Patti and Dennis McMillan soon will be on the road again. But this time, they won’t be riding motorcycles. At the end of the year, when they pass Red Feather Trading Post on to new owners, they’ll head south.
They’re not sure just where they’ll end up, but they’re going exploring and they know it will be somewhere warmer. Patti’s 92-year-old mother, who now shares living quarters with them in back of the Trading Post, will accompany them.
Twenty-one years ago, when the pair gave up a life of organizing motorcycle rallies all over the country to settle into a home in Crystal Lakes, they were at another turning point in their lives. They knew it was time to stay in one place, and they knew they needed to find a way to make living, but they weren’t at all sure how.
Within a year, they bought the deteriorating Red Feather Trading Post, moved into living quarters behind the store, and began the enormous task of upgrading their business and learning to operate it in a profitable way. That was 1994. They didn’t take a single vacation for seven years.
“We didn’t inherit much when we bought this place,” Dennis said. “There was no ‘blue sky.’ It was all gray.”
In 2002, by the time they got around to saving the old building, built in 1924, from falling apart, the project had become a necessity. Dennis made the building more useable and durable by encasing it in a steel structure. The job was finished in February 2003, a month before one of Colorado’s most horrendous, long-lasting snowstorms.
“The old building would not have survived,” Dennis said.
“He’s one of the smartest people I know,” Patti said of her husband. “He not only has common sense and know-how, he has what it takes to move forward and get the job done.”
In a former life, Dennis, who spent his early years in Virginia, worked as a mechanical technician for NASA. Patti, a New Yorker, had experience in retailing, in her brother’s restaurant business and in management in Chicago. Neither of them had operated a “little bit of everything,” store in a rural resort area that sold gasoline, fishing licenses, camping gear, groceries, hardware, plumbing supplies, lottery tickets, jewelry, snack food, office supplies, firewood and rented videos. “We may be small, but we got it all,” the Trading Post’s logo says.
“We had no clue,” Patti admits. “The whole first year was a blur,” Dennis adds. When asked if their 21 years in business had been fun, “challenging” was their reply. But then again, Patti said, “We are fly by the seat-of-the-pants kind of people.”
And they are people that the Red Feather community will miss. The McMillans say the very best thing about their time as owners of the Trading Post has been the sense of community that has developed between them and the people in the area.
“We support them,” Patti said. “We feed the firefighters, answer late night calls when someone’s out of gas or needs a pill for a sick dog. In return, the Red Feather community has provided us with a living all these years.”
Most winters, and all summers, the Trading Post has been open 24/7. This year, for the first time, they have been closed Sundays and Mondays during the off-season.
For a couple of years now, the McMillans have known that the time was coming when they would be getting out of the business. Patti’s now 63 and Dennis is 61.
“We’re too old to be working this hard,” Patti said.
Instead of formally putting their business on the market, they made the decision to auction it off.
“Rural commercial property is difficult to sell,” Dennis explained. “We knew it would likely take a long time.” No sooner had they signed the auction agreement than Scott Porcuincula and Georgia Robedeau, who have lived in the area for several years and have worked at Beaver Meadows Resort, expressed an interest in buying the business.
The couple made an offer and the McMillans accepted it. “A win-win situation,” Dennis said. The McMillans describe the new owners as sensitive, caring, community-oriented people.
An array of the McMillans personal belongings lines a hallway in the Trading Post.
“We’re getting rid of stuff,” Patti explains. “I don’t want to own anything.” She adds that she doubts they will settle down in one place. “One of these days we’ll probably become full-time RVers.”
Meanwhile, there’s a wide open road ahead and the McMillans will soon be on their way to yet another adventure.