Lyons Residents Head Out of Town for Pharmacist, Doctors — and Soon May Have to for Hardware and News
Lyons residents were forced to look outside town for health care and a pharmacy by the closure of two local businesses in the last two years, and they may lose more services with the sale of the town’s sole hardware store and potential discontinuation of its longtime weekly newspaper.
Longmont United Hospital closed the Centura Health Physician Group Primary Care practice , formerly called Milestone Medical Group, in 2017, and St. Vrain Pharmacy shuttered last year before its owner was accused by federal authorities of illegally distributing amphetamine and the painkiller oxycodone.
While the departures of those businesses already required Lyons residents — especially seniors — to make more trips to Longmont and Boulder, they are hopeful Clark’s Hardware store will remain a place to buy nails, screws and tools once longtime owner Lon Clark sells the business.
Plus, the town could be left with the monthly Redstone Review as the only local outlet dedicated solely to covering Lyons if the weekly Lyons Recorder’s co-owners Joseph Lekarczyk and Lora Gilson fail to find a buyer who wants to continue publishing the weekly relatively soon.
While driving 20 or 25 minutes to Longmont or Boulder, respectively, for a pharmacy or doctor’s checkup is inconvenient for Lyons residents, it’s an even greater hurdle for mountain communities like Allenspark and Pinewood Springs, residents of which rely on businesses in Lyons to avoid lengthy hauls downhill.
“Some of those places are really extensions of Lyons when it comes to those types of services,” Lyons Mayor Connie Sullivan said. “In a small store in Lyons, you sell convenience more than any particular product. I think there is room to be a successful small business owner here, but you have to be really savvy.”
Clark’s ‘turns an hour into 10 minutes’
Clark, 64, started working at the hardware store when he was 19 under then-owner Ted Gullikson, before eventually buying the business in 2000 with his brother.
He is now, and has been for weeks, advertising the property as for sale with a banner on the side of his store along the Ute Highway on the eastern edge of town.
When he was diagnosed with a heart condition last year, he knew he wanted to retire and live less stressfully. While he hopes to sell the property to someone who will keep it the town’s go-to hardware store, he said, “I can’t guarantee it will stay a hardware.”
“I’ll miss the people. I won’t miss what it takes to run retail,” Clark said.
His customers will miss him, too, but residents, especially construction contractors John Adams and Eddie Brudzinski, are praying he finds the right buyer.
“Lonnie is just such a great guy,” Adams said while he and Brudzinski were enjoying soda and wings at Oskar Blues, which sits across a parking lot from the still-empty former medical clinic building.
When either contractor needs anything for their respective services — which they try to keep in Lyons and the surrounding mountain areas — they hit Clark’s first to see if he can supply the right products before heading to Boulder or Longmont.
“An hour (driving to Boulder or Longmont and back) turns into 10 minutes if you go to Clark’s,” Brudzinski said.
Clark said he isn’t in a rush to sell, and will remain open for business until he makes the transaction.
Recorder’s Lekarczyk won’t go it alone
While residents await to hear whether the hardware store will continue to be Lyons’ headquarters for home improvement, some are also wondering whether the weekly Lyons Recorder will be rescued again.
Lekarczyk and Gilson bought the paper at the last possible moment in 2010 from Gary and Shar Wamsley at a price Lekarczyk said was “less than what I paid for a used truck when I moved to Colorado in the 1970s.”
The paper was going to be converted to a nonprofit publication under a Lyons historical organization after the Wamsleys couldn’t find a buyer, but when that fell through, Lekarczyk and Gilson took on the challenge.
They promised their respective spouses they wouldn’t lose money on the purchase, and the two since have been business partners, breaking even on the deal nine months later and eventually managing to pay themselves, the paper’s only two official employees, each month.
Lekarcyzk is in charge of all the photography, writing and editing, while Gilson designs and lays out the paper.
But a career change for Gilson, who will work as a nursing assistant in a Longmont nursing home, means the paper must be sold, as Lekarcyzk said he won’t take on the work alone and start over on a new partnership.
Gilson is still helping to do what she can to ensure the paper hits print to be available Thursday mornings, but she and Lekarcyzk don’t expect that to continue as Gilson settles into her new job and takes on more hours.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a living. It’s more of a hobby than a career. Ideally, I’d like to keep it local,” Lekarcyzk said, noting he feels the publication could appeal to a civic-minded retired or semi-retired couple or a pair of stay-at-home mothers.
The Recorder started printing in the 1910s, and has remained in print weekly, except for some brief hiatuses during World War II, and another in the 1960s, according to Lekarcyzk, but it has been Lyons’ paper of record in which public government notices must be published since then.
One of Lekarcyzk’s favorite headlines involved chiding his wife, Julie Van Domelen, who was mayor of Lyons from 2009 to 2014, when she missed a Board of Trustees meeting to take their daughter to a Justin Bieber concert in Denver.
Lekarcyzk, writing for the Recorder with the disclaimer that he was married to the town’s mayor always printed under his byline during her time in office, titled his story from that night, “Mayor catches Bieber fever,” he said.
Trustee Mark Browning, who was a newspaper reporter before becoming a lawyer, said Lekarcyzk approached him a few months ago about buying the Recorder, but Browning turned it down.
“I don’t want to spend my retirement running a retail business or a newspaper. Both take too much time to do right. ... It’s tough for a small town to potentially lose its medical clinic, pharmacy, hardware store and newspaper,” Browning said, noting the later two are still operating for now.
Hope health care services return
But Sullivan said she has been in talks with hospital systems in the region about reopening a primary care clinic in Lyons, and she feels combining that with a pharmacy could make for a more viable business.
Consolidating health care from remote locations to facilities closer to a hospital has been a trend for years, said Sullivan, a pharmacist, and Lyons is too close to medical services in Longmont and Boulder to qualify for some of the programs that fund such services for rural areas through public or nonprofit dollars.
“We’re still hopeful we’ll get a return of some health care services into town. ... Hopefully someone will come in and purchase (Clark’s) and continue to want to operate it. We’re hopeful someone continues to run the (Recorder), and that we’ll continue to have to have a weekly (newspaper),” Sullivan said.
Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter.com/samlounz .