George Knox celebrates 40 years on Bridge Streeet
VAIL – Change is about the only constant in Vail. Except for George Knox, who for the last 40 years has run a business from the same spot in Vail Village. On Dec. 28, 1964, Knox moved into a storefront at 291 Bridge Street and opened the Americana cabinet shop. The next summer, the store became the Mug Shoppe, specializing in, yes, mugs and other trinkets. In 1995, the name changed again, to the Moose’s Caboose.Businesses and business owners have come and gone over the years, leaving Knox and Pepi Gramshammer as the most senior merchants in town.Knox and his father, George Sr., came through Vail almost as an afterthought in the summer of 1964. The two were in the custom cabinet business in Colorado Springs, and had come to the mountains to oversee an installation at a home in Aspen. While they were there, they took a look at the town to see whether they should open a retail shop there.Aspen already had its fill of custom cabinet-makers, so on the return trip, the Knoxes decided to take a look at the new ski area along U.S. Highway 6 at the base of Vail Pass.Bridge Street was still a dirt road at the time, Gasthof Gramshammer was just about finished, and the Covered Bridge and Clock Tower Building were still in the planning stagesKnox’s father took one look at the place and told his son, “This is where we’re going to open up.”The shop was ready for business on Dec. 28, 1964. “God, it was cold that winter,” Knox said. And business wasn’t so hot, either. “I came close to starving to death that winter,” Knox said. With the cabinet shop foundering, Knox changed the name and the theme.”Forty years later, we’re still here,” he said. Canned otter
Over the years, the Mug Shoppe, and later, the Moose’s Caboose, has filled to the ceiling with items trivial and precious. Shoppers can find items from T-shirts and “canned otter” to hand-crafted jewelry. The sound of hand-crafted wind chimes echoes through the store as tourists pass through, and kids stop to pet Isis, the store’s resident Australian shepherd. What shoppers don’t see is all the work Knox has put into the store.”George has made all the shelves in there, and added lots of little touches over the years,” said Sandy Manning, manager of The Toy Store, the shop next door to the Moose’s Caboose. “It’s just fabulous to be next to them.”As much as the store itself, Knox’s attitude is what makes Manning a fan. Manager of The Toy Store for the past 11 years, Manning sees Knox, his wife, Candy, and their son, Munsey, just about every day.”Every day he’ll say ‘We’re so lucky to be here in Vail,'” Manning said.Knox will share that sentiment with just about anyone who asks.”I was a lucky, lucky young boy,” he said. “Vail has made my life really great.”He’s just as quick to give credit to Candy for the store’s success, especially in the summer months, when he’s easiest to find on the Vail golf course.It’s a short trip to either the golf course or the shop from home, one of the “row houses” along Gore Creek Drive. Knox has lived there since the houses were built in the early 1970sThose houses, once owned by locals, are mostly vacation homes now. But Knox knows and chats with his neighbors when they’re in town. Some are still amazed by how often Vail changes.”I was talking to a neighbor the other day who asked me if I was ready for all the construction to be over,” Knox said. “I told her they’re going to be building in Vail for the rest of my life!”And that’s just fine with Knox. While a lot has changed over the years, there have been some constants.”Bridge Street is just about the same as it’s always been,” Knox said. “And without Vail Associates and Vail Resorts, a lot of us wouldn’t be here.”
‘Brighter, more colorful’But Knox’s love of Vail has also made him a loud, persistent voice for what he thinks should be done to keep the village vibrant.”He’ll talk to anybody who’ll listen about what he thinks,” Manning said. “People should open their windows, get the stores out into the streets,” Knox said. “We need to get out and spruce up this place. Vail needs to be brighter, more colorful.”But make no mistake, the Knoxes aren’t going anywhere.Munsey has said he wants to take over the family business, which is just fine with his dad.”I hope he’s here another 40 years,” Knox said.If it happens, it will continue a family affair with Vail that started with George Sr. four decades ago.”My dad loved it here,” Knox said. “God, he loved Vail… It’s been a wonderful go for us here.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 613, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado
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