Some businesses arrive in Old Town Fort Collins only to depart
in less than five years while others last forever. According to
owners of businesses that have survived, the thing it takes to
survive is a good product consumers cannot find anywhere else.
Each business in Old Town has its own business, its own history
and its own products. The products vary greatly from shop to
Children’s Mercantile Company, 111 N. College Ave., has been in
business for 26 years. Children’s Mercantile has a lot of unique
brands and customers, said Shelly Dragan, owner of Children’s
Mercantile for two years.
“We have a niche in Old Town,” she said. She adds there are “a
lot of unique things downtown.”
Children’s Mercantile has moved four times, the last being seven
years ago to its location on College. Dragan said the last move was
because the owner bought the building and because the shop was
larger. The current location is almost three times larger than the
She also said the new location had brought in a lot more
business, since more people driving down College stop in.
CooperSmith’s Pub and Brewing, 5 Old Town Square, has also been
serving customers for 14 years.
According to Scott Smith, owner of CooperSmith’s,
“(CooperSmith’s) started with the right place, the right time, the
right people and a little bit of luck.”
Smith said a business will survive if its concept is well
thought out. He added that people are drawn to Old Town because of
the independence of the businesses and the mix of goods.
“We’re all fiercely independent,” he said. “(And) we like the
Word-of-mouth is also a big selling point for businesses in Old
Dragan said her employees often recommend other stores, while
listening to what their customers say are good places to shop.
“We make a point of recommending other places downtown,” Dragan
Smith also agrees that word-of-mouth is very important to
business in Old Town.
“This is still a very small town,” he said. “After you have
established yourself it is still important to stay in people’s
minds.” He said a good way to do this is by giving back to the
Dragan also noted that a lot of companies around Children’s
Mercantile have not faired as well. “Quite a few have gone in and
out,” she said.
The poor economy has driven out a lot of businesses, but this
year the economy is getting better. “A trend in the toy business is
in five-year increments,” Dragan said.
Stores in Old Town are hit hard in down economies because that
is when consumers turn to discount stores.
“People are in the mode that they don’t want to buy anything
that isn’t on sale,” Dragan said. This hurts small businesses, like
the ones in Old Town, because they can’t have the sales.
Smith said restaurants tend to be successful in Old Town. Before
the economy went down anybody who tried could open a restaurant, he
said. But the restaurant business has not been without its
Smith said CooperSmith’s saw a real tough time in 1995 and 1996
when many chain restaurants opened on Harmony Road. When this
happened the restaurant “focused on what (it) could control,” and
not what it couldn’t, he said. Things Coopersmith’s could control
included its own product and customer relations and that is what it
Smith sees the changing economy and clearing out of businesses
as a natural progression. “It’s kind of a natural culling, if you
will,” he said.
Smith also said that in his time in Old Town he has noticed one
trend he doesn’t understand. “Bridal shops for some reason seem to
come and go,” he said. “I don’t know why.”
According to an article in the July 26, 1993 edition of Fortune,
there are two keys to success for nationwide businesses: selling
insurance and unsentimentality. According to the article,
“Corporate Methuselahs” by Jennifer Reese, of the 10 oldest United
States companies, “identified by Dun & Bradstreet’s business
information service-excluding farms, cemeteries and church
enterprises-three sell insurance and always have.”
The article goes on to say, “Another predictor of longevity:
unsentimentality. The companies that have lasted know how to shed
musty, unprofitable businesses and find new ways to turn a