Carbondale remembers community pillar, Village Smithy founder Chris Chacos
There are a few extra stories being shared around the tables at the Village Smithy restaurant in Carbondale this week following the death of restaurant founder and longtime community leader Chris Chacos.
Chacos died Jan. 19 at Heritage Park Care Center, where he had resided for the last several years. He was 87.
Though he was confined to the nursing home for the most part during the pandemic, sons Eric and Charlie Chacos said their dad still poured his heart into anything he thought might improve the face of Carbondale.
“He was always a thinker, you know, that idea guy who whenever he saw something in another town that he liked he wanted to bring it back and implement it in Carbondale,” said Charlie, who took over the Smithy after his dad retired several years ago, and also now owns and operates Bonfire Coffee.
“He didn’t give up on things when he had one of those ideas,” added Eric, who runs a construction business in Carbondale. “He would always be the one to talk the city into doing the flower pots on Main Street, or improve the parking in some way.”
In the mid-2000s, Chris was also deeply involved in the town effort to beautify the downtown with new brick streetscaping at the intersections, replacement of the old highway-style streetlights with a more rustic look, and lots of trees and banners to welcome visitors.
That sense of community began when Chris and his wife Terry, who died two years ago, opened the Village Smithy in 1975 in the actual building at Third and Main that housed the town’s blacksmith and horse farrier shop.
It brought a vibrancy to the sleepy coal mining and ranching town at the time, his sons and some of the early Smithy crew recall.
Eric remembers his dad buying a snowblower to clear a path from their house on Garfield Avenue over to the restaurant at Third and Main. Eventually, he’d take it upon himself to clear a few more of the sidewalks around downtown.
The Smithy itself is a big part of both the Chacos family and Carbondale’s legacy. The restaurant history was detailed in a May 7, 2015, story in the Post Independent on the occasion of the Smithy’s 40th anniversary.
“Chris Chacos is one of my very favorite people in the whole world, and was one of the best bosses I’ve ever had,” said Linda Singer-Froning, who worked at the Smithy for several years in the early days.
“When we lived here before the Smithy had opened it was a quiet little town, and then having a place to gather really brought the community together, from the ranchers to the miners to the hippies to everybody,” she said. “It was just this wonderful place that was very welcoming and was one of the keystones of the community.”
Another of the original “Smithy girls,” Connie Davis, said Chris and Terry Chacos were ahead of their time in understanding how to run a successful restaurant.
“Chris was very generous and understanding, and always sought to understand what we might be going through personally and be accommodating,” Davis said.
“He was before his time that way, and it says a whole lot about him that 20, 30 years later many of us have remained friends with their boss, to the point where we were still visiting him in the nursing home,” she said.
Davis, who now lives in New Castle, later ran her own business on Main Street in Carbondale and remembers Chris stopping in on occasion with a flier or some information about a town project or event that was coming up.
“Even after he retired he was still out there doing what he could for Carbondale and Carbondale businesses, and he really instilled that in a lot of other people,” Davis said.
Many similar comments were shared in a thread after news of Chacos’ passing was posted to the Carbondale Facebook group page last week.
Prior to moving from Denver to Aspen and then to Carbondale in the early 1970s, Chris and Terry Chacos joined up with a Quaker hospital in Vietnam helping with the civilians who were being injured and having their lives disrupted by the war.
Both Chris and Terry trained to be physical therapists, but only Terry stuck with that as a profession. She even housed her practice in part of the upstairs space above the restaurant for a time, while also keeping the books for the restaurant.
“She was kind of the unsung hero of the Smithy and really kept it financially afloat,” Charlie Chacos said.
The family business expanded to include a bakery on Main Street for a time, and then a second Smithy restaurant in Glenwood Springs for a few years in the 1980s.
Eric and Charlie also reflected on their parents’ community support during the good times, like the 1985 Roaring Fork High School football championship when Eric was a sophomore member of the team, and the hard times, including the 1981 Mid-Continent mine explosion that killed 15 miners and other tragedies that impacted the community.
“He just always saw the good in anyone and was always about giving people a second chance,” Charlie said of his dad. “He didn’t look at the negative in anybody or what they didn’t have, he always just saw the good.”
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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