In the summer of 1971 just after high school graduation, Susan Fariss first walked down Evergreen’s main street. Overwhelmed and besotted by the continuous smiling faces and friendly greetings along the way, she vowed to move here just as soon as she completed college back home in Florida. Susan and a group of school buddies had driven all the way from Miami just to confirm that Colorado was, indeed, her favorite state.
After significant exploration and taking in all the sights, they returned to Miami and she was off to the university in pursuit of a special education degree. On return one of her original traveling friends confided that he, too, wished to relocate to Colorado, and preferably to Evergreen. The friend’s name was Bob, and in total they have been together now for 44 years and married for 39.
As intended, only one year after they were wed the couple loaded up a few belongings and followed their hearts to Colorado. They ended up in Denver, but it wasn’t long before they began to “feel their way” up to the foothills where Susan says she was meant to be. They moved about at first, residing in Conifer and Tiny Town eventually settling on Bailey. Susan continued to work in Denver as a special education teacher, and Bob followed a trail that led to construction.
Unhappy in her job, she eventually chose to work as a nurse’s aid. It was during this time that Susan met Evergreen icon Ross Grimes while she was providing nursing care for his mother. Taken by her strength and perseverance from the start, soon after he offered her a job in his business, Evergreen Crafters, long known as Evergreen’s favorite gift store and an anchor on Main Street since the late 40s.
Although the proposal was particularly attractive, and even though the store was located in the community where she longed to reside, it seemed impossible to leave nursing behind, and for good reason. She, along with several others, had put together an original hospice program of sorts and it had captured her every attention.
Ross persevered nonetheless, calling Susan repeatedly and suggesting she become the manager and buyer for his establishment. Soon after her favorite patient died in her arms, Bob pointed out that she never smiled and had ceased to laugh. That was all it took, as she has always believed that a positive attitude is the key to a happy existence. Susan accepted Ross’s offer and loved every minute of working at the store.
During those years, beginning in 1980, Susan met volumes of people and practically befriended each one. She cherished all her responsibilities managing the store and particularly enjoyed the extensive travel the job required. Still, it was the people that kept her forever involved.
In 2003 when Ross decided to retire, he presented Susan and Bob with an offer to buy the business. Scared as she was, she took the reins in hand, put their house up for collateral and made the leap of faith. With a home and two horses located in Bailey, it required a bit of a drive twice daily. Susan said it has never caused a moment of discomfort, and it even helps to prepare her for the day.
Things went along smoothly for a number of years, and then the recession hit. Between 2008 and 2010 Evergreen folks were struggling, and Susan was right along with them. Residents were frightened, and some displayed real dedication to keeping afloat businesses that remained, especially those with longevity after seeing landmark businesses like The Hardware and Evergreen Drug disappear.
One customer after another would counsel with Susan, offering whatever they could to keep her doors open. In fact, Susan confesses there would be no store if it were not for the townspeople. Many spent more than usual to buy her merchandise and were determined to assist in any way they could. Even in 2007, when the store was rather suddenly relocated across the street due to structural concerns at the original location, citizens were there, willing to lend a helping hand.
The roots of Evergreen Crafters reflect a continual effort to serve not only consumers, but to offer an opportunity for artisans to sell their creations at the top souvenir shop in Evergreen. The store began as a teashop in 1948, and local crafters took “top billing” on the shelves. Susan says that “local” is where it’s at and that she continually reaches out to the community and surrounding foothills to present this well appreciated opportunity. Nowadays she rarely, if ever, leaves Colorado to hunt for merchandise, promising that there are plenty of handcrafted items right here in her own back yard.
She is afforded precious little time for any personal life, but when possible she’s off with her husband and two dogs in their fifth wheel. She says that, besides Bob and three brothers, her dogs are family and she refuses to ever leave them behind. Indeed, this lady has a tenacity that gets the job done and a heart that remains a magnet to all who know her.