LCBD Rising Star – Fresh Plate Catering


Tracie Reeves HartmanThe Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) was delighted to begin working with Tracie Reeves Hartman in July 2013. Tracie was full of marvelous ideas. Her original idea was for a breakfast and lunch restaurant that would revolve around building community that would include a room for children, and, of course, offer excellent food. After analyzing all the costs associated with developing such a business, Tracie decided to go a different route – catering. Tracie started Fresh Plate Catering on September 18, 2013. Fresh Plate Catering, a Loveland, Colorado business, provides farm fresh food with a healthy slant.

Fresh Plate CateringA highlight in 2014 for Fresh Plate Catering was an invitation from Verboten Brewing to create a special menu for July 1, 2014. The Travel Channel was coming to Verboten to film their brewing process and discuss food and beer pairings. Tracie set up a large grill outside Verboten and went to town with a menu of garlic pork sliders, Angry Boots and agave BBQ, mango jicama slaw, and sirloin shish kabobs marinated in Five Second Frencher with smoked Gouda and ale pimento cheese. To complete the meal, Tracie made a coffee ice cream float made with Killer Boots caramel porter for dessert. I was at this event and ended up getting a second helping – the food was that good.

MAH: Tracie, what do you see in the future for Fresh Plate Catering?
In addition to growing as a catering business we will expand into additional food avenues. Those that are being researched and considered are managing a green commercial/incubator kitchen, retail areas for those working out of the commercial kitchen, deli, ready-made-dinners, and/or a food hub that brings several Northern Colorado entities together.
Fresh Plate CateringMAH: You were the only person doing all the jobs when you first started. Have you added employees?
I have added part-time employees: two chefs who assist in the cooking and food prep, and 5-6 servers.

MAH: What were your biggest obstacles in the first year of business?

  1. Fresh PlateStaying ahead of the game and time management. A question I often ponder, “Is this the best investment of my time at the moment?” If the answer to that question is probably no….I need to turn that answer into a resounding “YES”!
  2. Being smart in terms of time management and eliminating food waste, and scheduling and menu creation to avoid this.
  3. Taking recipes and multiplying them by large quantities and still preserving the quality and taste can be challenging and timing of multiple events on the same day.
  4. Finding the products I desire and at a reasonable price. Knowing what is available since I can design menus around unique foods that are available.

Fresh Plate CateringMAH: What are your top selling menu items?
Bacon wrapped dates! Seasonal items that include fresh fruits and vegetables that are unique and healthier than what many caterers provide.
Fresh Plate CateringMAH: You offered pies at Thanksgiving the first year you were open. How did that go and how many pies did you end up baking?
: That went well and is a service we do hope to again provide. Because our 2014 October and December were very busy, I did not feel we could provide the quality and service I wanted; we only made pumpkin pies. We baked and sold about 125 in 2013 and 80 in 2014.
Fresh Plate CateringMAH: How would you describe the assistance that you received from the LCBD to develop your business?
This service has been a huge part of Fresh Plate being successful:

  1. The one-on-one consultations and direction has been extremely helpful. I have implemented many of the ideas and those that I have not implemented have been because of a lack of time.
  2. All meetings with volunteer advisers have been extremely beneficial. I have met with at least six volunteers.Fresh Plate Catering
  3. Many of my best partnerships have been based on my relationship with the LCBD.
  4. I have taken 2-3 of the classes and they have been extremely informative and helpful. I would really like to attend more but, again, I don’t because of lack of time.
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LCBD Rising Star – DAWGMA, LLC


DAWGMA, LLC Mobile Dog GroomingGiselle Mayhew came to the LCBD in February, 2014. She was a corporate employee (dog groomer) for a major franchise, working for minimal pay that included Saturdays. Giselle had a dream to open her own mobile dog grooming business. There was much work to be done on Giselle’s part. She needed to complete a cash flow form to show that this would be a viable business and work with the Loveland Library on market research. A logo design needed to be created to submit for the van signage and promotional printed pieces. Giselle worked with a local attorney and CPA to set up the business properly. She jumped into Facebook to announce her new business and Dawgma, LLC opened on May 1, 2014.

