STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Downtown Durango took on an apocalyptic appearance Christmas Day, with Main Avenue shops almost uniformly closed.
Men of unsure footing, dilated pupils and reddened cheeks were seen struggling – both physically and conceptually – with El Rancho’s locked door as early as 11:30 a.m.
The few stores to sally on with commerce benefitted from Durangoans’ usual consumer habits being discombobulated by scarcity.
While Steaming Bean Coffee Co., Durango Coffee Co. and Durango Joe’s were shuttered for Christmas Day, Starbucks was like Grand Central Station. At times, as many as 30 people were lined up, with regulars eagerly demanding their precise concoction while orphans of locally owned cafés hesitantly stammered unfamiliar words for sizes.
At Gaslight Twin Cinemas, regional manager Tyler Matthew Ozva, a 19-year-old chemical engineering major at Fort Lewis College, said the matinee performance for “Les Misérables” had sold out.
Ozva said he didn’t mind working the holiday with two colleagues, as it allowed the other manager to spend Christmas with his relatives. Ozva said his family exchanged gifts Christmas morning, and one gift had particularly delighted him – a magazine about how to cook 120 recipes for breakfast and brunch.
Like Ozva, Elena Breed, who was working the front desk at the Strater Hotel Tuesday, said she’d decided to work on the holiday “mainly because most of my co-workers have family and children, whereas I’m still a child myself.” She said the hardship had its upside: Guests tended to be “friendlier than usual” when talking on the phone.
Meanwhile, at the Strater’s restaurant, the Mahagony Grille, preparations were under way for a bustling night. Manager Aaron Brandes said his staff of 10 servers, 20 cooks and three bartenders would serve between 275 and 350 people Tuesday evening.
“In the restaurant business, you can’t get this night off. Along with New Year’s and Thanksgiving, these are the biggest nights,” Brandes said.
Brandes said that of the three blockbuster holidays, Christmas tended to be the least sodden.
“It’s mellower because of kids and young adults,” he said.
At Orio’s Roadhouse, a Main Avenue bar, Christmas Day brought both tradition and newness. Longtime manager John Danch said the bar opened at 3 p.m., and he expected about 50 people to come in that evening.
“Mostly, they’re regulars who come here to see their friends, like extended family,” said Danch, who cheerfully was covering for out-of-town employees.
At 3 p.m., about nine people had settled in to barstools at the Roadhouse. One woman interrupted her reading to sip red wine, while two men amiably chatted about their jobs over whiskey. The place seemed to vibrate with ersatz family and Christmas cheer as Danch traded warm familiarities with an elderly regular.