Science tells us that we are essentially made of energy. Debbie Blanchard is proof of that. She owns two businesses on Main Street in Montrose, is about to open a third, is on the board of the Downtown Development Authority, is raising 50 lambs at her a farm on Spring Creek, and…she’s married with a daughter.
Blanchard certainly has a lot on each of her several plates, but seems to enjoy the challenge of juggling them.
We started the interview at D’Medici, her store at 316 E. Main Street. She was expecting me but there was also someone there to discuss a lamb donation to a silent auction for a local charity. Her daughter Jaime was unpacking a shipment of lacey boleros which had just arrived. Jaime floats between the stores and helps keep the ship afloat.
There’s a wide range of items in D’Medici, including men’s and ladies’ clothing, footware, and accessories. “We pride ourselves on quality, which is number one by far to me,” said Blanchard.
Her other downtown store is Hypoxia, at 300 E. Main. Hypoxia evolved because people were asking for more active-wear brands. “I was bringing them into D’Medici and it got crowded. I don’t like a crowded store. I want people to be able to move around with strollers, to not feel claustrophobic.” She did some research and decided it was time to open up the second store and keep D’Medici what it was, that is, a little dressier, more tailored.
She will soon open a new store at 328 E. Main, next to Mike Simpson’s art gallery. This time, Blanchard is going in a different direction; all the merchandise will have a Colorado theme. Calling the store “Coloradology”, Blanchard will carry items like sweatshirts and hats, with the names of all the Colorado sports teams. From infant sizes on up, the items are intended to be perfect gifts for tourists and locals alike. “We’ll have lots of jewelry and men’s and ladies’ skin care products that work for the outdoors,” she added.
Blanchard came to Montrose six years ago from Toronto, Canada. “I really wanted to go to a place with a milder climate. I had started dating my now husband, Ray Blanchard, who was living up in Grand Lake, Colo. But I wanted to live somewhere warmer where I don’t have to see snow in June. It took us a year to find Montrose.”
She felt that Montrose was the right place as soon as they drove in. “I definitely wanted the ag community around it because I think it keeps people more grounded. The big city doesn’t ground people because there’s too much to do, people aren’t interested in what other people are doing. Too much isolation.”
They came back a month later and put an offer in on the space D’Medici is now. She knew she was going to have a shoe store because she had owned six shoe stores in Canada. But people told her, once she had the shoes set up, that they wanted better quality clothing.
A year after arriving, they bought the 46 acre farm on Spring Creek Mesa, which they call Lakeside Farm. Her eyes sparkle as she relates the history of the farm. “This used to be the homestead of John Pelton in the late 1800’s. John Pelton is the man who went down the Gunnison River in rowboats to find out how the water should be distributed in this area.”
There’s an old ice house on the property, and Pelton’s old homestead. When the Blanchards bought the place they removed ten tons to the dump, and four tons to Recla Metals. They’re now “camping” in the old house and a mobile home. “We have plans to build a home on the south side of the lake. Even though I have a 4.5 acre lake, I’ve never fished in it. I’ve never had the time.
“All around the lake there are cottonwoods that are over 100 years old. And there were 50 trees in the lake. Ray and I are insane; we don’t believe in having help. We removed those trees with a tractor, a Silverado, and an ATV.
Her love of farming goes back to childhood. “My parents owned a 150 acre hobby farm about two hours north of Toronto, and that’s where I spent all of my Julys and Augusts from when I was three until I was 24. We had a farmer who hayed. When he hayed I helped buck bales, I helped with animals he had on the property. I really enjoyed and I missed it. Coming here I’m sort of reliving my youth.”
Debbie has 50 goats, and two sheep. Ray has 27 cows. Periodically she donates one of the goats as an auction item. “I like to help the kids for 4H. In Montrose, there’s a big shortage of goats for 4H.” She learned how to help a goat having trouble giving birth with You Tube videos. “I didn’t know what I was doing. But I’m learning a lot.”
In addition to the goats, sheep and cows, the Blanchards have four English Springer Spaniels. They are the only people who breed them on the Western Slope.
She says she spends about 60 hours a week working at the stores.
Sunday is a sacred day where she doesn’t leave the farm, has no computer and only an emergency phone.
In her spare time Blanchard is on the board of the Downtown Development Authority. She is not shy about her ideas and opinions. “The downtown should be the boutique area of Montrose, not a place for clearance sales.
“We will never be able to compete with the big box stores. You have to define yourself and make yourself unique.”
She is content. “Here I have a business community that I’m involved with,” she said, “and I have a farm community that I’m involved in. It’s a really nice mix. The animals and the farm life just give me something that city life can never give anybody.”