Oak Creek It's hard to believe that a business sitting just off Main Street in a town of less than 900 people could go unnoticed, but people walk into the Material Guys home improvement store in Oak Creek all the time, surprised at their discovery.
It's even more surprising since the family that owns it has been in business in the small town for three generations.
"We've been here for a year, but customers are always saying, 'Wow. I didn't know this was here,'" owner Norm Hoskinson said.
The full-service hardware and building material shop is tucked behind the Sinclair station on the far end of Main Street.
Hoskinson's family has been in business in Oak Creek for as long as he can remember. He is the third-generation son of a family who moved to town around 1900.
His grandfather and great-uncles were cowboys when they first moved to town.
"One of them never even learned to drive because he just rode a horse everywhere," Hoskinson said. "He won a Model A car in a poker game and my dad had to drive him everywhere."
Hoskinson's grandfather took a job as a coal miner and was involved in the turmoil of Oak Creek's historic mining strike.
"When the workers started to strike, my grandfather believed that the unions were important and he was blacklisted from the mines," Hoskinson said. "The mine owners called out the National Guard against the rabid workers and my grandfather took a job as a storekeeper."
When Hoskinson's father was a grown man, he and his father opened a grocery in Oak Creek called the High Neighbor Market.
For Norm Hoskinson's entire life, his father owned a business. When he graduated from Soroco High School in 1969, his father was running an oil delivery business called Hoskinson Oil.
Instead of joining his father's business after graduation, Norm Hoskinson took his place next to all the other men his age who enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Almost three years into his service, Hoskinson had been in Vietnam for 10 months. He received a letter from his mother.
His father had cancer and was unable to operate the oil business. Because Hoskinson was an only child, the family was in danger of losing their business.
"She asked me if I wanted to come home," he said. "I told her if there was anyway she could get me out of here, that she should do it."
His mom picked up instructions from the Army about getting a hardship discharge for her son. There, she found a long list of things she could do, including getting a letter from a pastor or a doctor.
"She did all of them," Hoskinson said. "When they sent me home, the officer told me that it was the fastest he had ever seen a hardship happen."
Hoskinson came back to Oak Creek and worked for his father.
In 1977, he and a few school friends -- Carl Ray, Butch Shaffer, Bob Maijala and Jim Photos, Ernie Montoia -- bought the business. Initially, they partnered with a business in Denver called Venta Inc.
They expanded the business, adding auto-parts sales and, over time, opening two convenience stores: the Sinclair station in Oak Creek with an auto-parts store in the back and a store in Yampa where Weston Oil is now located.
He sold those businesses in 1996.
When Norm's son, Brandon, the fourth generation of the family to own a business in Oak Creek, graduated from Soroco High School, the father-and-son team opened a landscaping and excavating business.
"The problem with that business is that it didn't really include my wife or daughter," Norm Hoskinson said.
Having a business that involved the entire family was always his dream.
It came true exactly one year ago after a conversation with Flattop Home Improvement storeowner Glenn Cox.
"He'd owned the store for more than 20 years, and after all that time the freshness and the challenge is gone," Hoskinson said.
Cox had moved to Grand Junction and wanted to sell his business.
The Hoskinsons were buying.
They changed the name to Material Guys and opened on Jan. 15, 2002.
"We formed a family corporation and opened a lumber yard on Arthur Street," Hoskinson said. "Glenn's expertise was always in building, but our focus was retail."
Two weeks later, the family was expanding the business to a home-improvement storefront in the back half of the Sinclair station building.
The space had been empty almost since he sold the auto parts store in '96.
"It was a real homecoming for me," he said. "When I sold, I never expected I'd be back."
The story is now open in that location, 312 Myers St., 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
They sell paint, plumbing and electrical supplies, propane, lumber, hardware and auto parts, all of which they deliver. On top of that, Norm and Brandon Hoskinson still do landscaping in the summer and snow removal in the winter and do oil changes for anyone who asks.
The Material Guys store is staffed by the Hoskinson family with the addition of full-time employee Grace Jones.
"I guess after a year, Grace is family, too," Hoskinson said.
Hoskinson hopes South Routt will continue to discover his store.
"I don't know how to overcome the mentality that you have to go to Steamboat to get building supplies," he said. "We can do it all and it's all right here in Oak Creek."