Evergreen has seen a lot of people come and go over the past years, so when you see someone who has stuck around and made our community a special place, it’s comforting – to say the least.
Laurie Ward, co-owner of Village Gourmet with her husband Tim, moved to Evergreen in 1975. “One of my co-workers at the time and Tim hit it off. He was remodeling a home on Upper Bear Creek Road, so we would come up and see it. We knew we wanted to be in a community with a small-town feel, so we moved here.”
Laurie was born and raised in another small town, Cañon City. After studying math, accounting and tax, she worked independently as a CPA , as well as at Ernst and Young, and in the oil and gas industry.
“We were on vacation in the Pacific Northwest and we saw a new shopping center; there weren’t a lot of them then. We visited a Williams Sonoma store – it was gourmet on the cutting edge.” So when the King Soopers shopping center opened in 1983, Laurie was poised to launch Village Gourmet. “We opened a month after the shopping center opened. We just got lucky [and] we worked hard.”
Laurie notes that only one other business has been there in the King Soopers Center since the beginning. Their kitchen and home store started out in a smaller location. They ended up moving to their present location for more space and then expanded further to today’s 3,800-square-foot space. “It doesn’t look like it’s that big, but we offer a lot.”
When Laurie started the shop, “Evergreen didn’t have much else in cookware.” Then as competition down the hill increased, “we expanded into gift lines, gourmet foods and home décor. We can’t just be kitchen,” she said. “We used to carry a variety of specialty coffees, but when coffee went mainstream we had to diversify.”
Laurie and Tim travel to multiple markets throughout the year in order to bring unique and quality items to their store. “We do the next year’s Christmas shopping right after Christmas. It’s actually good timing because we know what sold and what didn’t sell. That’s why we have sidewalk sales,” she shrugged with a smile.
When Laurie isn’t wiggling into small spaces in order to display her cookware, décor, gifts, and delicious treats for both new and long-time loyal customers, she can be found outside. “I love to cycle, rock climb – Wait! What?
“I learned to rock climb with my brother,” she said casually. “I have a brother in Aurora and a sister in Steamboat.” The family grew up loving the out-of-doors, and they are lucky that their parents still live in Cañon City. “Tim has two kids, one in Golden and the other in California; so we like to spend time with family.”
Another part of Laurie’s family is, of course, their two Gordon Setters. Just over her shoulder hung a photograph of Laurie showing one of her winning dogs at a dog show. “I’m involved on the board of the Gordon Setter Club.” She is also involved in the Gordon Setter Rescue and is even training one of the dogs in bird hunting.
Asked about some of the memorable moments during their 33 years operating Village Gourmet, she laughed and said, “Well, there are always those people who run into the store on their way to a wedding reception. And there are people who will say that they bought something 20 years ago...” She put on a guilty expression and admitted, “I might not even remember that I carried it.” But then she rested back in her chair and said, “I have out-of-state customers who only come to Evergreen now and again and they always make sure to come into the shop.”
Laurie will point out that the face of small retail changes. “People will tell me that they can get something online.” With a resigned shrug she tells them, “Go ahead, but without small retail we won’t have diversity. We’ll all be wearing and using the same things.” She sees how communities such as Fort Collins, Golden and Cañon City have managed to keep the unique shops in their community.
“I see that the upcoming generation is willing to shop locally. They seem to value the individual businesses.” She accounts for her success by pointing out, “People like what I’ve bought. That’s the best feeling – knowing that I’ve provided something special for them.”
If those of us in Evergreen are lucky, we’ll have Laurie and Village Gourmet in our community for many years to come – especially if we’re on our way to a wedding reception.