DAWGMA, LLC Mobile Dog Grooming - Loveland, COWithin two months Dawgma was booked out 10 days and was doing business in Berthoud, Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor. Needing some additional financing, Giselle headed back to the LCBD and worked with Robin Shukle, LCBD Executive Director, on her loan packet development. She received her financing and continues to thrive. If you think you might like to try mobile dog grooming, you better call now because it will take you three weeks to get an appointment with Dawgma. People love the convenience and the quality of this service.

MAH: What were your biggest challenges in starting your business?
Giselle: The biggest challenge by far was quitting my job and jumping into the void; taking the risk, with no income.

MAH: Is there any advice you would give to a person just starting their business?
Giselle: Do your research.  I read every book ever written on mobile grooming, every blog or web post.  It helped tremendously with marketing and especially pricing correctly.

MAH: What do you like best about your job?
Giselle: I LOVE DOGS.  They seem to pick up on my deep obsession and, usually take to me very easily.  I look forward to work.  There is nothing like transforming a dog into a cute groom.  I see all dogs and think…Oh, what I could do with that canvas.

MAH: How did the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) help you in developing your business?
Giselle: The LCBD showed me how to start, how to progress, how to get funding, and website tips. They showed me where to aim for pricing to make a living.  Every time I had a question Robin and Mary Ann had the answers.  They supported me and gave me confidence.  THEY BELIEVED IN ME. I could have never done it without their guidance.

MAH: Did you think about owning your own business when you were younger?
Giselle: No, this is a dream that I never could have even imagined.  I am so happy.  I feel so proud.  I never miss my kid’s games anymore.  I am around for ALL the holidays and weekends.  I am making a living doing something I would do for free.  I am humbled by the people that helped me.  I know I will pay it forward for the rest of my life.

DAWGMA, LLCOn a side note, Giselle just rescued her fourth dog on March 10th.  Work isn’t the only place that she is inundated.








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Behind the Scenes with Chef David

David McClelland

I am thrilled when I get an opportunity to talk to staff members who work behind the scenes. This is the lifeblood of a business and can give great insight into why a business is successful. I am a huge fan of Chef David McClelland of The Laureate Publick House. This began when I started to order desserts at The Laureate. The unique ingredients and fabulous taste got me hooked and I rarely pass up a dessert when I go there. The entrées are equally delectable and my assumption about Chef David was that he attended a culinary school. I was surprised to find out that he gained his skills on the job.

If the first impression you get when you meet Chef David is that he looks clean cut and collegiate, you would be quite right. David attended Fort Lewis College to pursue a degree in music performance, studying the trombone.

When I had a chance to talk with Chef David, I was curious how he got started in cooking and wanted to know some details about his background. David’s very first kitchen job was at the Budweiser Events Center for Ovations Food Services. His job duties were serving and set-up, but he did get to do a fair share of cooking on the line. The chef at the time was Chef Marco. David saw the chef as being intensely scary and because he was so young he stayed away from Chef Marco as much as possible.

David considers that his first real kitchen job was at The Stone Ridge Grill at Mariana Butte Golf Course. He started working there when he was 19, the summer before he moved to Durango to attend Fort Lewis College. David worked a couple different jobs during his first year and a half at school. He managed a laundromat for a short time, and also worked part time at the front desk of the college to make ends meet.

At the end of David’s second summer in Durango, his roommate’s buddy was quitting his job at a local restaurant. He was able to get David an interview at a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant called the Cyprus Café. The Cyprus is one of the more “high-end” dining establishments in Durango and is very well known and liked by all in the surrounding area. It has been written up in Bon Appetite, Sunset Magazine, and The New York Times. David was employed at this establishment just shy of 4 years. He gives all the credit for his skill in the kitchen to the knowledge he gained while working there with Chef Vera Hansen. She was hired as the chef in 1996 and still holds the position, with gusto! David worked with Chef Vera 5-6 days a week for 3 years. From David’s perspective, “Every day was like the best day at school and essentially everything I know about the kitchen came from the Cyprus.”

