Amid the discussions this week on how to pay proper tribute to longtime businesswoman and civic leader Judy Noyes, who passed away on June 21 at the age of 81, we discovered an egregious error that nobody recognized — or rectified — for nearly a decade.
Noyes, who co-owned the iconic Chinook Bookshop downtown with her husband Dick but also filled her life with other causes and commitments, had spent more than a half-century making a huge difference in Colorado Springs.
So, we naturally wondered, what year (or years) was she honored in the Business Journal’s annual Women of Influence awards?
We looked at the winners over the past nine years — and Judy Noyes was nowhere to be found. We won’t criticize CSBJ’s previous ownership, which certainly singled out many of the area’s most remarkable women. We could have made it right last year in our first chance at staging the celebration. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
In a way, that was a common theme in Judy Noyes’ life. She never cared about accolades. All she cared about was making her world a better place, and the tiny dynamo did just that.
She and Dick turned the Chinook into an idyllic haven for legions of loyal customers who flocked to 210 N. Tejon St. At its zenith, the Chinook filled more than 8,000 square feet with treasures for inquisitive minds, totaling upwards of 80,000 titles, and a gifted staff of 30 to help find anything.
Here’s a glimpse into the philosophy of how the business was run: Before any new employees went through extensive training, they were asked to commit for at least two years.
But there was much more to Judy Noyes’ life. She served on City Council from 2000 to 2003, then later on the Charter Review Commission and the boards of the Urban Renewal Authority, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, Pikes Peak Library District Foundation and Downtown Partnership, among others.
Long before her time on City Council, she co-chaired an ad hoc group that produced a Downtown Action Plan in 1992, which became a blueprint for years to follow.
That’s how Judy Noyes was, in every aspect of her life. She didn’t wait around for others to lead crusades for downtown, culture or the environment. And the standards that she and her husband embraced in operating Chinook were never more evident than when they decided to close it, instead of selling, after 45 years.
“We just didn’t feel there was anyone else out there who would do what we have done, and maintain the level of excellence that we’ve maintained,” Judy Noyes said in a 2004 interview with Colorado Public Radio. They were staying in Colorado Springs, and they couldn’t bear the thought of watching the Chinook slide downhill with others in charge.
That wouldn’t have been right, so they closed the doors. And for the nine remaining years of her life, Judy continued making all of our lives better.
There’s just one piece of unfinished business. She still should have the honor she never received. Nobody else in Colorado Springs has been more of a Woman of Influence over the past 50-plus years. Come this fall, we’ll make sure Judy Noyes joins that special sorority.
And a ballroom full of people will give her the applause she so richly deserves.