Khristopher’s Culinaire and the Wildflower Boutique grew up over the past five years as siblings of sorts, in side-by-side retail spaces on the 700 block of Main Street. Their symbiotic relationship was one piece of the puzzle that allowed each business to thrive.
But now, the two shops are neighbors no more. Khristopher’s Culinaire, a family-owned-and- operated independent kitchen store, has moved uptown to a larger retail space, on the corner of Sixth and Main in the historic Hess/Stanislawski Block building. Old-timers will remember this as the former home of the Longbranch Saloon.
The Wildflower Boutique, meanwhile, has kept its eclectic selection of clothing and jewelry in its original location at 735 Main Street, and expanded its “Colorado Room” concept (a successful line of made-in-Colorado gift items formerly relegated to a small space in the back of the building) into the space that Khristopher’s Culinaire just vacated.
With more room to spread out, the Colorado Room glistens with a tastefully vetted assortment of locally handcrafted, made-in-Colorado items that lures in tourists and local shoppers alike.
“We had said we would never separate,” said Wildflower proprietor Dee Hilton of her unique bond with Khristopher Dunham, the namesake and co-owner of Khristopher’s Culinaire. “But this happened when we were both ready for it.”
Dunham, settling into his new location late last week, agreed that the timing for the move was perfect. “I don’t know if it was fate, or what,” he said. “About six weeks ago, I was daydreaming about store locations in Ouray that would be perfect for Khristopher’s Culinaire, if I ever wanted to expand, and immediately I thought of this space.” Within days, he learned that his dream-space would soon become available, because the current tenant was moving out.
“I don’t know. You put it out there, and sometimes the stars align and the universe says, ‘Go for it,’” he shrugged.
Little remains of the Longbranch Saloon. Lurid red velvet wallpaper in the bathroom is about all that survives from that era. Recent years have seen gift shops such as Lavender and Lace, the Purple Iris, and, most recently, Bridal Veil Floral in this space.
Lavender gingerbread still adorns the shop’s exterior, but not for much longer. “It’s so not us,” Dunham and his wife, Janet, groaned. The interior, meanwhile, has already been completely redone in bright, vibrant colors, which complement Khristopher’s inventory of fun, trendy and classic kitchen paraphernalia and specialty foods, many of which are locally and regionally produced.
Part of the shop’s recipe for success over the past five years has got to be its anti-big-box vibe. Shopping there is as uniquely spicy as Khristopher’s fiery foods line, peppered with bottles of Bad Byron’s Butt Rub, Captain Spongefoot, Hot Lix, Ring of Fire and the best-selling Ouray Volunteer Fire Department hot sauce line, custom-made by a Front Range hot saucier. Dunham, a volunteer firefighter, donates a portion of sales to the OVFD.
“I have fun telling people, ‘Bet you didn't know you needed a bottle of Butt Pucker Hot Sauce when you came in,’” Dunham laughed.
Another key ingredient is family. His wife, Janet, and their 8-year-old daughter, Sadie May (both curly redheads with personalities to match), are often at the store. One can imagine that many repeat customers will probably keep checking in, just to see how much cuter Sadie has become over the past year.
“Sadie used to stand out on the sidewalk wearing a box and asking people to sign it,” Janet said. “If we had thought of it ourselves, it would have been a great marketing ploy. But she was just doing it for fun.”
Khristopher’s secret ingredient of success No. 3 turns out to be Facebook. The Dunhams agree it’s probably their most effective advertising strategy. “It drives a lot of sales,” Chris said. “It gets the banter going. Sometimes I’ll just put up a video of what the weather is doing in Ouray. People love it. It keeps things fresh.”
Like the time he polled his Facebook fans, asking them, “If you had a leg lamp like the one in the movie A Christmas Story in your shop window, would you leave it up all year?”
“It was a hands-down ‘Yes,’” said Dunham, who put up his own leg lamp in his shop window a few holiday seasons ago and, following his Facebook fans’ advice, hasn’t taken it down since – except for the move uptown. It holds a place of honor at the new location, which might make former Longbranch patrons a bit nostalgic for the good old days. That “soft glow of electric sex” could be Secret Success Ingredient No. 4. “It makes people so happy to see the leg lamp there,” Dunham said. “About eleven minutes after I put it up the first time, I saw an older lady scrutinizing the window from outside. I thought she was going to barge in and read me the riot act. But instead she asked, ‘How much is the leg lamp?’”
Of course, it’s not for sale.