Hometown boy making a life in the valley
By Dawne Belloise
hether you’ve been here for a day or decades, you’ve probably run into Joe Garcia at some time as he’s spent most of his life in Crested Butte, from a ski racing kid to a mischievous teen, running his father’s restaurant the Idle Spur and now as a successful real estate agent. Raising his own brood here and now a recent grandpa, Joe recalls his family’s discovery of Crested Butte back in 1972 when his dad and uncle fell in love with the area while elk hunting.
Joe was born in Atlanta while his father was there training as a pilot, but his paternal family hailed from San Luis Obispo, California, and his mom’s side was from Los Angeles. “My grandfather was one of 17 kids living on a 10,000-acre ranch,“ Joe tells, and fondly remembers his grandfather as someone who could weave a great story of his experiences. “Once, my grandfather and his brother ran away for two days, got scared and came home and nobody even realized they were gone,” Joe laughs; going unnoticed among a dozen and a half kids must have been a reality check for two little boys.
Once his parents (Gary and Carol) decided to move to Crested Butte, they bought a condo in the newly built San Moritz on the mountain. At the time, Joe was only two years old and the youngest of four (his elder siblings: Shelley, Randy and Christi). All four Garcia kids, who had never skied before, quickly learned to schuss down the slopes; Joe later became a ski racer. The family was only in the San Moritz for a year because, “Shelley burned it down,” he chuckles while explaining that, coming from Atlanta, she just didn’t know any better when she put her wet gloves on the electric baseboard heat to xdry them out. “There was huge smoke damage.”
Fortunately, the construction on the Hitching Post apartments in town had just been completed, so Joe’s dad bought the entire building and moved the family into the big end unit. It was Joe’s home throughout his childhood and school days.
Joe started his early education in the old school (now the town offices). “There were six of us in first through eighth grade and we’re all still best friends. There were like, three girls so you just kind of switched around,” he muses while explaining that dating was a challenge in a tiny town where everyone grew up together like siblings. “It’s like you dated Jenny for a week and then Wendy and then Alissa.” he laughs. “We all hung out together, the older and younger kids, like we were one class.”
It was a time of simplicity and free-range kids with no cell phones or cars and all dirt roads, Joe recalls. “So, we all rode our bikes around, but it was fun times. We did a lot of great things like raft down the Slate with rafts we had made. All summer long we hung outside all day and when it got dark, we had to go home.”
Winter brought other fun adventures. “All of us were ski racers and that’s what we did,” he says of those deep snow seasons. Because Crested Butte didn’t have a high school yet, the kids were bussed to Gunnison for school. “We had to leave at 7 a.m. for school, and because we played baseball and football, we had to hitchhike home,” explaining there were no after-hour school activity buses back to CB. Joe describes his teenage persona as being a bit of a punk kid: “I got kicked off the bus in my sophomore year for the whole year. I don’t remember what I did but we were all punks and we had a bus monitor who wasn’t the nicest. I’d have to jump in the shower in the morning and run to the Four-Way to hitchhike and in the winter my hair would freeze,” he chuckles. “But everyone did it and I got picked up by the same people every day. The bus took so much longer and I could literally sleep for another half hour.” He graduated from Gunnison High School in in 1988.
Like most kids who grow up here, Joe confesses that he was anxious to get out of CB. He moved to Boulder to attend the University of Colorado, not really knowing what he wanted to do, but he had a love of history so he majored in that while working at Jeff Hermanson’s Josephine’s Restaurant in Denver. He was on the Front Range until 1992.
By then, his dad had bought the then-vacant lot next to the Wooden Nickel, which was essentially a mound of coal and where the bike shop was in the alley. They moved the bike shop building, giving it away to somebody who agreed to take it, and then Joe, his brother, dad and a crew built the Idle Spur, home of the Crested Butte Brewery. “We built that in four months. We worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. Dad would come in at 5 p.m. with a case of beer and sandwiches to entice us to stay, anything to keep us all there.” They opened by the end of 1992, and Joe and his brother Randy ran it for 13 years. Joe dated his first wife, Tiffany (now Deutsch), in high school and they had their daughter Taylor Rose in 1992 while he was building the Spur.
When his dad Gary was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident near Irwin in 1996, they sold the Idle Spur. Joe and Randy ran it for a few more years until Joe went into real estate. “Even before dad was paralyzed, we were already part of Adaptive Sports. We’d hold events for Adaptive at the Spur. My dad was huge in getting the Red Lady Open Golf Tournament started (now called the CB Open). After Dad was paralyzed, he became president of the Adaptive board.” Joe carries on his father’s dedication, having been on the board since 2009. “It’s been a passion for my family. It’s something I care about in this valley because I saw what it did for my dad and all the people that the program helps. It’s been dear to my family’s heart.” Gary passed away in 2001.
After Tiffany and Joe went their separate ways, Joe met Tricia in the pro shop at the CB country club. Tricia had been coming to CB from Dallas with her family for many years. The two married in 1999 and had their daughter Gabriella in 2000. In 2002 they had a son and named him Gary Marshal after Joe’s dad. Their son Thomas Augustus Clark (Gus) was born in 2003 and is named after Joe’s best friend Tommy Villanueva. Joe laughs that growing up in CB, his kids were as wild as he was. “I’m happy now because they’re all older!”
Joe continued to work night shifts at the Spur, alternating shifts with his brother every other night. During this time, he was busy building houses during the day. In 2004, his last year at the Spur, Joe started working in real estate. Throughout the last 20 years, Joe feels he’s built a good business and clientele, one that he wants to pass on to his daughter Gabriella who now works with him and is the more tech-oriented of the two.
Garcia explained of Gabby, “She’s building a website for us because I’m not a computer guy. I wasn’t raised with that but Gabby’s really good at it. She does all the advertising and social media for me.”
Winters bring them to a bit of downhill skiing, but now it’s mostly Nordic skiing for Joe and Tricia. In the spring, the couple heads out to Moab and Rocky Mountain National Park for some rest and relaxation. These summer days you’ll find them hiking with their dogs and traveling to visit their kids. “Taylor and her husband are in Denver and just made us grandparents this May 1 (grandson Rowen Wilder Watts). Gary went to Chicago to attend DePaul University and loves Chicago. Gabby just graduated from Western Colorado University and just moved back up to CB with her fiancé. Gus is home working as an electrician. They want to be here. I got to live here growing up and I want that for them.”
Joe feels that having lived his life in the valley, he knows it well. “I’ve done real estate for 20 years, but my knowledge is from a lifetime of growing up here. Doug Kroft brought me into the business and was my mentor and I want Gabby to have that knowledge.” Joe is imparting his vast experience in the business to his daughter to enable her to make a living in her hometown. “We had the best times of our lives raising our kids here and I want that for her. Crested Butte has changed, but a lot of it is still the same. You go anyplace else, and you realize we have a slice of heaven here.”