After 23 years of operating restaurants at 407 E. U.S. Hwy. 24 in Woodland Park — including Cruisers Drive-In, Rocky Roost and the Tabeguache Steakhouse for the last 12 years — the Brocklesbys have left the industry for other, as yet undetermined pursuits.
The eatery closed in early June, despite "the last couple of years being really good for us," says Fred Brocklesby.
A sadly all-too-familiar tale, their problems began six years ago, when the economy forced them to sell the business property to an investment group. That same group offered it back to them, but Fred says he was turned down for a loan by seven banks. So a new group, with plans to turn the spot into an Arby's, swooped in for the purchase instead.
Rather than move to other offered spaces, the family decided that "it was time for a change," he says, even though he "figured I'd be a lifelong restaurateur." What he sees now are the bigger, more symbolic stakes.
"It's sad for indy operators and the community as a whole, we've lost our identity as a small town," he says. "We say we want to be a destination town — almost 70-percent of my business was from outside of Teller County — I don't see the uniqueness or draw [in a town of chains]."
A joyful transition
IT-guy-turned-small-farmer Craig McHugh and his wife, Kellie, recently sold their profitable 10-acre Black Forest property, A Joyful Noise Farm (started in 2011), for reasons including a realization that they'd grown to where "we [were] not in compliance with the rules regarding having a commercial farm."
Calling the task to meet compliance "nearly impossible," Craig describes on his mysmallfarm.com blog a decision to start from scratch in Colorado Springs, "to show the great folks of this city that small farms near city centers can be profitable and happily coexist ... feed[ing] an enormous amount of people year round when run correctly."
You'll soon hear of the McHughs' new Pikes Peak Small Farm Project, which has joined Pikes Peak Urban Gardens to "advise and consult folks with a bit of acreage that wish to start small- to medium-scale homesteading and urban farming," in PPUG director Larry Stebbins' words.
Big picture, McHugh says, the goal is "to restore small farms to El Paso County, in a way that young people can afford to get back into it ... to get them back on the land without strapping them with a lifetime of debt."
He recognizes the usual hurdles of water rights and zoning, among other issues, but cites wide, fallow land swaths on the north, east and south sides of town and successful examples to be found as close as Longmont and Boulder. Ultimately, a connection to buyers via the impending Colorado Springs Public Market (which could sell goods so the farmers could stay busy on the land) would be another key partnership to fulfill a "21st century model" of small, diversified farms.