VAIL, Colorado - George Knox found his niche in life early on, and he found it in Vail.
Knox first came to Vail in 1964. He and his father, George Sr., were in the custom cabinet business, and on the way back from a job in Aspen, decided to look at the fledgling ski resort at the base of Vail Pass.
George Sr. decided the new village would be a good place to open a shop, so The Americana Shop opened Dec. 28 of that year at 291 Bridge Street. He's been in business in the same location ever since, which makes Knox Vail's longest-tenured business owner.
That run ends April 30 when Knox's shop, the Moose's Caboose, closes its doors.
"We just can't afford to be in business in that location any more," Knox said. For a lot of years, though, that shop supported Knox's family. But like the ski resort itself, success was far from a sure thing in the early days.
After "nearly starving to death" that first winter, with the Americana Shop's selection of household items and custom cabinets, George took the store in a different direction and opened The Mug Shoppe in 1965. More than one person wondered how that would work out.
One day Knox was sitting outside in the sun when Vail Mountain manager Sarge Brown wandered by and asked, "How are you going to make a living selling mugs?"
Knox asked himself the same question more than once, but the store's inventory - which held more than just mugs, of course - seemed to strike a chord with tourists.
Even in down times, when Knox thought about trying something else, those thoughts didn't linger long.
"I never really had any second guesses," he said.
Vail Village in the early days bustled even without the tourists, mainly because the young couples who owned businesses had kids, too. Over the years, just about all the parents, including Knox, claim their refrigerators were hit hardest by that clutch of kids.
Dave Gorsuch and his wife, Renie, moved to Vail in 1966. Whoever's pantry suffered most, Gorsuch said the families all pitched in to feed the kids and help each other as they could.
"There were a lot of good times," Gorsuch said.
In 1995, The Mug Shoppe became the Moose's Caboose, moving away from mugs toward the array of things trivial and special that today line the shelves - all of which Knox built. Shoppers could find everything from batteries and chewing gum to hand-crafted jewelry and pottery. There have been silly items on the shelves, too - including "canned otter."
Knox picked most of the items himself. And, he said, there were many more hits than misses.
"I just had a knack of picking (inventory)," he said.
Make no mistake - Knox would like to keep the Caboose open. But costs - and the march of time - mean it's time to retire. He's always rented, he said, because he's wanted to stay on Bridge Street and the opportunity to buy space there never came up.
So now it's time to retire. Now what?
Golf has always been one of Knox's passions - the TV in the Singletree home he shares with his wife, Candi was tuned to The Golf Channel during this interview - and he plans to pursue that passion in retirement. But, he said, he'll still frequent Vail.
"I'll always go into Vail," Knox said "It's a fun place to be. ... I love Vail - I think it's the greatest place that was ever created."
Gorsuch said he's sorry to see the Caboose close. But, he said, he hopes his old friend keeps that pledge to spend a lot of time in his adopted hometown.
"It's been nothing but a pleasure (knowing him)," Gorsuch said. "He went to work every day, and he's always had something to say about the town."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.