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Homecoming

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Dan James returns to Noxon to run the family business

Who in Noxon, who’s been here for seven or eight years, doesn’t remember that day in March 1996 in the Polson Middle School gymnasium? It was the Two Eagle River Eagles versus the Noxon Red Devils in a boys’ basketball District 14C tournament challenge game. The heavily favored Red Devils had been pushed to the limit and star player Dan James had a moment ago thrown an errant pass that turned the ball over to the Eagles with only seconds left on the clock. Noxon led by one, but the hot-handed Eagles had hit just about everything they had thrown at the basket in the fourth quarter for one of the great comebacks of all time.
Coach Jay Krantz calmly instructed Dan to make sure the ball did not get near that hoop. And Dan, fully aware of the responsibility resting on his shoulders because of the miscue, attacked the approaching ball handler with renewed zeal. A trip to the Divisional tournament and possibly State was on the line.
 Dan’s aggression was more than his harried opponent could handle. The ball came loose, Dan snatched it out of thin air, and, in his own words, “I barrel-hugged it until time expired. We won by one,” he smiled in recollection.
 Dan James graduated that spring and, in the wake of his two older brothers, he left the family nest. Dan went to Missoula to attend the University of Montana, his proud parents – Vick and Cris James – eying the last of their babies to leave home.
 But Dan’s back now, with a wife, a baby on the way and a B.S. degree in Business Administration. He’s come home to utilize what he learned in college by running what has become, over the past several years, the family business: the Noxon Cafe. His return has raised some eyebrows as people in town wonder not so silently why a boy with the potential of this high-achieving young man would come back. 
 Applying the lessons learned in earning a degree would seem more fruitful and rewarding where the economy is not so depressed, some have reasoned. But Dan’s reasons for coming home are simple. “Over time,” he said, “I want to give back to this community as much as I got from it.”
 He also likes the idea of “being able to walk out my back door to hunt,” the small town atmosphere and being close to his family. His wife, Misti, exclaimed, “I love it here!” And looking out a cafe window she added, “I love that there’s a river right there and that just out my window are those beautiful mountains.”
 Dan was born in Bonners Ferry in 1978, the third of three sons. His folks took the kids to California for a short time then, when Dan was eight, they moved to Noxon. Misti was born in California, lived in Wisconsin until she was 10 then moved with her parents, three brothers and three sisters to Florence, Montana. They eventually met in Dillard’s, a retail store in Missoula, where they both worked. And they both laughed when Dan remarked, “One day I met the biggest pain in the butt and knew she was the one for me!”
 They fell in love, married last March and, in April, made the decision to move to Noxon where Dan intended to take over the restaurant. That decision came on the heels of several important discussions with his dad and an announcement from the company he worked for that he’d have to leave Montana for a position elsewhere. “That,” Dan said, “made it easy to convince me (to take over the restaurant). I didn’t want to move away from Montana. On my final business trip to LA I found being around a big city like that was not ok with me.”
 On top of that, after seriously talking about the restaurant business and its potential to support his young family, Dan stated, “It seemed to be a genuinely good investment.”
 So Dan is purchasing the Noxon Cafe from his parents, a process he figures will be completed by the end of the year, and he will have his business administration skills put to the test in a way that only a small rural town can do.
 But then, Dan James has been under pressure in this town before and he found a way to come out on top. That same tenacity and courage will likely serve him well in carrying on with the family business. It’s a homecoming of sorts, with a lot more riding on it than a trip to a basketball tournament. 
 Dan and Misti invite their friends and neighbors to come by and say howdy. Dan is eager to settle down and become a part of the community that nurtured him as a boy. The Noxon Cafe is open 7:00  a.m. until 7:00 p.m. everyday. They serve up a full menu for breakfast, lunch and supper. Welcome the boy, now a young man, back home.
 While you're at the café, stop and say hi to Dennis, likely in his favorite spot in front of the cribbage board.

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Dennis Nicholls Dennis Nicholls was the founder, publisher, janitor and paperboy of the River Journal from 1993 to 2001. He passed away in 2009.

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Noxon, Dan James, basketball, Noxon Cafe, business

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