After eating a meal at The Laureate, I try and get a few minutes with David to tell him what an excellent job he is doing. I recently received this note from David and it sums up what his driving force is. “Thanks so much for all of your support and kind words, I love my job because of people like you, it make me excited to wake up in the morning and get into the kitchen and create something that people really enjoy! The best part of my day is after the dinner rush; walking into the dining room and seeing all the happy faces and listening to the laughter. That means we all did our job well that day and makes me so stoked to get back in and do it all again!” I only wish more people were this excited to go to work each day, focusing on making other people happy.

MAH: What are the biggest challenges you face in your day to day cooking at The Laureate?
David: The most challenging part of this job would be the hoodless kitchen as a whole! I have never worked in a kitchen without the whole open flame thing. As far as the cooking apparatuses go, we have an Alto Shaam which goes only to 325 degrees, a couple of induction burners, and a Panini press. Learning what we can and cannot do as far as cooking has been and will continue to be a huge challenge. Because of our limited cooking abilities, I feel it forces us to be more creative on a daily basis which sometimes works smashingly, and other times we have to pursue a different route. It’s been a fun challenge. Another challenge is our space issue. We don’t have much space for storage etc, what space we do have is shared with the bar, so in that sense it forces us to be super fresh which I love and think people can see and taste it in their food!

MAH: You do focus on creating interesting dessert. Are you a dessert lover, or is there another reason for this?
David: I have never been a really big sweets guy and definitely don’t have a “sweet tooth,” as you will. But I do appreciate a good dessert and will always have at least a bite! Cooking is such a big world and there are so many flavor combinations. It’s fun to play around and try something unique each time. We don’t have a set dessert menu so we get to switch it up a couple times a week and people have really been catching onto our sundries! I have to give a lot of the dessert credit to my Sous Chef, Ashley Smith, who is absolutely amazing at what she does. She works hard, day in and day out, always thinking of the next best thing. She is truly a genius in the kitchen and together we make a pretty all right team!!!

PianoMAH: Are you currently doing anything with your music background or do you plan on doing anything in the future?
David: I don’t currently practice music much. I play the piano everyday but just as a great form of meditation and relaxation for me to just zone out and think. I quit pursuing music because I decided I would rather keep it as a hobby versus a profession. I was scared I would burn out if I kept playing as much as I was and I love music far too much to ever let that happen.

MAH: What are a few key lessons that you learned from Chef Vera that you continue to use today in your work?
David: The biggest lessons I learned from Vera is just cook! Also listen to your heart, and develop good relations with customers, staff, and purveyors. A happy work place is a successful workplace. Laugh a lot and be passionate in everything you do. Some days are better than others, but just cook good food and people will come! Don’t be scared to push the envelope and try new things. It is called creativity for a reason!

MAH: Do you have a favorite recipe?
David: This is a hard question for me. I really don’t have a favorite recipe. If I had to choose something, it would probably have to be my Cranberry Spinach Alfredo with pappardelle noodles and some grilled chicken! Or, Braised Lamb Shank with a bacon lentil ragù, topped with crispy pancetta and a bacon-shallot marmalade.

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Businesses ownership is a lifestyle, not a job

80 hours-artwork by Ellen Bryan Deisgn

Three years ago I wrote a blog post for Ryan Schlaefer Fine Furniture, a company I co-own with my husband. It was entitled, “Owning a business isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” and it resonated with many of our small business owner friends.

My husband and I have been small business owners since 2004, and I officially quit being an employee in 2008 in order to grow and my freelance writing career. It may sound glamorous to someone who works an eight-to-five job, but the fact is that business owners never actually clock out.

Small business owners know all too well that leaving the office doesn’t mean leaving the business. We take our business with us everywhere we go – we eat with it, sleep with it and even vacation with it.

If you are a business owner, think about the last dinner conversation you had with your spouse. I’m willing to bet a lot that it was about your business. When was the last time you took a vacation that wasn’t interrupted by business calls or emails? In our case, never.  When was the last time you took a sick day? I can hear your laughter from here. There are no sick days for the self-employed.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t perks to being self-employed. If Ryan and I want to kick off early on a Friday to head to the mountains, no problem. We don’t have to ask the boss for time off for a doctor’s appointment.

Berry Hard At Work

The fact is that we each choose the sort of stress we want to deal with in our lives and for small business owners, the stress of fulfilling our own dream by working 80 hours a week is preferable to the stress of having to work 40 hours a week to fulfill someone else’s dream.

