No one knows where the river of life will take them. For some it flows straight along, and for others it may loop back a time or two.
Long before becoming the co-owner of CKS Main Street, Megan Kingman was working on her double major at Colorado University. She didn’t picture herself getting involved in whitewater recreation.
That changed during her freshman year. While on a rafting trip in Glenwood Springs with her peers, her raft guide talked about the benefits of a rafting job.
This planted the seed of encouragement, nurtured further the following semester by one of Kingman’s professors, a former raft guide. The professor got her in touch with someone who had worked in Buena Vista, leading Kingman to work in town as well.
She worked for Performance Tours Rafting for several years. Through this, she met Brad, who worked for Wilderness Aware Rafting.
“We both really loved the area, but…back then there weren’t really many jobs for young people, especially someone fresh out of college. We never really thought we could make a go here in the wintertime, so we were only here seasonally for a long time,” says Kingman.
Right out of college, Kingman moved to Chile and put her Spanish major to work, helping with river conservation and community development for a nonprofit group there. Brad was traveling through South America at the time and met here there. They both stayed in Chile for a few months before returning to Buena Vista come summertime to become raft guides once more.
“We moved to Durango after that, and then Belize after that, working in hospitality,” says Kingman. “It was one of those things where we ended up living in neat places doing really fun things, but we always found ourselves coming back to Buena Vista. It always felt like a good place to be.”
In February 2012, they decided to finally settle down in Buena Vista. Kingman began working at Elevation Beer Company, and Brad became the operations manager with Wilderness Aware Rafting.
Kingman also started a bike rental business for the summer of 2012 on the lot next to CKS. The Trailhead was still located off the highway and Boneshaker Cycles had not yet been established.
“I had this vision in my head that BV is such a cool town and it’s such a neat place to take your time and explore,” she says. “I thought what would be a really neat way to do that was on cruiser bikes.”
While renting out her fleet of colorful cruiser bikes from under a pop-up tent, she eventually met the owners of the business next door, Earl and Cheryl Richmond. She and Brad got to know the couple more, especially as Cheryl got Brad’s help with a number of home construction projects.
In 2014, Kingman and Brad united in marriage. This would be just one of many of the giant steps they would take in the near future.
With everything going on in their own lives, the Richmonds began looking for an opportunity to sell their business. “They wanted to make sure it went to someone who had a similar vision and goals for the business and its role in the community,” says Kingman.
Still working together on home construction, Cheryl asked Brad how he felt about buying CKS. What started as a casual conversation ended up in serious consideration on whether or not to buy the business.
By then, Kingman was also working part-time at CKS. A year later, in 2016, she and Brad became the co-owners of the business, taking on a new adventure in doing so.
“Being a business owner, especially in this community, is a very rewarding thing to do,” explains Kingman. “There’s a really great network of businesses and business owners that are very supportive of new people and new businesses. It’s a really welcoming place to own a business. Everybody has a really good way of working together.”
It’s all about trying to complement one another rather than compete while providing to the community. CKS focuses mainly on whitewater products, preventing an unnecessary overlap with other businesses.
Taking on a new job and all that it demands comes with a steep learning curve, Kingman says.
“Stepping into Earl Richmond’s shoes is a tall order for someone. Trying to uphold everything that Cheryl and Earl built with this business and the integrity of what it has and what it stands for in the community while still trying to have our own influence and adjust things in a way that we want to see things happen, that’s always challenging.”
While the learning experiences present a challenge, they are also one of the benefits to the business.
Kingman also loves the day-to-day diversity and the connections with different people through CKS.
Recently she met with the new organization elevateHER, offered them support and helped out with their summer programs and sponsorships.
“That’s part of why we decided to be business owners in a small community,” she says. “You can have an impact, and that’s a neat thing to see in such a small town. You can directly influence things and make things happen.”
One of the major impacts on the community has been the annual PaddleFest. Preparation for the event often begins early, such as mid-August in this year’s case. Like a microbusiness within CKS, it demands a lot of time, energy and management, but the results are well worth it.
“What’s really great about PaddleFest is the amount of people that are willing to step forward and help,” says Kingman. She loves seeing businesses and individuals alike come together to support not just one another but the entire community.
From Earl Richmond and Tim Bliss with the different water events, Susan Wood with the social media marketing and Chaffee County Search and Rescue-North with their volunteer coordination and presence during the weekend, Kingman expresses her gratitude for the help everyone offers for PaddleFest.
“PaddleFest can be overwhelming, and to have all these good people helping out it really makes it a lot more manageable. I’m feeling really optimistic about PaddleFest this year,” says Kingman.
While watching the community come to life during PaddleFest and make way for summer, Kingman looks for the opportunity to join in on the outdoor fun.
CKS keeps her plenty busy, especially during the summer, but she does her best to keep work balanced with play so she can enjoy her time in the mountains.