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Meet Gary and Megan Mitchell

Written by Penny Randell on .

The flood in Evergreen last September traumatized many, but probably not to the extent that Gary and Megan Mitchell, owners of Cactus Jack’s Bar and Restaurant, were affected. The event rapidly demolished their livelihood after the establishment was left in standing waters from Bear Creek overflow. But, that’s the natural beginning of this story. More beguiling is the unnatural portion of the tale and is what the couple describes as “the beginning of a new life.”

Just days after the flood, while wrestling with the re-creation of the bar, Gary fell through the weakened floorboards and suffered a compound fracture of his right leg, incapacitating him for more than two weeks. Unable to finagle both crutches and tools, he wasn’t able to work until four months and three surgeries later. Consequently, he was forced to depend on family, friends and a very caring community to help with the project.

No sooner had Gary returned to the bar than his wife, Megan, fell on the ice covering the deck, tearing the ligaments that attached her kneecap. She was then placed on bed rest for weeks, adding crutches later. The culmination of these overpowering events brought Megan to the conclusion that everything had to change. During her recovery, with her husband and two boys at her side, she resolved to begin a new life designed to bring about more order and in particular, serenity.

Always mindful of the laborious 50- to 60-hour workweeks, Gary and Megan say they continuously searched for methods and regimens that would enable them to save time and make every moment count. Deliberation ensued, and it was decided that all alcohol be removed from their lives. As unnatural as it may seem, friends testify that these two bar owners have made tremendous strides in their personal lives and work ethic because of this.

Megan may have been the instigator, but Gary acquiesced on request, and the high-octane commitment was intensified. Both admit that the regimen leaves them more focused and energetic, realizing that the workdays are considerably more organized and, in return, more manageable. Megan confesses she has turned her life over to a higher power and has more peace of mind than ever before. At that, Gary gave up alcohol as well, saying all he wants in life is her happiness and their continued progress.

Gary and Megan actually met at Cactus Jack’s in 2001 when it was still in the hands of Allan Major. They both describe a classic meeting of the hearts, which was pretty much love at first sight. Five months later Megan was pregnant with their first child, Gus. Their second child, Jack, was born about one year after, so the two were raising babies while buying and learning to operate a bar/restaurant. Soon thereafter the couple decided to marry. That was 10 years ago; and as far as they are concerned, they couldn’t be happier, except for wanting a little more free time to spend with the boys.

Believing in fairness and a collective effort, Gary and Megan strive to inspire their staff to feel “at home,” but Gary says he asks his employees to give their all. Indeed, since reconstruction was completed patron numbers have steadily climbed and Gary surmises that the day is “right around the corner” when Cactus Jack’s becomes a destination bar. He attributes a fair amount of the success to their loyal employees, recognizing and respecting the talent that has come their way.

Jamie Graf, the manager, follows the owners in command and is first to receive both good and bad reports from customers. While the couple praises Jamie for her unrelenting efforts to keep the business running smoothly, Jamie claims there are no two greater bosses, insisting Gary and Megan are the “best two people on the planet.”

These hardworking business owners attribute their favorable outcome to strong family ties. Gary, named after his dad, is proud of being a junior. After the devastating loss of his sister six years ago, he was capable of putting the events of the flood and broken legs in perspective, realizing his family would eventually prevail. Megan was raised by her mother and says there is no end to the woman’s positive strength. But it’s their own family of four that keeps their spirits high. Gary appears to make every effort to keep family first. Although understaffed, they recently let go of the arduous family business for nine days to vacation in Hawaii.

Employees are taken by the unwavering dedication of the couple, and most agree it makes the job more fun. Listening to Megan talk of her husband in such glowing terms, it would seem they could deal with any hurdle that comes their way.

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