The key is finding balance. The lifestyle of business ownership must include some fun. I’m putting together an event over Memorial Day Weekend called HeidiTown Fest. It’s a celebration of Colorado (and gals named Heidi are VVIPs). This festival is an opportunity for anyone, including small business owners, to enjoy the beautiful village of Ouray for a weekend of hot springs soaking, four-wheel drive tours, rafting adventures and more.

And the good news? Ouray has excellent wi-fi for those important emails that just have to be answered.

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is the co-owner of Ryan Schlaefer Fine Furniture, a Loveland-based furniture design and manufacturing company. She is also a freelance writer and founder of, a blog about Colorado festivals and travel. She was recently called a “one-woman tourism-promotion” machine by Biz West.

(Photo credit: 80 hours-artwork by Ellen Bryan DeisgnBerry Hard At Work)

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Vision for Your Business in 2015

Business Vision for 2015

We are in the beginning of the second business quarter for 2015. Did you set any goals for 2015? Are you on track or have you been too busy to review? You may need to take a day to see if you have the proper systems in place to keep you on track and make sure you are implementing those stated goals. Developing systems may not be your thing. There is a local company that can help you develop written systems – Implement for Impact.

If your current strategies aren’t working, go back to the drawing board and start again. But this time don’t wait for the end of the quarter to review.

The Loveland Center for Business Development has a volunteer counselor, Jim McWilliams, who had successful Goodyear Tire stores. Jim suggests that you re-visit your business plan on a regular basis and make adjustments to ensure you are on track. Most people write their business plan for the sole purpose of getting financing for their business and never look at it again. It is hard to know where you want your business to go if you don’t have a plan in place to guide you in the direction you want to go. It’s like taking a trip without looking at a map.

Why not make this year the year that you develop good habits to improve your business practices.

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LCBD Rising Star – DS Constructors


Melinda Denney, DS Constructors

Melinda Denney

DS Constructors, LLC, started their business in 2008. They came to the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) in March, 2013 wanting to grow their business. DS Constructors is a Loveland, CO women-owned general contracting company. It is refreshing to find a women-owned and operated business in a male dominated industry.

DS Constructors is made up of: Melinda Denney (President), Guy Engell (Superintendent), Robert Rigg (Superintendent), Diane Godin (Project Manager), Eric Horton (Project Manager), Gene Leach (Project Manager), Drew Gelroth (Project Engineer), Jennifer Payton (Project Coordinator / Marketing Director), Diahan Ehasz (CFO), Mariela Teather-Posadas(Office Manager), Catherine Rust (Estimator), and John Sinnett (Estimator).

MAH: What are some of the local projects that DS Constructors have worked on?
Jennifer Payton:
Some of the local projects that DS Constructors have worked on include Loveland Food Bank, Carter Lake Campgrounds, Liquor Max, CSU Health and Exercise Science, CSU B-Barn, and Greeley Right Coast Pizza.

DS Constructors building projectMAH: Why would someone choose DS Constructors over another construction company?
Jennifer Payton:
DS Constructors is more than just a General Contractor; our process simply begins with a trusted relationship between the owners, and architects, and expand it to include the rest of the team. We are here to give answers to questions, options and solutions to problems, and provide our assistance and knowledge to keep our projects within budget and on time. DS has made special effort to hire a team that is able to provide a large company experience with small company structure that takes personal care of each project.

DS Constructors Loveland Food Bank projectMAH: Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Jennifer Payton:
DS Constructor’s goal is to build to approximately 20 million and maintain about 15 employees. These employees range from project managers to coordinators.

MAH: What services does your company offer?
Jennifer Payton:
Our professional services range from estimating, design build, construction management, value engineering, CMGC, and general contracting, depending on the needs and requirements of our owners/clients.

