Thursday, July 18

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

“The Merc” moves to Matt, previous owners eye plan for Bob’s 

New makeover at the Mercantile

By Lori Nagel.

On May 14, 2010, Crestone Mercantile Grocery (aka “the Merc”) opened its doors for business to meet the needs of this growing community. For nearly 14 years the Merc has been serving the Crestone community with top-quality meats and produce, often local, along with a full selection of both conventional and organic groceries. 

The Merc and the hardware store across the street have been owned and operated by Elaine Johnson, her husband, Steve McDowell, and her son, Matt Johnson (AKA “Meat Room Matt”). 

That is, up until this January. 

Matt is now the sole owner of the Crestone Mercantile, while Steve and Elaine have taken over the hardware store with plans to reopen Bob’s Restaurant by March. (Watch for more details about their grand opening in the “Spotlight on Business” section of the March Crestone Eagle.)

“It was kind of time,” Matt said. “I love the food industry. My mom always pictured herself having an antique shop.” The food business tends to be high volume and stressful, with a ticking clock on everything, whereas the hardware store offers a more relaxed environment.

There are plans to give the store an aesthetic makeover, and to offer new Crestone Mercantile merchandise designed by Matt’s artistic wife, Jade, who also works in the meat room with him.

“The basic idea is: It’s turning it over to the next generation,” Matt continued. “Jade and I are better at the tools that weren’t available technologically at the time.” 

They have also started the process to go as solar as possible, with the potential of being carbon neutral by September. Matt’s goal is to put all the savings into his employees making livable wages — even in Crestone — a reality.

“I’m just really excited,” he concluded. “We’re all really happy and in a better place overall. It takes us back to when we first opened the store, bouncing ideas back and forth, and we’re having to work together to do this, to actually divide it up, because of how intertwined everything was. So, it’s me and my mom back to the days of us working together really well and having a goal, rather than just existing every day doing the same thing.”

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