Saturday, November 1, 2003
Mike Roach walked with Craig Rench into the musty former VFW building on the corner of Sharp Avenue and Main Street to show him the site of their new wood shop and furniture store. Half of the old wooden bar was torn away. The floor was covered with dirty dishes, yellowed newspapers, plumbing fixtures and a thick layer of dust that had settled on everything.
"You must be crazy" was the first reaction from Rench, Roach's business partner.
"I told him, 'You have to look beyond all this and see what it could be," Roach said. Roach bought the building that had housed the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 3311 until early March when it went out of business. He signed the closing papers in the first week of October and has been making plans ever since.
Roach sees potential in the 2,000-square-foot-downtown landmark, just as he sees potential in Oak Creek.
"My friends tell me that nothing is going to happen to this town, but I think they're wrong. This place is changing," he said. "This is such a neat little town, and people are getting active and interested in making a difference in this town."
Roach has been attending meetings of the South Routt Development Council and joined a subcommittee focused on bringing in new businesses. "This is an exciting time for this town, and this is perfect timing for me."
Roach decided to invest in downtown Oak Creek this summer. He was sitting in the Mugshot Coffeeshop and saw fliers advertising the VFW building.
"They started asking for $90,000, and then reduced it to $65,000," he said. "I kept looking at that figure and realized it was within reach. Imagine what you would pay for the same building in Steamboat."
He offered the sellers a figure lower than their asking price and told them he could close in a week. They took his offer. Roach's dad bought the adjoining lot and plans to leave it empty.
Roach gave the veterans two weeks to clear what they wanted from the building. They took a piece of the bar and cleared their files from the back room.
"This building has a lot of memories for a lot of people," Roach said.
After going through Oak Creek's planning process and a major renovation spearheaded by architect Jan Kaminski, Roach imagines a showroom of original mostly Roach-made furniture in the front of the building and a workshop in the back. A large glass window will divide the two rooms so customers can watch the process as they shop.
Roach prefers to work with hard woods such as cherry and mahogany. His work is influenced by furniture makers such as Thomas Moser and the furniture he saw while growing up in Philadelphia in his grandmother's antique store.
"I've been taking a lot of pictures of antique furniture," he said. "I like that they are not always symmetrical."
He likes cleaner lines, but doesn't think furniture in this area should have rigid, square lines. "I think furniture here should be a little worn."
Roach moved to Routt County in 1991 after graduating from college with a business management degree.
"I don't think I was thinking very far into the future at that point," he said. "I was just thinking about skiing and hiking the Zirkels. Those were my goals."
Roach was working in restaurants and taking odd construction jobs when he decided to learn the trade of a cabinetmaker.
He worked his way over the years into a position with furniture maker Jace Romick.
"Until then, I was just a worker. Then I went to running the whole shop," Roach said. Romick has his own line of furniture and makes custom pieces. Roach worked for Romick for five years.
As of Monday, Roach will be working his way toward independence as Romick focuses on his two stores, and Roach takes over the woodshop.