From 2016 to 2019, Corey Hubbard and her husband, Ryan Methfessel, uprooted their lives in the States to travel the world, searching for a place to live their one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver said. Everywhere they went, they were treated with extreme hospitality.
“Guests are elevated to godlike figures in my favorite cultures,” Corey shared. In Vietnam, her hosts threw her a birthday party and gave her a Vietnamese name. In Turkey, the Muslims she had been raised to fear greeted her with curiosity and warmth despite geopolitical turmoil. When they arrived on the cliffs of Greece in 2019, Corey and Ryan thought to themselves, This is it. This is the place we want to be.
But when their plans to live internationally were thwarted by a global pandemic, the two had to press the reset button. Where would they call home? Where would they go, what would they do with their one wild and precious life, now?
Finding a Home for Hospitality in Del Norte, Colorado
Corey and Ryan set out across America, popping a tent or sleeping in their F-150 or on the floors of friends’ homes, trying to find their place in the world.
“I had so much energy to leave what was comfortable and enter into a new environment, to stake new claims and forge new paths,” Corey said. Ten thousand miles, 25 states, and a dwindling bank account later, Corey and Ryan began to feel desperate for a place to call home. A friend of theirs had lived in a little town 60 miles north of the New Mexico border and invited them to visit. They rolled into the small town of Del Norte, Colorado, a community of less than 2,000 residents tucked in the San Luis Valley, where their friend introduced them to an owner of a building that was for sale. That building became the foundation for a vision of community connection wrapped around creativity, history, and that sense of immense hospitality that had so captivated Corey when she traveled internationally.
The General Specific Store
An open door at the General Specific Store in Del Norte, Colorado. Image courtesy of Corey Hubbard.
The General Specific Store is the homebase for Corey’s connections in Del Norte and an epicenter for the kind of storytelling that builds meaningful relationships. Corey and Ryan set to work making the first floor of their building into The General Specific Store, a store filled with antiques, art, books, music, interesting knick-knacks, and “natural oddities.” Fifty days after they purchased the building, the two threw a 3-day grand opening party to celebrate.
“People came out of the woodwork,” said Corey.
In the weeks and months since their grand opening, Corey has been busy keeping the store stocked with the kind of stuff she loves, the kind of stuff she knows others might be drawn to, the kind of stuff that captures the heart of the community and its proud pioneer legacy. She buys “truckloads of insanity” and then unloads it to make the space look pretty. There are no booths or vendors at the General Specific Store. As she acquires new items and sells others, Corey is in a state of constant rearranging to create a space that is pleasurable, fun, and beautiful.
The support Corey experienced from the local Del Norte community was unprecedented. “There’s a level of friendliness here that seems unusual after being in Florida,” said Corey. People in their small town seemed to possess the same natural curiosity about people’s lives and stories that Corey had encountered abroad. The items in her store spur on people’s instincts toward storytelling.
“Everything I have is one of a kind. Everything is old and was loved before,” Corey continued. The objects in the store trigger memories that can’t help but pour out. Visitors pick up items and hold them in their hands, recounting how, “My grandmother used to have this…” or “When I was a kid…” and just like that, relationships are formed.
An Open Door for Hospitality
From the beginning, The General Specific Store has been far more than just a retail store. Corey’s vision from the start was to use the space to build relationships and connections in their little town. Corey regularly hosts dinners and parties for area residents to connect and share about their lives. Although Corey and her husband grew up in a county of 1,000,000 people, she feels like she has met more individuals in their town of 1,700 in the past nine months than she ever knew back in Florida.
“Each party I have is for three reasons,” Corey said. “There’s the Epicurean aspect: food and drink,” which is often exotic and reminiscent of the cultures Corey has visited; second, “to curate beauty and structure and festivity, and third, for human connection. We’ve been robbed of social connection the last two years; our grand opening was the first social event in a year.” People are hungry for meaningful interactions. Corey’s shop and her gift of hospitality make a powerful combination to create bonds of new friendships in her community.
She recently hosted an invitation-only event for 25-40 year olds who are doing creative things in the valley. The South Asian themed dinner turned into an impromptu networking event. “Every person was doing a really interesting project that had some kind of need,” Corey shared, and someone around the circle knew someone who could help fill that need.
This is the immeasurable value of life lived in community; what you invest in, you get tenfold in returns, returns of deep, lasting friendships, meaningful connection, and the satisfaction of working together to help the community you all collectively love.
Corey’s vision for the future is to turn their two-story building into a one-stop-shop of rental space, retail, and entertainment, and beyond that, to invest further in the community as part of the growing tourism industry in the region.
Ultimately, whatever Corey sets her heart and mind to do, it will involve these three components: food and drink, beauty, and human connection. That is what Corey plans to do with her one wild and precious life. It’s what the Teacher in Ecclesiastes also encourages, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7 NIV).
“We are a retail store, but first and foremost it’s a place to connect with human stories and the history of the valley and the leaders that shaped the place here,” Corey said. “We’re living in the shadows of the literal pioneers. How can we not be humble?”