DS ConstructorsMAH: What benefits did you see from your counseling appointments at the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD)?
Jennifer Payton:
LCBD offered a great deal of education. We first started working with LCBD to learn more about Social Media Marketing. We quickly started to learn that LCBD has more to offer than just Lunch and Learns. We gradually got involved by attending the marketing events (monthly networking) at other businesses and became more connected with other business owners in Loveland. These new connections have proven to be successful and we look forward to more success ventures with the LCBD.
DS Constructors, Loveland, CO

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Hatch a Brainstorming Group

Brainstorming Group

In the world of business, coming up with unique ideas to promote your business can be daunting. If your budget allows, I would suggest working with a marketing company. Their key function is to work in the creative realm of developing ideas to grow your business. In your company, this is one of many tasks that you face each week. Unfortunately, most small businesses do not have a budget to work with outside resources, or at least they think they can’t afford it and feel like they can do an adequate job themselves. You may need to take steps to work towards having the funds to hire a marketing professional.

Until you are able to achieve the goal of working with a marketing team, you still need to promote your product/service. I see many businesses relying on Facebook as their only marketing tool. Yes, Facebook can be an important platform to spread the word about events happening in your business. Please take the time to develop other means of promoting your business.

A very easy step you can take would be to create a working group for the main purpose of brainstorming ideas. You won’t need a large group. You want to choose the obvious, the people you enjoy spending time with and respect their opinions. Make this a time that will refresh the group. Meet at an interesting coffee shop or a local pub during off hours. If schedules don’t allow, create an on-line working group for the times you can’t meet face to face. The key to all of this is GET STARTEDdo something.

Here are a few brainstorming ideas to get started:

  • Create marketing events.
  • Do focus groups.
  • Develop blogging subjects related to your business.
  • Write PR articles and place those articles in publications.
  • Review your website—unless you have a professional editor in your group, I would hire a content writer to review and update your site.
  • Approach your existing customer base with offers to reward them for bringing in their friends as new customers.

Before meeting with your brainstorming group, it may make sense for you to carve out some quiet time to have ideas to share, goals to achieve or problems to solve. This is quite challenging for me and when I am able to appropriate some time that is strictly for working on new ideas, it always pays off.

Once you get started throwing around thoughts in your group, you will have more ideas than you will know what to do with. Then you have to be selective and also prioritize how you want to schedule each action item.

The two people that I routinely brainstorm with are Robin Shukle and Nick Armstrong. With limited time, we typically bounce ideas around for about 10 minutes; coming up with fairly concrete ideas that are implemented within a day. Robin loves to use the whiteboard and that is a great tool to work through processes. I have to mentally move things around in my brain, go back to my office and consider whether the project can be accomplished within our budget and with staff and time constraints. I can be a real idea squelcher. Every once in awhile, the stars align and we see eye to eye, on most of the aspects of a proposed idea, and the outcome is fantastic. Having a team with different skills, different approaches to problem solving and looking at the world in a different way ensures that the very best ideas percolate to the top.

As you build your brainstorming group, it is good to have a “big picture” and a “detail oriented person,” as well as a creative and a financial type – and sometimes you can get all that in just two people.

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LCBD Rising Star – Generations Wine & Martini Bar


Erin Borsdorf, native of Illinois, arrived in Larimer County in 2006. Erin has said in past interviews that she has always wanted to open a restaurant. She also had the experience of working in restaurants. Believe it or not, those reasons are a winning combination to be successful in a very rough business; along with enough cash to get your financing in place. You have to have a passion for the food and beverage industry and the willingness to work harder than you have ever worked in your life. Erin has all that and more.

Erin came into the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) in October 2011 with the idea of opening a wine and martini bar on 4th Street. We tend to be skeptical when our clients are looking at any type of food business, due to the high failure rate in that type of business. After one meeting, we were encouraged that she could actually pull this venture off. She did not require a ton of assistance from the LCBD, and was spot on with some of her ideas. The building size that Erin chose for Generations was perfect – very intimate. Many people get into spaces that are way too large and expensive for what the business can generate and that is a recipe for failure. Erin has a good pulse on what women are looking for when they go out and her offerings reflect that. She says that women make 75% of the buying decisions, such as what restaurants to go to and what wine to buy. Erin opened her dream business when she was 31. Generations Wine & Martini Bar, located at 127 W. 4th Street turned three in January, 2015. Up to that point, they have sold: 4,248 bottles of wine, 25,270 dates wrapped in bacon, and made 39,892 martinis – per a post on their Facebook fan page.

