• 20200810-125045-a889a3306e

Avenue Gifts owner and lifelong Golden resident Donna Owen wasn’t planning to retire anytime soon. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, had other ideas.

So after 15 years of business, Owen says Avenue Gifts will close once everything at the store is sold during the current going-out-of-business sale.

“Business has slowed down to the point where with the lack of tourists in town we are making enough to pay the bills but we are not making a profit,” said Owen. “All we are doing is depleting the inventory so while I still have stuff to sell people, and am still able to do it, it’s just a good time to retire.”

The closure of the well-known store will mark the end of Owen’s long retail career in Golden, which started in 1959 when she began working for the Foss family in their restaurant.

Owen later started working at Foss Drug and eventually rose to a vice-president position with the Foss company before leaving after 39 years to start Avenue Gifts. That store, located at 1212 Washington Avenue, is known for stocking of children’s toys, Golden souvenirs and other gift items.

Dave Shuey, a longtime friend of the Foss’, said that while Owen learned how to run a business from the Foss’, it was her passionate for the Golden community and the people who live there that made the store the Golden institution it became.

“When people needed to know something they went to Donna and if they needed advice they went to see Donna because she knew what was going on in the community and how to respond,” said Shuey.

Golden Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nola Krajewski said Owen’s devotion to the community will be missed by many in town.

“She leads a group of downtown businesses and strives to create an environment of welcome and hospitality to all of those that visit downtown,” she said. “She has helped plan many favorite downtown events, including last year’s Olde Golden Christmas parades. Her store, and the warm welcome she provides to many in Golden, will be missed.”

But as Avenue Gifts was becoming a part of Washington Avenue’s fabric, the nature of life in Golden was also changing in ways that created new challenges for businesses like Avenue Gifts.

“Golden used to be a more tight-knit community where everyone knew everyone and supported everyone,” Owen said. “The sad part about Golden now is there are so many people with Golden mailing addresses that never come to downtown, unless they have out-of-town visitors and then they come to show them what a cute downtown we have. But they don’t spend money down here.”

Now businesses like Avenue Gifts depend on tourists, particularly the 250,000 who come each year to take the Coors Brewery tour. But those tours have not been happening since March, and there is no word yet on when they might resume.

“Everything you read says tourism is going to be slow in coming back,” said Shuey, who worked for the Foss’ and ran a restaurant downtown before retiring 13 years ago. “You just hope everybody can survive until we get our economy back on track.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Krajewski, who said that most retailers have been able to keep their doors open but noted it has been a “delicate balance between staffing their stores and having enough customers to make it worthwhile to be open.”

“Our businesses need the people that call Golden “home” to shop and dine locally in order to pull through this difficult season,” said Krajewski. “Golden businesses are open and are practicing a high degree of safety standards in order to be open, but without more customers, they are not out of the woods yet.”

The Avenue Gifts space, which is owned by the Stillman family that also owns the Ace-Hi Tavern, will become the new location of Marrygram’s Boutique Cards and Gifts.

Owen, meanwhile, is still figuring out what her life will look like post-Avenue Gifts.

“The next chapter is kind of wide open,” she said. “My joke with my husband is that at Christmas time maybe I will go down to Meyer Hardware and ask if I can giftwrap.”