Johnnie St. Vrain: What Was Cheaper Charley’s?
Dear Johnnie St. Vrain: On Nov 12, 2018 your column was printed above a “From the Archives” series picture of Cheaper Charley’s with numerous political ads on the building. I understand Cheaper Charley’s has a rich and colorful Longmont history. What kind of business did “Charley” have before his building became a community bulletin board? Please tell us the “rest of the story.”
— Longmont fan
Dear Fan of Longmont: Erik Mason, curator of research at the Longmont Museum, found me the answers to this doozy of a question. So gather round, here is the tale of Cheaper Charley’s.
Charlie Harris built Cheaper Charley’s Shed, originally a gas station at the corner of Ninth Avenue and Hover Street, in 1936, according to Mason. Harris also owned a discount auto parts store on Main Street named Cheaper Charley’s, from which the gas station borrowed its name.
Mason said the gas station closed before World War II and never reopened. In the 1970s, “with the blessing of Charlie Harris,” people began painting messages on the shed.
“At the peak of its ‘popularity’ sometimes people would paint messages on the shed two or three times a day,” Mason said. “Usually the messages were positive in nature — expressions of love and community pride. It became a symbol of Longmont.”
The shed changed hands several times over the years. The new owner in 1990 announced the shed would be torn down to build a church.
“Pieces of the shed, now thick with paint, were auctioned off to the community,” Mason said, though he didn’t know who bought the precious city memorabilia.
Alas, the church building never came to fruition and the land was sitting vacant until a few years ago, when it was redeveloped into the Hover Ridge subdivision.