Businesses stepping up to soften impacts of Clark’s Market closing

Mountain Earth needs cashiers; Wooden Spoon, Food Dudes and more

By Katherine Nettles

In the two weeks since Crested Butte’s main grocery store closed its doors for a major four-month remodel, Mountain Earth Organic Grocer has seen a lot more business. While trying to accommodate the needs of more shoppers, the smaller retailer is also struggling to find enough staff and may have to curtail hours or even close on some days. 

The North Valley is not exactly a food desert, but with a restaurant shortage and Clark’s Market closed until at least December, the limited options are making an impact in Crested Butte. Mountain Earth and other retailers including one in CB South are stocking up, the Mountain Express is offering grocery ride runs for seniors, and a new business is hoping to ease the strain by offering Gunnison grocery shopping and delivery service—and they plan to stick around long after Clark’s reopens. 

Mountain Earth

Mountain Earth has long been a haven for organic groceries, daily fresh soup and bulk items. Now the small store just off Elk Avenue is getting many more patrons and trying to keep up with bigger deliveries and a wider range of products. Where it might be common to see half a dozen shoppers in there on a late summer day, the store in late August consistently has the more boisterous crowds normally seen in mid-July. 

Paula Sieve who co-owns Mountain Earth along with Stephanie White, says the duo haven’t had a day off in weeks. Sieve says business ramped up starting the week that Clark’s closed. 

“That Wednesday I put in the biggest order we’ve ever put in,” says Sieve, even larger than during the holidays. She says that adding a fourth delivery to the usual three per week didn’t pan out, however. Customers who couldn’t park closer to the store were frustrated by the delivery truck there on an additional day, and Sieve says she is trying to just pack bigger orders into the regular schedule. 

“We’re definitely running July numbers,” she says of sales volume.

The need for more help, particularly weekend cashiers, has prompted the store to post on Facebook asking for workers and sharing that they might have to shorten store hours or close the store one day per week—possibly even Saturdays, when there are too many holes in the schedule to carry on as usual.

“We hate to have to think about it,” says Sieve, pointing at a staff schedule with several empty entries. “But it’s always evenings and weekends that are the hardest to fill—and if people want us to be open on evenings and weekends, we need the community to step up somehow.” Sieve says they are hoping to find three to four more employees to avoid drastic changes.

The shelves, which have been maximized for space to accommodate more items, are staying stocked up—but Sieve says that means 12-hour delivery days for her to arrive early and prepare, stack and organize, unpack and run inventory.  

“And I have a three-year-old at home,” she laments. “Something has to give.”

She says they have kept up with most inventory, but the items going faster than usual are meat, particularly bacon, water and mustard. “We can’t quite figure that one out,” says Sieve of the condiment craze. “We think that some of our usual customers probably consume less meat, and what we are seeing now is the carryover demand from Clark’s.”

One bit of good news is that the popular, house-made Mountain Earth soup rotation is holding steady at five days per week. “We have a consistent staff who prepares that, and it’s working,” she says. “But it does go a little faster than it used to.”

Anyone interested in picking up shifts can stop by Mountain Earth in person or e-mail a resume and availability to

CB South opportunity

Fletcher Haver, owner of the Wooden Spoon Country Store in Crested Butte South, is now carrying more food staples, produce, essential home goods and toiletries as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus pre-made takeout items. He says that was always the vision, but when he first opened fresh food wasn’t leaving the shelves fast enough.

“Stuff would go bad, so we pulled away from it to more of a gas station stock,” he says. Since Clark’s closed though, stock is moving more quickly. “We have been selling a lot more, it’s been awesome. And we’re open to hearing requests from anyone that comes in and wants something we don’t have,” he says. The store is now open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (closed Tuesdays), and noon to 9 p.m. on weekends. The Wooden Spoon will close for about two weeks during the fall off-season, likely around end of October and early November. 

Other valley opportunities

In Mt. Crested Butte The Store and Deli also carries basic grocery items and they are increasing invcentory as a result of Clark’s closing.

Blue Sky Mercantile in the Almont Resort also carries a modest array of pantry staples and fresh food, at only half the distance to Gunnison.

Food Dudes delivery: two ladies start up a shopping service

Crested Butte locals Riah Risk and Emily McMillan are hoping to provide both tourists and locals some relief from the stress of having to go to Gunnison for a major grocery run, with their new business. The two first met as raft guides on the Rogue River in 2020 and took what started as an outfitter task to launch their own business together. 

They explain that at their former rafting company, the guides assigned to grocery shop for the commercial multi-day river trips were always referred to as the “food dudes.” Riah and Emily had become fast friends and discovered that they managed the task of grocery-getting well together and had a similar drive to work hard. “We would split the list, and we got really good at it,” says McMillan. 

“One of us was always tagging along to help the other because we just enjoyed each other’s company—and we were really good at it,” added Risk. She has been in CB since 2015, and McMillan decided to give CB a try after the first summer when they met. She is now getting certified as a personal trainer and teaches classes at Core, and Rise is a massage therapist who makes outcalls. Instead of returning to the Rogue River this summer, the two started talking about their business vision at the end of winter and just got their LLC this month as Clark’s was closing. They are targeting both visitors who want to arrive to a fully stocked refrigerator and locals who don’t have the time for an hour-long drive round trip.

Their service can be booked online and charges 25% of the total bill, with a $40 stocking fee that they will be waiving for locals during the Clark’s closure. 

“We want to make it accessible to community members,” says Risk.

Mcmillan says, “Our goal is to just do this job really well. And there may be other niches down the road where we can expand what we offer.” She says they are open-minded to other delivery requests, and happy to discuss what people want in the valley. 

The service can be booked at

Mountain Express

Mountain Express is also offering a free, temporary trip to Gunnison for senior citizens to do their grocery shopping every other Monday while Clark’s is closed. But it hasn’t gotten much traction yet. 

The bi-weekly trips began on August 14, and are funded by the Rural Transportation Authority (RTA). 

Mountain Express managing director Jeremy Herzog said this week that they have only had one senior book a trip so far.  “We had zero riders on the first trip (August 14), but Clark’s was still open then,” he said. “We had one rider on [the August 28] trip. Hopefully the word gets around and we start carrying more people!” 

The next two Mountain Express trips will be September 11 and 25, with pickup at 11 a.m. The trip returns by approximately 4 p.m. Advance arrangements are required and can be made by phone at (970) 275-4768. Riders are responsible for carrying their own groceries and bringing a cooler is recommended.  

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