Chelsea Birdwell remembers being nine years old and helping her parents unload deliveries into Dave’s Corner Market. Now, 27 years later, her children are doing the same thing for her and her husband, Drew.
“A large part of my life has moved full circle,” Chelsea Birdwell said.
But Dave Sakrison, Birdwell’s father, had to travel a circuitous path before that circle could begin to be drawn.
Born in Salida, Colo., Sakrison’s family moved to Seattle when he was two years old. Then in 1972, fleeing the long gas lines caused the oil embargo, he came to Moab.
“I called my grandparents and said, ‘You guys got any gas lines down there?’ They said no,” Sakrison laughed. “So I walked in, quit my job, and two weeks later came down to Moab.”
Over the next 14 years he held a number of jobs, including working at Miller’s Grocery, where Village Market is today. It is there where he first met Melody, his wife of 37 years.
He also sold mining supplies at Plateau Supplies.
“I did that until the uranium crash in the early ‘80s,” Sakrison said. “Everyone was leaving town. The economy was in the tank. Last person out, turn off the lights.”
Eager to find a way to stay in the Moab, Sakrison and his wife, who worked as a nurse, jumped at the opportunity to buy Gofer’s Grocery from one of Melody’s colleagues, Dr. Paul Mayberry.
The Sakrisons changed the name to Dave’s Corner Market and began to renovate.
“My vision of this was in my childhood we had a little corner grocery near our house in Seattle. The one thing I always remember was the penny candy and the ice cream,” Sakrison said. “That was my model for this. Just something for the neighborhood.”
As luck would have it, Dave’s Corner Market ended up being perfectly positioned on the way to Sand Flats Recreation Area and the Slickrock Trail to take advantage of the mountain bike craze that swept Moab in the early ‘90s.
“The business grew exponentially,” Sakrison said.
But while the tourist demographic certainly did, and does, make up a significant portion of the store’s income, Dave’s Corner Market prides itself on being a local hangout.
“I worked at Certified Ford for years, but I probably sold more cars sitting at Dave’s Corner Market than at the dealership,” laughed Bob Hunthreys, who has been coming to the store since 1989. “The coffee is good and the conversations are wonderful. I meet my friends there.”
“It’s the locals who support us all year,” Chelsea Birdwell said. “It draws the old school crowd. We couldn’t do it without them.”
The market’s success with the locals, Dave believes, is at least partially due to timing; Dave’s Corner Market opened around the time that the Westerner Grill closed.
The Westerner Grill had been the place where, “all the old guys would meet up for coffee in the afternoon,” Sakrison said. “When they closed down the Westerner, they migrated up here and pretty soon there was a ton of them. A lot of old timers. A lot of characters.”
A younger generation of locals are also using the market, like Fred Oostdik, who stops by the store at least once a day to buy a Black and Mild cigar.
“I like Dave’s Corner Market because it’s a nice neighborhood store with a very friendly and kind staff,” he said.
A few years ago Sakrison began looking to sell the market so he could focus more on Moab’s politics as the mayor and his prison ministry as .
“He talked to my husband and I for years about buying it,” Birdwell said. “He wanted to give us first option. It fell into place and is still falling into place.”
Chelsea and Drew Birdwell left their respective jobs as a yoga teacher and construction worker in Eagle, Colo., and moved back to Moab, taking over the management of Dave’s Corner Market.
The Birdwells had never run a grocery store before so Justine Williams and Chelsea Birdwell’s aunt, Wendi O’Donnal, gave the couple a crash course in grocery management. Both Williams and O’Donnal had worked at the store for years.
“They really taught me the ways of the store,” Birdwell said. “We owe them a big thank you.”
Since then the couple has worked to put their own stamp on the business. Trying to bring in more healthy, organic and local products.
In addition to a host of grocery’s and beverages, the market carries milk from the local McClish Family Dairy, eggs laid by the Sakrison’s chickens, baked goods from The Red Rock Bakery, and Milt’s breakfast burritos.
In the future the Birdwells hope to add additional seating and increase the number of pre-made items.
“We would like to look more into providing more awesome food,” Birdwell said.
That, and one day maybe even seeing their children take over the shop. Because for the Sakrisons and the Birdwells, that connection to the community is the most valuable part of Dave’s Corner Market.
“That’s the personal touch, that’s a key element to the whole thing,” Sakrison said. “I think that’s lacking in business today. (Most business) is more about making money than taking care of people.”