Villagers’ saga ends in Old Town

       In 1988, parents of developmentally disabled children led the creation of the Villagers - an antique store in Old Colorado City whose profits would help fund operations of the non-profit Cheyenne Village for many years.
       Enhancing the store's earning power was its volunteer-run operation - making it a unique retail business not just on the Westside but the city at large.
       That saga will come to a close Feb. 18. A sign saying “going out of business” was attached to the door a few weeks ago.
       “There are all kinds of financial reasons,” said Ann Turner, executive director of Cheyenne Village, in a recent interview, when asked what happened.
       The recession in recent years was a major hit. “It's been a very difficult four years,” she said. “The economic climate has been very challenging.”
       There's also been competition from other entities, such as E-Bay, a store volunteer noted.
       The decision was made by Cheyenne Village's Board of Directors. The conclusion was that the store was no longer “profitable enough to support the core program,” Turner said. Cheyenne Village, created 35 years ago by some of the same parents who later started Villagers, serves 150 adults with developmental disabilities.
       One of those adults, Susan Kelley, started with Cheyenne Village in 1981 and has worked at the store for 16 years. She and half-time manager Norm Fisette are the only paid people in the Villagers. “I enjoy it,” she said. “Selling is the best part.” Kelley added that a job coach with Cheyenne Village is helping her look for a new job, but so far without luck.
       Pat Butler, one of the 40 volunteers who man the store throughout the week, said that she and the other volunteers have been hearing from many customers how disappointed they are.
       This statement was backed up a few minutes later when a customer (who declined to give her name) came into the store and described the closing as “a real shame. I'm real sorry.”
       Butler said there was a blow to the operation two years ago when about half of the volunteer staff - including many of the original parents - quit after Cheyenne Village decided to computerize the store's operations. But the volunteer levels eventually were restored, she noted.
       Turner emphasized her appreciation of the volunteer effort. “They have our deepest gratitude,” she said. “You can imagine the work it takes - opening, closing, managing consignment and inventory. We also appreciate our customers and consigners. People on the Westside have really supported the Villagers.”
       According to store manager Norm Fisette, most of the antique items, except for occasional donations, are sold on consignment.
       The volunteers are disappointed as well as the customers, Butler said. However, she added, looking for an upbeat aspect, “Now I'll just spend more time with my grandchildren.”

Westside Pioneer article