For Diana Blagg-Jones, even though she didn’t grow up here, returning to reopen the family business is like coming home.
“I grew up in Denver, but I spent all my summers in the Meeker and Steamboat area with my dad (Mike Blagg) and grandparents,” Diana said. “I worked in the drugstore when I was a kid. That was back in the day when you had to wear skirts to work.”
Diana, who currently calls Castle Rock home, plans to relocate to Meeker, where she and husband Mike have reopened Meeker Drugs — and put their own stamp on the business, adding the “s” to the name.
“A lot of people referred to it as Meeker Drugs anyway, so I thought it would be kinda fun to change (the name),” Diana said, adding the store’s street signage would remain the same. “I’m just going to leave it. It’s an icon in the town. I would not mess with it.”
As the third generation to run the business, Diana is respectful of her family’s history with the community. Her grandfather Herb Blagg had the downtown business first, starting in 1962. She is proud to follow in his footsteps.
“I learned so much of my business sense and values through what my grandpa taught me,” Diana said.
Herb is retired and living in Florida, but he still maintains his pharmacy license in Colorado. He has been a registered pharmacist in the state for 50 years.
“He was very excited when I called to tell him I wanted to do this,” Diana said. “I just wanted to make sure he thought I could do it. It was very important to me that I have his support. The same with Linda (Blagg), when I talked to her she said, absolutely, you can do this. Just to have their confidence made a big difference.
“My grandpa was excited when Linda took it over, too, just to keep it in the family,” Diana added.
Now, Diana is taking over the family business from Linda, her father’s wife, who purchased the drugstore in 2004.
As for Linda, she “essentially retired,” Diana said, adding, “She and my dad will spend time with my grandpa in Florida this winter. But she’ll do something else. She doesn’t know how not to be busy.”
Diana reopened the pharmacy a week ago, after the business was closed for about six months for an extensive cleanup and remodeling following a fire in May. The retail gift part of the store opened earlier. There will be an open house Dec. 2.
“It was great,” Diana said of the pharmacy’s reopening. “Everyone was excited to see us open. We had a few little quirks we’re still working out, but everyone has been very patient.”
As the only pharmacy in the county, Diana said she felt a sense of obligation to the community to reopen as soon as possible.
“Just to be able to be of service,” Diana said. “That’s very important to me.”
For the past six months, people were forced to go out of town for their prescriptions. So Diana knows she will have to win back the pharmacy’s former customers.
“It’s almost like starting a new business,” she said. “I just hope through our customer service and convenience of being on Main Street that will bring customers back. I truly think, the small-town customer service, it’s well worth coming back … that people won’t have to drive out of town to get prescriptions.”
Besides Diana, the family side of the business also continues with her step-sister Dawn Eichman, who is managing the gift store. And employees like Melvin Sullivan, pharmacy manager, and pharmacist Jan Oldland, who worked for Diana’s grandpa, are like family.
“She (Oldland) worked for my grandfather and for Linda for years,” Diana said. “She shares a lot of the same ideas I have as far as whole health. And (Sullivan) reminds me so much of my grandfather. He looks like him. The only thing missing is that big belly laugh.”
Before the fire, Linda Blagg had a satellite store in Rangely that while not staffed by a pharmacist, was a place where people on the west end of the county could pick up their prescriptions. Diana said she would consider reopening a store in Rangely, but only if it can be fully staffed with a pharmacist.
“We don’t have plans, not at this time, but if we do decide to do that, they deserve the same service Meeker does, with their own store and being staffed with their own pharmacist,” Diana said. “Then we might look at it. They deserve the same quality as Meeker does. Right now, we can mail prescriptions from Meeker Drugs to Rangely. We absolutely want to provide that service to them, if possible. It’s a two- or three-day delivery.”
Previously, Diana said, there had been conversations about opening a pharmacy in the White River Market grocery store in Rangely.
“There had been communications there,” Diana said. “He (the White River Market manager) had some space available there.”
But the fire brought those plans to a halt.
For now, Diana has focused her efforts on getting the Meeker pharmacy up and running again. And she and her husband and two daughters — ages 12 and 9 — are making plans to move here. Though, for now, she’s commuting every other week.
“We’ve purchased five acres in Ute Terrace from Nancy Sullivan, right behind the airport. We actually closed on Friday,” Diana said. “It’s a ways out as far as building, so for now, I’m renting a house from Evie Chambers. As soon as the girls are out of school, either after Christmas break or at the end of the school year, we’ll move. I just want to be there.”
Diana and husband Mike have business interests in the Denver and Colorado Springs area, where they own a construction-related printing company. They are in the process of selling the Denver business. Mike will continue to oversee the Colorado Springs business, while helping out doing what he can at the drugstore.
