“Pagosa has a gravity to it that brings the people back to their heritage,” says Bob Goodman, fourth-generation owner of Goodman’s Department Store, established in 1900.
While many gravitate back to the area for the Fourth of July and other celebrations — all times Bob loves, because he’s able to see his friends from the past — Bob’s heritage is alive and well in the form of the store in downtown Pagosa Springs, which coincidentally sits on the site of Pagosa’s historic Fort Lewis Army barracks.
The store was the last in a line of business attempts started by Bob’s great-grandfather, David Lowenstein, a merchant.
Lowenstein began in business in the west in the early 1880s with four fairly successful businesses in Lake City. About 1890, Lowenstein moved to Silverton, where he ran a business until the silver bust and until the flu took the life his firstborn child. Lowenstein then tried his hand at business in the more mild climate of Durango in the 1890s along with his wife, Vannie, and daughter Hortence.
Borrowing $300 from relatives back east for one last chance of making a business work in the west, the family moved to Pagosa Springs in the late 1890s and, as is said, the rest is merely history.
Forced to take over the family’s longest-running business at an earlier age than anticipated, Hortence approached a man she had met at a wholesale show, Lewis Goodman, with a proposition — he needed a wife, and she needed help with the business. They had a deal as long as Lewis could travel to watch the St. Louis Browns baseball team once a year.
In their 110 years of business, Goodman’s Department Store has never left the hands of the family, though it came close.
After 33 years of running the business, Bob and Val contemplated leaving the empire behind to allow themselves to explore other aspects of life once their daughters, Jordan and Hayley, graduated from college, even going as far as putting the store up for sale in 2009.
The store was soon under contract and the Goodman’s youngest daughter, Hayley, regretted not being more interested in carrying on the family’s ownership of the store. When the contract fell through, it was decided that the store would be kept in the family a little longer.
“She is now thrilled with the idea of making this a fifth-generation business,” Bob says, adding, “Hayley has the love for Pagosa, has always enjoyed everything about Pagosa — the small-town flavor, the winters, the horses, the river, everything about Pagosa, so she relishes the idea of coming back here and raising her family.”
With the gravity of her heritage likely drawing her back to the area, Hayley will undoubtedly see the area she loves continue to make monumental steps forward, such as happened with the opening of the local hospital in recent years.
While the community continues to grow and change, Bob believes those growing up in Pagosa Country in the age of electronics are experiencing a life drastically different than when he grew up, when shortcuts home from school included two 14-year-olds on a Vespa cutting through the neighbor’s property, and fun was floating down the river in waxed card board boxes tossed out by the funeral home.
“Entertainment had to be community, and I think that that may be the biggest difference in the connection of this generation to the community, versus the connection of my generation and generations past,” Bob says. “We had to be closer, because that’s all we had. And with that, I think we were luckier.”
In the meantime, one thing will never change for Bob that connects him to his childhood and his heritage — spending time in the great outdoors as he did with his father and mother.