-hand on Main Street.
Consider Cheryl Lucas, owner of Crystal Books and Gifts, 439 Main St. On Oct. 11, her store celebrates 26 years of retailing downtown. The shop is one of several Main Street businesses that mark an anniversary this month.
Her journey started with a quote from Richard Bach’s “Illusions”: “To bring anything into your life, pretend that it is already there.”
Twenty-six years ago, Lucas gently reminded her husband, James, of the quote when he struggled to get back on track after quitting his job as manager with a national chain of gift stores. It inspired him to act.
James Lucas selected a Main Street location for the store he wanted to open and tried to line up financing with local banks, but without success. The prospects for success appeared slim.
The deadline Lucas set to open was imposed by the stars, which failed to align until about a week before the date an astrological chart indicated was best for her and her husband to launch the venture.
At the last possible moment, the couple was able to borrow $30,000 from friends and family. Working for eight consecutive days and nights, they negotiated their lease, built the store and fixtures and stocked the location just in time to meet the astrologically chosen deadline of 4:03 p.m., Oct. 11, 1987.
James Lucas opened the doors with only $8,000 in inventory. He spent the next two years slowly building stock levels and taking home about $450 a month. Cheryl Lucas worked part-time in the store and helped support the family with proceeds from her own business.
Sales steadily increased, eventually enabling Cheryl to close her business and start working full time in the shop. The couple began investing as much as possible in upgrading fixtures, adding carpet and buying a computerized point of sale system to replace the legal pads they used to keep track of inventory.
Like most love stories, there were plenty of ups and downs. Crystal Books survived the arrival to Grand Junction of the large, chain retailer, Barnes & Noble, but many other independent bookstores did not. Though a 35 percent drop in book sales hurt, the couple adapted by expanding their gift inventory.
“We have learned it is important regardless of who or what appears on your horizon, you must be open to changes in your inventory and adapt to those changing conditions or you’ll perish under the weight of your inflexibility,” James Lucas wrote shortly before he died in a traffic accident in 2002.
Not physically present, James Lucas’ presence is nevertheless felt throughout the store, most of all by Cheryl.
“The 10 days before my husband Jim died, pennies began appearing all around me,” Lucas said. “After some research, we discovered that finding pennies can predict a significant change in your life or that someone who has died is letting you know they are around you. At the time, the symbolic meanings didn’t seem to apply and it left me perplexed.
“The minute I was informed that Jim died in an accident, the appearance of pennies immediately made sense. The next day, when two more showed up, I knew Jim was letting me and our son know that he was okay.”
Pennies taped to the cash register are just a few of the keepsakes Lucas maintains around Crystal Books and Gifts to remind her of the journey that started 26 years ago.