Generations Wine and Martini BarThere is wall of photographs displaying seven generations of Erin’s family tree that gives Generations a warm glow. Generations offers specialty dinner nights held throughout the year. If you delight in going out for breakfast on the weekend, you must try their breakfast that goes from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Family Photos at Generations in Loveland, COIf keeping up with all the details of running a restaurant weren’t enough, Erin embarked on developing a local newspaper, the 4th Street Chronicle. Once a month, the 4th Street Chronicle seeks to produce real news, be a voice of the people, provide light hearted commentary, and provide a go-to entertainment section for Loveland. The first issue was distributed in November 2013.

Food at Generations Wine and Martini Bar - Loveland, COMenu Item - Generations Wine & Martini BarMenu item - Generations Wine & Martini Bar






MAH: Who is your chef and what would your chef eat off the Generations menu?
Erin: Currently our chef is Kornte Kulp. She did not come here as our official “chef” but has worked diligently for us over two years now and has made the kitchen her own. I cannot speak to her favorite menu item, but she most typically eats the mushroom goat cheese pizza.

MAH: Can you speak to the failure rate of restaurants?
As far as bricks and mortar go, and restaurants for that matter, the proposed failure rates have been grossly overrated. People will say it’s 85-95% but the truth is it’s closer to 45-60% within the first 2-3 years of restaurant startup. That does little to help someone get funding however. Once a restaurant is up and running working capital companies come out of the woodwork, but interest rates are always higher than average bank loans.

MAH: What advice would you give to someone looking to open a restaurant in Loveland?
I think the advice I’d give a restaurant start up is, be sure your product is unique. At the time I thought up Generations nothing like it existed on 4th Street. Since then we’ve had Next Door and Laureate Publick House, which are not the same, but attracts similar clientele. Conversely, to have opened a steakhouse, for example, on 4th Street would have been silly; already having the 4th Street Chop House.

MAH: Are there issues with having a smaller restaurant?
It does become difficult in a small space because there is ultimately a financial cap on how much money we can gross each night. There are 36 seats in this building, when they are full, they are full and there is not much more we can do in house, so we make up differences financially with catering events, special events, etc. This is a problem larger restaurants are less likely to face as often.

Bacon wrapped dates - Generations in Loveland, COMAH: What factors come into play with the success of Generations?
Generations itself, has succeeded largely because I am very hands on and willing to work as both the owner and the manager. I also wear bar tending, serving, hostess, kitchen cook, and dishwasher hats a couple times a week. I do this to cut down largely on my payroll, which is one of the largest expenditures for any business. If I can cook and save $10 bucks an hour on a non-existent employee, then I can afford to pay my actual employees a little more. It’s not an ideal practice and I don’t recommend it for most people, but I did go into this whole project determined to make it float and all the naysayers just made me more determined. It’s funny now to look back on 3 years and see it being successful with less and less of my input and personal time involved… it doesn’t run itself but I have a great staff of 4-5 people at all times and an assistant who runs all our errands for us. We also have a former employee pool of about 7 people that, while not on payroll, regularly will come back and fill in on shifts when needed. I find that a huge testament to the experience of working here, that so many are willing to comeback and help out from time to time.

Brunch at Generations Wine & Martini BarMAH: Can you talk about your special dinner nights?
A couple of the special dinners we look forward to offering annually are the Seafood Feast and the Wild Game Dinner. New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day are typically when we push our restaurant’s abilities to the max, and send 90-130 people thru the building in one night, 5 courses at a time. We did that most successfully this V-day offering scallops, rack of lamb, beef tenderloin, calamari, bison sliders, 2 salad choices, soap, ceviche, cheese boards, etc. People would simply die if they had any clue that we do it all with two personal pizza sized ovens, a panini press, and one burner. We never intended to be so food heavy, but we are, and we think we do it well, in spite of no fryer, no grill, not flattop, etc. Our least favorite dinners, and yet most popular, are the Southern Fare Dinner and the Fondue Dinner, but they both sell out.
Generations Wine & Martini Bar

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Downtown Sound – What’s Old is New Again

