As many local small-business owners will attest, it’s hard to
keep a company operating.
In fact, some experts estimate that many businesses will fail in
their first year.
Talk to Bernie Wilkins, and he’ll tell you differently.
Wilkins is the co-owner of the oldest business in Fort Collins.
City Drug, 101 S. College Ave., has kept its customers coming back
since its doors opened in 1873.
“We’re very competitive in price and service,” Wilkins said.
Although City Drug has moved many times and has been passed
through the hands of several owners, the store itself has changed
Until a few years ago, the pharmaceutical store had a small
historical museum that showcased the old medicine bottles and
equipment the store sold in the 1800s. Wilkins donated these old
bottles and equipment to the University of Wyoming a couple years
To this day, City Drug sells some of the original products,
including medicine bottles and equipment, with a few additions.
The city of Fort Collins has a history that dates back to when
soldiers were assigned to protect the Cherokee Trail and the
Overland Stage Line in 1862.
In February of 1873, Fort Collins was incorporated as a town,
when 838 people lived in Larimer County.
This was right about the time William Charles Graves opened
Morning Fresh Dairy, then known as Graves Dairy, to deliver milk to
Fort Collins residents every morning.
The same family has owned Morning Fresh Dairy, 125 S. Howes St.,
for more than 130 years. The entire family helps with the process,
starting at a very young age.
“All the kids have to work here,” said owner Rob Graves. “We
start them at (age) 2, feeding the calves.”
Passed down by generations, Morning Fresh still delivers glass
milk bottles to about 5,000 Fort Collins residents.
“It saves paper and milk just tastes better out of a bottle,”
Graves said. “And the customers like the nostalgia.”
With more than 300 cows, Morning Fresh uses the slogan of its
milk being “hormone free, preservative free and pesticide free.” It
is one of the few dairies in the nation that controls the entire
milk and bottling processes.
“We raise our own feed and cows.” Graves said. “We give the
customers what they want.”
Morning Fresh Dairy serves Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley,
Johnstown and Milliken residents, as well as local restaurants.
“We can’t compete with the big guys,” Graves said. “But we can
supply milk on Sundays if (a restaurant) needs it. With big
dairies, you’re stuck ’til Monday.”
At the oldest bar in Fort Collins, the customers are the main
focus of the business.
Aim� Stilowagon, a bartender at the Town Pump, 124 N.
College Ave., said she tries to remember every customer who walks
into the bar.
“I know what they drink and how they order,” she said. “If
someone swirls their glass, it means they want more beer.”
Odell Brewing Company even brews a special ‘Town Pump Ale’ for
customers. Years ago, a brew called Hopp Dragon was a popular drink
for Town Pump regulars.
When the beer was discontinued, Odell created a similarly
flavored brew for customers who liked the drink’s taste.
Leesa Johnson, manager of the Town Pump, said the 71-year-old
bar’s secret is the regular customers.
Johnson said the regulars are attracted to the bar because it
really has not changed much over the years.
“We try to keep the same feel it had when it opened,” Johnson
She said the cozy feeling of the self-proclaimed smallest bar in
Colorado is enticing to the customers.
“I know everyone here, the bartenders, the regulars – everyone,”
said Pete Goode, a Town Pump patron for nearly nine years.
The Town Pump was the first bar Fort Collins resident Mark Maddy
visited when he moved into the area a year ago.
“It’s not like any other place, I just keep coming back,” he
said as he took another swig of his beer.