Thank you, Grandma Choate.
In the 1970s Jim Sherwood would travel down from his home in Ft. Collins, spend the night at Grandma Choate’s ranch in Evergreen, and head for the ski slopes the next morning with one of the Choates. That’s when Jim fell in love with Evergreen at age 16, thinking it would be “a cool place to live someday.”
“There’s a big city in the back yard, but it’s there only when you need it,” he says. This world traveler appreciates the proximity of a large, international airport down the hill, something he uses once or twice a month, primarily for work.
In the business of manufacturing, distributing and marketing silk-screened and embroidered apparel, Jim travels frequently to Singapore, Hong Kong and Mainland China to source apparel for sale in the US. Although 97 percent of his business is domestic, some of his clothing can be found in the duty-free shopping areas of international airports around the globe. You can also find it in the gift shops at the Monterey aquarium, Sea World, and many national parks as well as a number of mom-and-pop businesses across the United States.
It was his first business out of college, and he’s stuck to it. He also owns Evergreen Clothing Company – the home of fun and funky apparel – located on the boardwalk of lower downtown Evergreen. For the past four years he’s been offering clothing lines from Nepal along with Evergreen-themed pieces.
And on a temporary basis he’s made use of the empty NAPA building, selling diversified products as well as thousands of samples, overruns, overstock, misprints and pieces from trade shows at blow-out prices.
It’s like taking a trip from Maui to Orlando with stops at a few ski areas, zoos, national parks and theme parks in between. One can spend the equivalent of one entry ticket to a production and walk out with enough T-shirts and hoodies to make friends believe you’ve just traveled cross-country and been to dozens of attractions.
“It’s a way to give back to the community,” he says, referring to the $2, $4, $10 price tags. “Some can only afford that.” Prior to opening E-Town Outlet, Jim would have a big sale every year or two in his driveway. “It’s a labor of love to be able to do that on a regular basis.”
Location is everything, however, and that is proven with his own statistics. With two stores just a stone’s throw away, “85 percent of business on the boardwalk is tourists; 85 percent of the business in the NAPA building is local,” he discloses. “It’s the difference between being on the beaten path and on the outskirts.”
Jim wanted a way to give back to the community, and having a retail presence in Evergreen provides that. “We always say ‘yes’ to the community – just ask. That’s our motto,” the entrepreneur says. While many business owners have become resentful of being hit up half a dozen or more times each week for donations, Jim is proud he has created ways to be able to help everyone who asks.
As a member of the board of directors of the Evergreen Downtown Business Association (EDBA), he helped with the fundraising element of the Dam Ducky Derby for the first three years. The first year he held a kickoff for selling the ducks in his own back yard. It was so popular that it was moved over to Alderfer Three Sisters park for the second and third years to accommodate more people. He tapped friends to donate their services and to get involved, and by Year Three the kickoff party was raising $27,000 in a two-hour event. “Everybody gave – for auctions, live music, food – all was generously given by local business people and musicians.”
This year, although not directly involved with the effort as in past years, he was the big winner. Yes, his duck came through the chute at Highland Haven before the other 6,000+ ducks making their way down Bear Creek. He hadn't even purchased a ticket; it was part of a silent auction ice cream "package" he'd purchased at the kickoff party. Stunned and embarrassed that it might look like a rigged operation or otherwise inappropriate, Jim announced with his acceptance of the $3,000 prize that he would give back every penny to the charities Evergreen Clothing supports.
Amongst those groups that will benefit is the arm of EDBA called DEED – the Downtown Evergreen Economic District – of which Jim is a founding member. DEED is a district that geographically identifies an area called downtown that roughly extends from the high school to Lakepoint, through Main Street to Center Stage. Within that area, businesses participating in the Evergreen Legacy Fund assess a voluntary 1 percent donation to purchases, meaning customers can opt out.
The funds are deposited into a central account that’s designated for general improvements that would typically be covered by a municipal government, something Evergreen lacks because it’s unincorporated. “It’s an investment in having a better experience in downtown Evergreen,” he explains. It’s meant for such things as building trails and public restrooms; and in its first year, the fund has raised more than $30,000. “Dozens of ideas have been floated over the years [on how to improve Downtown Evergreen] that haven’t worked, but this one is working. The Legacy Fund is proof.”
“I spend my money in Evergreen every chance I get. I only go down the hill if I have to,” he says resolutely. “That’s just the way we are!” He’s also partial to patronizing those businesses that have signed on to be part of the Legacy Fund.
Jim is in his first year on the board of Center for the Arts Evergreen where he also has a hands-on opportunity to improve the quality of life for those who live and visit here. Jim’s touch could be seen at Summerfest where he spearheaded the Battle of the Bands and the Air Band contest. That, combined with the Palette of Brews (tasting the beers of microbreweries), helped to increase attendance by 30 percent in 2013.
About a decade ago Jim became a widower at an early age when his first wife died of breast cancer, and simultaneously an empty nester when his three stepchildren went to live with their dad. But on 7-7-07 at 7:07 pm he married Kristina, with whom he shares many friendships as well as a joy in supporting the community.
Together they’ve traveled extensively. In fact, he proposed to Kristina under the Eiffel Tower at midnight following a Pink Floyd concert in Paris. They enjoy vacationing in Mexico and southern Utah in between his business trips to the Far East. As a boy, his aunts and uncles would take him to see the land formations that wouldn’t be visible a year later as Glen Canyon was being flooded to create Lake Powell, so Utah brings back many memories.
“I wouldn’t trade Evergreen for anything. It offers a perfect balance … it’s not a small town that’s on a grid network … it’s spread out with streams and lakes … it gives us freedom like being out in the middle of nowhere,” Jim says like he’s bragging about an only child. “It has a small-town atmosphere with a big city in our back yard only when necessary.”
Jim Sherwood is a generous man who’s knows how to get things done, make a profit for the benefit of the community and be creative about making Evergreen a better place. He puts money and muscle behind the causes he supports, and he truly invests in his community.
Thanks again, Grandma Choate.