“As far as the drugstore goes, he’s been our maintenance man,” Diana said with a laugh. “We’ll see what he ends up doing once we get up there (full time). But he’s good with it, he just wants me to be happy.”
Diana is even considering pursuing her pharmacy degree.
“I have a BS (bachelor of science degree) in biology with a chemistry minor,” she said. “I would have to take some refresher classes to update the credits I have, and then continue through the pharmacy program.”
Then, she, too, would be a pharmacist, like her grandfather. That would make her even more proud to carry on his legacy in her new adopted hometown.
“I’m really excited to be part of the community,” Diana said. “I’m grateful that I have been welcomed like I have been. I was kind of nervous about that, being the out-of-towner, but it feels like home.”
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Tim Webber, director of the Western Rio Blanco Recreation and Park District in Rangely, has an idea.
“I still think we should put a tax on the snow over there,” Tim said. “It’s a renewable resource.”
Tim offered his idea in response to lawmakers from the Front Range, who have a reputation for overlooking the less-populated northwest part of the state, except when it comes to taxing its mineral resources.
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On the other side of the county, the Eastern Rio Blanco Recreation and Park District in Meeker held a first-ever event last Friday — a father/daughter ball.
“We were very excited about the event,” said Kari Jo Stevens of the ERBM staff. “It was pretty cute seeing the girls dancing with their dads. Those are memories they will never forget. I will always remember when my dad taught me how to waltz.”
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When Vicky Tate, physical education teacher at Meeker Elementary School, accompanied by her father, Dale Frisby, entered the Fairfield Center last Friday for the father/daughter ball, she was greeted by several of her students, who were excited to see her. But they asked her why she was there.
“I have a father, too, you know,” Vicky said.
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Leona Hemmerich can make a claim most people can’t — she’s actually read the entire proposed health care bill.
“I read the whole thing,” said Leona of Blue Mountain, who, along with Bill Mitchem of Rangely, co-owns the BedRock Depot in Dinosaur. “All 1,990 pages, and on page 909, there’s even a grammatical error.”
Asked how she came across a copy of the health care bill, Leona said, “Someone sent me the link, so I downloaded it. I skimmed some stuff. There are things I saw I liked, I did, but there are so many bad things that will end up costing us money. That public option is a bunch of crap. I realize we do need some reform, but anytime you get the government involved, it’s not going to save money.”
After reading a copy of the proposed legislation, Leona said it didn’t make her feel any better about health care reform.
“I really got sick over it,” she said.
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Cody Jackson of Rangely, Brenda Ahrens’ son, will be deployed back to Iraq in January, while Ian Poole of Meeker, Julianne Belland’s son, is over there now. He’s been in Iraq for about a month.
“He’s doing good, as far as I know,” Julianne said. “We just don’t get to talk to him nearly as often now, which is a stark reminder they are in the middle of a war situation.”
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Kasey Huff, granddaughter of Carl and Peggy Rector of Rangely, is recovering from wounds she suffered while serving in Iraq.
“She and two of her squad received the Purple Heart as well as combat medals in a ceremony (last Friday),” Peggy said.
Kasey will come home for two weeks in June, before returning again to Iraq. Her tour will end in September 2010, at which time she will return to the States.
Peggy and Carl had the chance to talk with Kasey on the phone last week.
“She sounds good, but is headed back to her duty, very shortly,” Peggy said. “This was our first phone conversation since she has been in Iraq. She can’t say anything about what happened to her, or what is happening over there. She said to tell everyone hi and thanks for the prayers.”
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Todd Young, Meeker’s local funny man, who will travel to New York City next year to try his hand at performing stand-up comedy, cites two major comedic influences: Jeff Foxworthy and Johnny Carson.
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Deni Saucedo (formerly Back) and her husband, Daniel, who was injured in Iraq and whose unit is now based at Fort Hood, Texas, scene of the recent shootings, did not attend last week’s memorial service.
“It was standing room only, and (Daniel) can’t stand for prolonged periods of time,” Deni said. “We knew it would be crazy, because they were doing extra (security) checks, so we chose not to.”
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Lynn Lockwood of Meeker’s Smoking River Pow Wow Committee wanted to let people know the Northern Ute Thanksgiving Powwow will take place Nov. 26-28 at Fort Duchesne, Utah.
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I enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner Sunday at St. James Episcopal Church in Meeker, which is a great community event. Of course, I indulged in the traditional turkey dinner with all the fixin’s, but the highlight, for me, was the pie. I even ate two pieces, with permission, of course.
Marge Rogers told me I could come back for seconds on pie, really, she did. In fact, if I remember right, I think she insisted.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.