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Former Nimbus Brewery owner James Counts dies at 62
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Former Nimbus Brewery owner James Counts dies at 62

James Counts coached his sons, James, left, and Austin in baseball when they were kids. The senior Counts died Sunday after a long battle with cancer.

James Counts, the former owner of Nimbus Brewing Co., died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer. He was 62.

Counts took over the microbrewery four years after Nimbus Couzin launched the business in 1996 and grew it to become a dominant regional brand. Counts had battled throat cancer and a host of illnesses since 2010.

Jim Counts, owner of Nimbus Brewery in 2009.

The cancer had gone into remission for a couple of years, but after a motorcycle accident last year, doctors discovered it had returned in his lungs, said his son, James Counts.

The senior Counts was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 23, 1958, and moved his family to Tucson in the late 1980s. He owned a Hallmark store for several years before buying Nimbus at the suggestion of his oldest son.

“He had often told me he wished I’d never suggested it,” said James Counts, who was working at Nimbus at the time. He now lives in Portland, Oregon.

The senior James Counts ran the brewery from 2000 to 2018, taking the brand beyond Tucson to be distributed in grocery stores in the Phoenix area, California and several other states in the Southwest.

Nimbus Brewery buzzes on a Thursday in 2009.

Nimbus closed in early 2018 amid a drawn-out and contentious court battle with Counts’ ex-wife Patricia over an order that Counts split the business with her. It was sold at auction in late 2018 to an Illinois brewing company.

“It seemed like at the end there he couldn’t catch a break,” James Counts said of his father, who he recalled coached him in sports as a kid and with whom he said he had a good relationship. “We could always kind of see eye to eye to a certain point, even when we were mad at each other.”

Counts also owned Nimbus American Bistro & Brewery on East Tanque Verde Road, which was open for five years before closing in 2014.

In addition to his son and daughter-in-law Yolanda, Counts is survived by son Austin Counts and his wife, Leila, of Tucson; daughter Koko Counts of Tucson; brother Victor Counts of Chattanooga, Tennessee; sister Teresa Counts of Houston; and five grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, James Counts said. His father will be buried in his native Alabama, next to his parents, Counts said.

Fred Rogers, or "Mr. Rogers," the famous PBS TV children's show host, visited KUAT-TV and local Tucson kids in May, 1973.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com.


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