When I was a young girl my friends and I spent most of our hard earned money buying records. And when we weren’t shopping for the latest and greatest album, we spent hours spinning our treasures and studying the liner notes and album covers. Your record collection spoke volumes about your personality. The love affair with vinyl seemed like it would go on forever. As time went by, my friends and I began moving away from our hometown and with each move our boxes of albums became fewer and fewer. Our sound systems used to be the first thing that we set up in a new apartment, but after a few moves we quit unpacking the turntables, speakers and records. Then the record stores stopped selling records and only sold CD’s. The advent of the compact disc in the 1980s cut into the popularity of vinyl records. Vinyl records left the mainstream around 1991. CD’s were also much easier to store, move and most of us bought into the idea that CD’s sounded better. It wasn’t very long before we became addicted to purchasing I-Tunes. We started to compete with each other on how many songs we had downloaded to our I-pods and smart phones.

As interest in records diminished, the record stores dwindled to almost non-existence. There were some record-loving holdouts who would scour the second hand shops for used records and a quiet resurgence began to happen with a renewed interest in the artwork of an album and the ability to read the lyrics on the liners and the realization that records really do sound different than digitally produced music. A funny thing started to happen. As you were picking through a pile of records at your local Goodwill store, younger people started to show up and were also buying the “great finds” that you were looking for. You couldn’t be angry that the guy next to you just put his hand on a copy of Woodstock that was on your list of “must have” albums. You were just so thrilled that another generation was starting to get interested in records.Woodstock album

The Vinyl Record Revival

Vinyl records fell out of favor between 1988 and 1991. There has been a renewed interest and increased sales of records since 2006. Sales of vinyl in the United States in early 2009 showed that the sales doubled in 2008 with 1.88 million sold and approximately 2.8 million sold in 2010. According to Nielsen SoundScan data, vinyl record sales in 2014 were 9.2 million, up 52 percent from 2013. It is awesome to see popular musicians today selling a ton of records. Jack White’s 2014 Lazaretto album sold over 87,000 copies. Annie Lennox’s 2014 release of Nostalgia was on back order for about a month. And Sam Smith’s 2014 album, In the Lonely Hour, which won 4 Grammys this year, is flying off the shelves. Also noteworthy, among the top selling vinyl albums in 2014 were reissues from the past like The Beatles Abbey Road and Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Legend, which both sold over 37,000 in 2014.


Along with the increased interest in purchasing records, is a revival in actual record shops. Mark your calendars – Record Store Day is an internationally celebrated day observed the third Saturday of April each year. When I first saw Downtown Sound show up on 4th Street in July of 2012 I was ecstatic. At the time, I was not certain that there would be enough interest in old records to support this new business. I also did not know if the owners had what it takes to develop a successful business. I have been watching the business, with great interest, since it opened and I love spending time looking through their collection of albums. I was recently in the shop looking for birthday present and got a chance to speak with one of the owners, Veronica. Usually when I am talking to business owner, I tell them about the assistance they can get at the Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD). By the end of the conversation I was ready to ask her to be a counselor for our program. Their business practices are on target and to be commended. I assumed that the idea for the business was Veronica’s. I could not have been more wrong. When Veronica and her husband decided they wanted to start a business, they weren’t quite sure what that business would be. Their daughter, Lizz, thought they should consider opening a vintage record store. I was quite surprised that a young girl would have that much interest in old records and have the foresight to see that the record world was reinventing itself in a very positive way. On another visit to the shop, on a Monday afternoon, there were scads of customers filing through the bins of records. I was simply amazed that there was so much activity, on what is normally a slow day for many retail stores. Kudoz to Downtown Sound – 330 E. 4th Street in Loveland.

If you haven’t been in the shop, Downtown Sound sells vinyl records (both new and vintage), vintage turntables, guitars and amplifiers and they also do repairs. Check out the ceiling when you go. Veronica had boxes of red vinyl records. She used them to embellish the ceiling and it is a great look.

Downtown Sound

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Instilling Customer Loyalty

There is a tremendous amount of competition in most businesses. One of the first assignments that we give Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) clients is to research their competition. If the competition is knocking it out of the ballpark, they will have a loyal customer base.

