Apr 262004
Authors: Taylour Nelson

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

very little.

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.

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