Eclectic store flows back into Grand Lake
April 12, 2009
A familiar face has returned to the Grand Lake business district, albeit at a new location.
After what was her third retirement, owner Avis Gray reopened a business on the boardwalk named Cascades. It is one of many stores she has operated during her long career.
Her last, Cascades of the Rockies, closed about one year ago. During that time she kept busy “clearing the decks for a year,” volunteering, taking trips, and tackling home projects. With her signature abundance of energy she just couldn’t pass up another “spirit of adventure.”
Business neighbor Donna Ready was the first to let Gray know the space that formerly housed Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory was available. It didn’t come open very often and before Gray knew it she celebrated a soft opening in mid-March (a larger celebration is planned in May).
“What an idealist (I am) … in a recession, in March, when they (practically) roll up the streets,” Gray said. Maybe not the best investment financially, Gray still envisions the new project as rewarding because of the people.
Gray offers each guest a cup of tea; many also stay for conversation. Two cafe-type tables and soft music invite them to sit down, relax, and talk about the latest news.
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“People love to come in and pontificate, I guess,” Gray said. That (and the tea inside) is why the sign outside calls the store “The Hot Spot,” she joked.
Along with a variety of teas, Gray has several items to help people feel at home. Even more during these hard economic times, she said, “It’s time to kick back and re-assess. People are looking for roots, and a sense of simplicity and comfort.”
Books and people are her biggest passions, so it is only fitting Gray has an extensive collection for readers. New books cover Colorado’s history, lore, flora, fauna, geology, mountaineering and the outdoors. Gray also tries to carry most of the New York Times’ recommended books and best sellers (trade and non-fiction), as well as award-winning children’s books.
Known to spin a good tale, Gray shares a favorite story about one of her customers, a fourth grader who was practically “purring she was so happy” in the store. She had checked out the used books in the back room (where customers can trade in two books for one), but her glance kept pausing longingly at a new copy of “The Incredible Journey.”
Figuring the young lady didn’t have enough for the new book, Gray told her she had just located a used copy of the book for $1. She said the 9-year-old asked her to hold it as she eagerly ran home and back with a jar of change.
“That’s what you do,” Gray said with a gleam in her eye.
Cookbooks and quality foods touch on another passion of Gray’s. Herbal and organic products are available, and Gray will occasionally offer Saturday samples. There is also an eclectic collection of gift items, to include cosmetics, artwork, candles, writing supplies, “and things are evolving, of course.”
Gray invites everyone to stop by.
“There will always be a cup of tea brewing,” she said.