It was while working at her grandmother’s variety store in Oklahoma as a child that Sherri Van Dyke discovered her love of retail.
“I grew up spending my summers with her, helping her stock and clean and learned how to make change behind the counter at a very young age, but also learned how to enjoy the company of everyone who stopped by,” Van Dyke said. “Hearing the conversations every day and seeing people come in just to see her, I knew then that it was all about the people and that’s what we love the most here. Every time someone walks through the door, we greet them and ask where they are from and so on.”
About two months ago, Sherri and her husband Sean Van Dyke opened Spark’s Five & Dime in Old Colorado City.
“The Westside of Colorado Springs is just romantic, and I think Old Colorado City is a perfect fit for a store like this because we are trying to give a nod to the old five-and-dime stores,” Sherri said. “We thought it would be fun to bring that nostalgia back.”
Shelves in the front of the store are full of souvenirs and gifts, including customized Colorado-themed T-shirts and necklaces.
“Having been a product developer for more than 25 years, this is my niche and our main thing is our uniqueness,” Sean said. “We carry products that nobody else has seen or is carrying — that’s what separates us from every other gift shop.”
The back of the store contains artisan products, primarily from Colorado, and what Sherri calls her “cheese shop.”
“The cheese is just because I love cheese; I am a cheese-loving girl,” she said. “We aren’t cheese snobs, we just love it. We try to carry all artisan cheeses and then we try to carry mostly the Colorado artisan cheeses, but that can be a seasonal thing.”
Other items found in the store’s back nook include peanut brittle from Fort Collins, barbecue sauce from Florissant and locally made chocolate.
“We offer a picnic basket option that you can take to the Peak or a nice grassy area at the park,” Sherri said. “You can come in and pick out two cheeses and I can put it together and make a wonderful picnic out of all our wonderful artisan products that we have.”
The Van Dykes are able to meet even more people because of the store’s artisan products.
“You really get to know those people and how hard they work and normally their family works for their products,” Sherri said. “We’re also looking for anyone who wants to join. If somebody has a product that’s made here in Colorado, we would absolutely love to celebrate them by having it in here.”
Prior to moving to Colorado, the Midwest natives were rescuing sea turtles for about two years in the Gulf of Mexico as volunteers with Alabama’s Share the Beach turtle conservation program.
“But the heat just got to me,” Sherri said. “And the bugs got to me.”
Since opening the store, managing their time has been the couple’s biggest challenge.
“It just doesn’t feel like there is enough time,” Sherri said. “The days go by so fast that you don’t realize what time it is. It’s just the two of us making it work. We don’t have any other employees or investors.”
Still, the busy days don’t dampen the reward the couple feels from getting to meet new people and escaping the corporate jobs they had before rescuing turtles.
“We love getting to do this every day and meet all the people,” Sherri said. “So many different tourists come through here and then our locals — we love our locals who have been a great support for us.”