Chinook Closes the Book With a Bittersweet Ending

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A retirement for anyone is bound to be a bittersweet thing, and for Dick Noyes and his wife, Judy, the decision to close their bookstore of almost 45 years is no exception. When the Chinook Bookshop opened in 1959 in Colorado Springs, independent bookstores had a wide-open future, Dick Noyes told BTW. Now, he said, with the onslaught of big box retailers over the past 10 years and the more recent success of Internet retailers, that is not the case anymore.

So, because of this, as well as a simple wish to retire, the couple announced that they would shut the doors of Chinook for good on June 15. "I'm 74; it's time to work a little less hard," Dick Noyes said. "I couldn't be here and be half way about it.... We thought about [selling the store] at great length, but for one, it's tough times, and two, we're purists: we don't want this store to be anything but the best.... We want to go out with a smile."

The Noyes' made the official announcement on March 29, and put the entire inventory on sale at 30 percent off. "It's been crazy here," Noyes said, and added he would miss his loyal patrons as much as it appears they will miss Chinook. "The customers are terribly sad. We built a large, loyal customer base here, and they're shocked. I've seen some tears." As much as he will miss his customers, he and his wife will miss their 26 employees even more. The average tenure of the staff is 17 years. "It's a tight-knit staff," he said.

Before opening Chinook in June 1959, Noyes had been a textbook salesperson with Rand McNally. With a wife and kids at home, he drove about 125,000 miles a year. Since he and Judy had always been close, the time away from home just wasn't working. "I'd always been determined to be on my own," he said. "We thought, wouldn't it be nice to own a bookstore?"

After a year of studying various locales in the Denver region, the Noyes decided on Colorado Springs, an up and coming town with loads of potential. "Right around the time we opened, the Air Force Academy came in," Noyes explained. "When we opened, Colorado Springs had a population of 35,000; it's about 500,000 now. There was tremendous growth."

Over the years, the Noyes have been very involved in the industry. In 1968, Dick Noyes joined the ABA Board, and served as ABA President in 1974 and 1975, at the time the youngest person to hold that office. "I thoroughly enjoyed it," he said. Judy Noyes helped found the ABA-Children's Book Council liaison committee, and her reviews of children's books have been published in the New York Times Book Review. Furthermore, the store and the owners have received many awards, including recognition by ABA, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association, the Mountains-Plains Library Association, and the Pikes Peak Arts Council, to name a few.

Noyes never expected to spend his life in retail, and had he known he would when he was a teenager, it would have been extremely depressing, he said with a chuckle. "But it's the books that make the difference."

As for retirement, the Noyes have been too busy to decide how they will spend their free time once the store is closed. "My wife was on the city council and has always been very active in civic affairs," Noyes said. "And … I'll spend some more time gardening and sculpting. And I will have a lot more time to read."

The Chinook owners are "as sad as we can be" to be closing, but they are content in the knowledge that "it has been a happy story," Noyes said. "We were lucky to be in this business." --David Grogan