I have some knowledge in this area. I was a co-owner of Matthew’s Restaurant in Westport, CT, years ago. Many of the customers who came into Matthew’s were “regulars.” When the regulars came through the door, the staff members knew them by name, knew what they liked to eat and drink, knew something about their work and hobbies and made them feel like they were part of the Matthew’s family. The TV show “Cheers” ran from 1982 – 1993. The atmosphere at Matthew’s was very similar to Cheers. The customers who came into the bar area of the restaurant always sat at the bar stool they sat at during their previous visit. As a promotion, I took orders for brass name plates and when purchased, the name plate would be secured to their favorite spot at the bar. There was a hefty price to purchase the name plate, but that did not deter anyone from purchasing them. They loved the recognition.

Matthew's Restaurant

When I visit businesses, I observe operations to see how staff members and owners interact with their customers. I may be more critical than others, due to my past stint as a business owner. I have recently had a few delightful experiences that were great examples of how to gain customer loyalty. My husband and I were checking out a new Loveland establishment, The Laureate Public House. Kris, Erik and Aaron were behind the bar that evening. A keg blew and they tapped a Blood Orange Gose beer from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. A sampling of the Gose beer was poured for all the customers. The beer was fantastic and everyone loved it and started to order pints of it. Later in the evening, they broke out an 18th Anniversary Firestone Walker Ale to share with everyone sitting at the bar. I assure you, everyone at the bar left that evening with of feeling that it was a very special night. They are probably still telling the story to their friends and family, I know I am.

I went to one of my favorite spots in Fort Collins last night, The Welsh Rabbit Cheese Shop and Bistro. It was a celebratory night for a friend’s birthday and also my husband’s birthday. When we entered the bistro, Annaleise, our favorite server, gave us a huge smile and expressed how glad she was to see us. Even if she had not said a word, you could see it written all over her face that she was excited to see us. The fabulous chef at Welsh Rabbit, Nate, was busy whipping up some delectable menu items in the exposed prep area that is located at the bar. This is the area that we always sit; as we enjoy watching the chef make his creations and when he has time he graciously gives us cooking tips. On our last visit, he gave us pointers on making amazing Polenta. We changed our Polenta recipe and had impressive results. That doesn’t mean that we won’t order Polenta when we go to Welsh Rabbit, it just means that every time we cook this dish at home it will remind us the wonderful times spent at Welsh Rabbit. When we were finished with our meal last night, Nate brought us a scrumptious dessert to share (this was not on the menu). He had no idea about the birthdays. What a wonderful surprise to top off a great evening.

I will wrap this up with one more story about building loyalty. This past weekend, I stopped by Artsy Stamps & Paper Crafts. The owner, Patsy Kral, worked with our program from 2010 to 2011. Patsy has taken all our workshops and came in for counseling. I had just missed a card making class and was very interested in one of the cards that they made in the class. Patsy offered to do a one-on-one session with me to learn the technique she used to create a watercolor look. I was thrilled and quickly darted back to the work table to learn some new skills. I have only made cards on my own and the idea of attending a class is intimidating to me. Patsy made it look easy and let me try my hand at the project. I was like a little kid learning how to ride a bike. I was so excited, I asked Patsy to gather all the items that I needed to purchase to do this card at home. What might have been a routine visit to a craft shop turned into a memorable afternoon. I know I could go to a chain craft store to buy many of the items that Patsy sold me. Patsy developed a loyal customer by spending her time and sharing her talents with me.

Wizzard of Oz

Wizard of Oz mini book project at Artsy Stamps & Paper Crafts

These are a few examples of how the passion of staff and owners trickles down and is felt by the customer. When that passion is passed along, especially in a unique way, you develop loyal customers. Think about your own business. Are you exuding a passion for what you do? Are you making your customers feel special? It is the beginning of a new year; time to review and create new habits.

If you are interested in creating some new habits and learning some new tools to help you gain customer loyalty, the Loveland Center for Business Development will be offering a Marketing 101 half day workshop that includes 3 classes on Friday, March 6, 2015. Nick Armstrong will be the lead presenter of the workshop. You can read some of Nick’s insight in Chapter 6 of the new book, “30 Ways to Bloom Your Online Relationships” by Tea Silvestre. Nick has been a volunteer for the LCBD program since 2010.

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