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Love's labors are not lost

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For four Evergreen couples, work and love lives happily coincide

By Deb Hurley Brobst

They say you can’t mix business with pleasure. But how about mixing your business and personal lives?

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Evergreen is filled with couples who spend their days together at work, then spend their nights together at home. While this might be an impossibility for some, these couples say it works well for them.

All it takes is excellent communication, a lot of respect and a strong sense of humor.

“Some people are astonished that we can work together all the time,” said Corey Colombin, who owns and operates MIT Automotive Solutions on Bryant Drive with her husband, Rob. “We enjoy each other’s company. It probably nauseates people that we’re always together all the time.”

Adds chiropractor Paul Fontana, who works with his wife, Susan, also a chiropractor, at Fontana Family Chiropractic on Evergreen Parkway: “We don’t go into this as one knows more than the other. We come to an agreement. We run things by each other.

“That’s the key: She’s right, and I’m wrong,” he said, and both laughed.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, the Canyon Courier looks at four couples who work together daily to find out how they do it.

Opposites attract

Kim and Scott Innocent, owners of Where the Books Go on Meadow Drive, are a perfect example of how opposites attract.

They have owned and operated the new and used book store together since October, though they’ve been married 16 years. Before moving to the area from Lancaster, Pa., he was a personal chef, and she worked in health care administration.

“This was a big change for us, but we looked forward to it,” said Kim, 38. “We’re best friends but polar opposites.”

Scott, 42, is a planner; Kim is more laid-back. Scott likes exotic foods, seasonings and spices; Kim prefers plain hamburgers and hot dogs. Scott likes museums; Kim not so much. Scott likes to attend concerts; Kim despises them. The list of opposites is unending.

What they agree on are their love of books, book sales, flea markets and dogs.

They dote on their three dachshunds and believe in helping animal causes, and they read — usually in the same room — though, again, their tastes in books diverge. Kim likes what she calls “intelligent thrillers,” and Scott is into science fiction.

They have specific roles in the business, and when they lock the bookstore door each night and begin the drive to Pine, talk about work ends.

“We are very much a team,” Kim says. “It’s nice to work with your best friend that you trust. We don’t always agree, but we come up with a compromise. It’s a great sense of security. We’re each other’s caretakers.”

Childhood sweethearts

Rob and Corey Colombin have been married for decades and have raised five children — now ranging in age from 34 to 18 — and they do everything together.

When they’re not at MIT Automotive Solutions, they’re doing at-home projects, shopping or going on off-roading trips. Corey jokes that a typical date is grabbing hot dogs together at Home Depot.

Evergreen residents for 19 years and working together full-time for eight years, the couple have learned to respect the way each other works.

“We respect each other’s process,” Corey said. “I like things written on a notepad. He prefers scratch paper. We allow each other to have idiosyncrasies.”

She said some days having a wall with a door between the auto repair shop and the office can be helpful.

However, “we like each other’s company,” Corey said. “He opens the door for me. I make a good cup of coffee.”

Corey, 52, and Rob, 53, met in middle school in Santa Barbara, Calif. They moved to Colorado in 1992. Corey is also a writer and author, and Rob has a Ford Bronco that he has been restoring for 17 years.

They agreed that when you’re married and work together, it’s important not to take yourself too seriously, to have a sense or humor, and to be respectful.

“She’s got a mean right hook,” Rob joked, “and I’m a quick duck-er.”

Working together has been helpful in raising children because one could leave the business if a child needed help.

“It suited us well (to work together) for a long time,” Corey said. “No one got angry if we had to take care of the kids.”

A prescription for togetherness

Paul and Susan Fontana had a whirlwind intertwining of their careers and personal lives.

They met in 1992, started dating in 1993, got married in 1994 and opened their practice, which is now located in Canyon Commons, in 1995. The couple met at Palmer College of Chiropractic, and they say it’s not unusual for chiropractors to marry each other.

Paul is a 1976 graduate of Evergreen High School, and Susan, originally from Illinois, comes from a chiropractic family: Her dad and sister also are chiropractors.

Paul, 57, and Susan, 46, agree that a sense of humor goes a long way to making their business and their marriage work. They joke that Susan, who graduated three months before Paul, is the “senior chiropractor,” while Paul is the “senior citizen.”

But they get serious about their practice and making sure their patients get proper care.

“If one of us is not getting anywhere with a patient, we switch off,” Paul said.

“There have been many patients who have been concerned about hurting our feelings (by going to one rather than the other), but as long as they get adjusted, it’s fine,” Susan said.

There are many days when patients become dinnertime discussion.

They agree with the Colombins that working together and raising a family is a good combination. The boss doesn’t get angry if a youngster comes to work.

“Raising a family and working together really worked out,” said Susan, referring to their three sons, Aiden, McEwen and Julian.

The Fontanas have split the business duties, with Paul taking care of the paperwork and seeing patients while Susan concentrates on the “fun stuff” — working with patients.

They agree that they disagree occasionally on how to run the business.

“We both have to be on board, or things get scrapped,” Paul said.

Equal decision-making

When customers walk into Rising Graphics and Printing on Meadow Drive, it might not be readily apparent that Russ and Shelly Houston are married.

That’s because Shelly is primarily glued to her computer as she does graphic design work, while Russ is operating the gigantic copy machines, running jobs big and small.

The couple, both 57, met in college in California, married in 1982, and eventually moved to Colorado in 1997 because they wanted a change of scenery and better schools for their three kids. They wound up in Evergreen, eventually buying the print shop in October 2007.

They said working together gives them a chance to see each other, noting that many couples who work full-time see each other briefly in the morning and for a few hours in the evening.

“We enjoy each other’s company,” Russ said, noting that people at Lutheran Church of the Cross tease them because they sit with each other during coffee hour.

“They say, ‘Don’t you see each other enough at work?’ ” Russ said.

Like the Innocents, they have some opposite tendencies. Shelly is the more serious of the two, while Russ in more lighthearted. Shelly also is more technologically savvy, while Russ is tech challenged.

They say a down side of working together is they can’t go home to tell each other about their day — since both were there. However, the up side is they can commiserate if the day didn’t go smoothly.

Mixing work and personal life is not always easy, they said, and couples shouldn’t try it unless they have a solid marriage. Being equal in decision-making is important, too.

“We’ve learned that life is too short to be arguing,” Russ said. “Most of the time, it’s not worth arguing about. She knows my strengths and weaknesses, and I know hers. It’s the same way at home. We know what we do best, and we capitalize on that — at home and at work.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.