Down in the basement, past the 1920s-era steam furnace, into the room with the piles of once-fashionable plaid pants and bell-bottom jeans, stacks of cardboard boxes line the north wall.
The boxes are labeled in large handwriting. They contain decades-old records, mostly canceled check stubs. One box is from 1946-1955.
Nearby are more ancient archives: a 1933 store ledger for the then-fledgling clothing shop, meticulously kept by Georgie Hogan, mother of the current owner, Mickey Hogan.
Ive got better than that, Jerry Poer says.
The longtime Hogans Store manager takes a minute to shuffle through a series of drawers in a wooden dresser and finds it: an oversized checkbook from Smelter National Bank. Peruse the checks briefly, and you step even further into the past. The year for the check date has been partly preprinted. It reads 189_.
Yep, theres some history here.
The family-owned and operated business is a vanishing commodity, indeed. With the closing of Hogans Store, its true that downtown will never be quite the same.
You can mourn the loss of a city icon and a lifestyle. You can cry over the passing of a piece of Durango history. Let the tears flow, if it feels necessary. Just dont shed them for the folks whove run the place for the last half-century because when the last Carhartt shirt, Chippewa boot and pair of Levis are sold, theyll be smiling.
Were not sad, owner Mickey Hogan says. Were just too old. When the youngest employee is 65 years old, youve got to think about a long-range plan.
The liquidation sale began Thursday morning with customers shoulder-to-shoulder in the narrow aisles. The store will remain open until the last items are sold, likely in early January, Hogan says.
Hogan is 81 and just had a hip replaced; he started working at the store full-time in 1955. Two nephews comprise the rest of the full-time staff. Poer, 70, started in 1960. Jim Hogan, 65, began in 1968.
Poer needed a job while attending Fort Lewis College.
It wasnt exactly what I had planned for my future, but it worked out great, he says.
Mickey Hogan was born in Mercy hospitals original stone building in Durango in 1929. The store was born just three months before that. The Great Depression came soon after.
With $1,500 cash and 90 days credit, Mickeys father, Charles Hogan, bought merchandise at wholesale houses in St. Louis to get the business going. He called it Triple S, or Self-Service Saves. In those days, customers still were mastering the idea of gathering their own goods at a grocery or mercantile store. Proprietors usually rounded up items and handed them to you in a sack.
Its location at 965 Main, on what was known as the pool hall block, was not optimal. So in 1939, with the depression just starting to ease, Charlie bought the current building, at 828 Main; two Ohio women sold it for the equivalent of a months rent, and he assumed the mortgage.
At age 10, Mickey, the youngest of six children, along with his parents and one sister, moved into the apartment above the store. (Thats where they found the old Smelter bank checks.)
Its a womb-to-tomb job, Mickey jokes during an interview in the back room of the store.
Where customers see only merchandise beyond the white-painted brick wall, Mickey still can envision the long-gone backyard with green grass and clotheslines.
Theres the hook for the clothesline, the seemingly always cheerful Poer points out as he breezes past, whistling.
Mickey Hogan simultaneously pushed and fell into a long career in the family business. After earning an accounting degree from the University of Colorado, serving during the Korean conflict and working for now-infamous Arthur Andersen for two years, he and his wife, Maureen, moved from California to Durango in 1955.
Accounting was only a half-the-year job, so Mickey wheedled his brother into letting him work at Hogans. Jerry Hogan was reluctant, Mickey recalls, but they worked out a deal. With two people working the store, business boomed.
Why dont you stay? Jerry asked.
Lung cancer claimed Jerry Hogan in 1961. Mickey took over, and Jerry Poer assumed a more important role.
Mickey Hogan became one of the citys major movers and shakers. When Durango needed a new high school, he served as chairman of the committee to pass a bond issue in the mid-1970s. When the airport needed to expand, when the golf course needed nine more holes, when Bodo Industrial Park needed a boost, he pushed for those, too.
And when the city needed to reconstruct an outdated water system, he saw that through by being elected to the City Council.
Given all the changes hes overseen in Durango, he can rationalize his stores closing as the way of life. Change, he says, has made Durango desirable.
People say, Well, it must have been beautiful in the 1940s. Well, it was a hell-hole, he says. Thick coal smoke made a blanket over town, the hills were denuded of trees, the river was totally polluted.
Most people wont see much good in the end of Hogans.
Weve got customers that have more trauma than we do, Hogan says.
But he sees no alternatives. His Western Slope contemporaries have all shut down, leaving chain stores, big boxes and the Internet. The only way he would sell is if someone bought the business and building from him in full. He doesnt think that person exists.
The business, even though this has been very successful, is a dying breed, Hogan says.
Tourists pass through and marvel at the molded ceiling, the pegboard and the tables piled with clothes.
They say, Oh, we used to have a store like this in our town, but it isnt there anymore, Hogan says. We get that just constantly, all summer long.
Model Tire and The Strater Hotel have similar longevity, but until it shuts for good, Hogans is downtowns oldest one-family-owned business.
To call it a living museum probably is a stretch. But not by much.
Says Poer: Its such an institution and weve been committed to it for a long time.
Soon, there will be a palpable emptiness at 828 Main.
Life does go on, and in time a new business will emerge. But that hole cant ever be filled.
firstname.lastname@example.org. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.