Alternately serving as a family residence, a bakery, a veterinarians office and a sub sandwich shop, the old stone house on 12th Street now sits vacant.
Stonehouse Subs, the buildings most recent occupant, closed its doors Aug. 20 after 17 years in operation. A for-rent sign now hangs in the front window of the building at 140 E. 12th St.
The house is offered for rent in The Durango Herald classifieds for $1,100 monthly.
A few stickers plastered on the windows and the serving counter inside are the only memorabilia that remain of the sub shop that fed everyone from cyclists, kids and sports teams to city officials over the years.
Its years of operation form a story that reflects the experience of many downtown Durango businesses.
The decision to close the shop stems from a variety of factors, said Jimmy Carabbia, who started Stonehouse in 1993 with Heidi Malberg. Though he left Stonehouse eight years ago, Carabbia still keeps in contact with Malberg, who ran the shop with her daughter, Marla Moon, until it closed.
Malberg did not want to comment about the shops closure.
Carabbia has since started his own business making custom short-string guitars, and Malberg said she is a full-time accountant and is starting work as an herbalist.
Lasting almost two decades, Stonehouse Subs stands out as an exceptional success story in the restaurant business. According to numbers produced by researchers at Ohio State University, three in five restaurants close or change ownership within three years.
The recession has only made the business harder, said Joe Keck, director of the Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College. Banks now are requiring more capital up front for loans, and the amount is even greater for restaurants, which are generally higher risk, he said.
Restaurants are also a low-margin business, said Jack Llewelyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, so successful restaurant owners have to establish a strong following, and they have to be consistent. The Stonehouse owners tried to do both, Carabbia said, by focusing on establishing a large base of local customers and filling a niche in town for sub sandwiches.
Though it was a fun place to work, he said, running the business in the stone house, which is more than a century old, was not a small task.
A large hole in the floor and an outdated water heater were just two of the challenges they worked around, Carabbia said.
It was much more than flicking on a light switch, he said.
Last year, Malberg and Moon tried to make the business more environmentally friendly by participating in Carrotmob. For the event, the women agreed to put a percentage of a days profits toward energy-efficient improvements in exchange for mass patronage organized and promoted by Carrotmob volunteers.
Malberg and Moon were enthusiastic about the event, said Carrotmob organizer Audrey Crane, but it was hard to do many of the suggested improvements because they did not own the building.
Because the vast majority of buildings in Durangos Central Business District are considered historic, most of those business owners know the experience of operating in an older building, said Robert McDaniel, director of the Animas Museum.
But for most, the historic distinction is more of an asset than a hardship, he said.
Being able to do something in a historic building is not something you can do many times in your life, he said. Its pretty special.
Despite the many factors involved in running the business, Carabbia said, the idea for Stonehouse was a simple one: to make it into the cute, homey restaurant that he was always searching for on road trips.
Thats pretty much what Stonehouse was, he said. The little mom and pop places you never forget.