April 18, 2003

7 business leaders to join Hall of Fame

Inventor Thomas Alva Edison once remarked that genius was a result of 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. This year’s five inductees into the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame probably would agree with that statement. All passionately believe in their products and provide a hands-on approach to their company’s operations.

?It’s old-fashioned business,? said Dan Ball, co-owner of Nederland’s B&F Mountain Market, one of this year’s inductees. ?You treat people the way you want to be treated yourself.?

Case in point: On March 19 — the day after the blizzard of 2003 struck Colorado — Ball’s store lost its power. All of the frozen foods were quickly thawing. Reducing the price for a hasty sale was useless: None of the store’s customers could get out of their homes to grocery shop.

With no restaurants open and packed hotels nearby, Ball and his nephew, DJ — also an owner in this family-owned-and-operated business ? fired up the outside grill and cooked barbecue for anyone who could beat the seven-foot snowfall. Some people arrived by way of skis and snowmobiles. Word spread quickly, and nearly 300 people arrived for a complimentary feast.

?It was like a scene from (the television show) Northern Exposure,? Ball said.

Purchased in 1990, B&F Market now is owned by Dan Ball, brother DJ, nephew DJ (named after his dad), and his other brother, Bob. The family opened another grocery store in Guernsey, Wyo. in 1994, which Bob manages. The family’s third grocery store, opened two years ago in Alliance, Neb., is managed by a longtime friend.

As an inductee, B&F Market will join Steve Demos, founder of Silk soy drink and tofu products manufacturer White Wave; Sun Construction owners Steve and Margaret Strong; Concept Restaurant Group founder Frank Day; and Michael and Mary Colacci, founders of the Blue Parrot restaurant.

Although the Blue Parrot founders are deceased, their legacy has survived through the work of their children, grandchildren and, now, their great-grandchildren. Established in 1919 in downtown Louisville, this family-owned business made its reputation through Mary’s spaghetti recipe, which is now the house special, as well as old-fashioned friendliness.

?We really communicate with customers,? said David Hudson, full-time manager and grandson of the founders. ?That’s what (the customers) like.?

It’s that down-home common courtesy that has kept many of its customers coming back year after year. About 90 percent of the Blue Parrot’s customers don’t live in Louisville, Hudson remarked. In fact, they drive in from as far away as Colorado Springs.

?We kept our one building, one place and managed it well instead of spreading ourselves thin,? Hudson said.

Other family members who work in the restaurant include Joseph Colacci, son of the founder, and David’s father who, at the age of 87, comes in daily to visit with patrons; Joseph’s sister Edie who is a part-time manager; and David’s three children, Kevin, Megan and Alicia, who work part-time while attending school.

Steve and Margaret Strong started Longmont’s Sun Construction in 1985 on a shoestring budget and lots of dreams. Eighteen years later, the company with nearly 130 employees is still going strong, despite the hardships the economy brought many construction companies the past few years. Steve attributes his company’s good will to one thing.

?The spiritual well-being of a company starts at the top, and through guidance from the Lord God, we get wisdom, understanding, compassion and strength when there seems to be no answers,? Steve said. ?It’s through that guidance that we look for answers, and it gives us a stable foundation to work from.?

The company’s amount of work was nearly cut in half last year due to a bad economy and a slow construction period. But Steve and Margaret don’t mind working the long hours necessary for the business to survive the hard times.

?The key is not giving up,? Steve said. ?(You) constantly look for solutions, talk to mentors ? and mesh that into your own business.?

Concept Restaurant Group founder Frank Day entered the restaurant business by accident in the early ’60s. He started a popcorn stand and snack bar in some department stores in Chicago. Four decades later, this self-made entrepreneur now owns more than 100 restaurants across the United States.

After moving to Boulder in 1973, Day opened Boulder’s Walrus restaurant. Three years later, he opened his first chain restaurant, Old Chicago, on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall and has since opened dozens of others across the country.

In the early ?80s, Day opened his first Jose Muldoon’s in Denver. In 1990, the Walnut Brewery opened its doors. In between the openings of these successful eating establishments, Rock Bottom restaurant was stared in Denver and Minneapolis, of which Day is also board chairman. It now boasts 90 across the country. Old Chicago is the company’s only franchise restaurant with about 30 new restaurants expected to open this year.

Day attributes his success to the approximate 8,000 company employees.

?I’ve been fortunate enough to attract and recruit good people,? Day said. It’s a 120 percent people business. We’ve had our ups and downs. But in good times and tough times, people tend to still eat and drink.?

Although Day’s commodities were always in demand, Steve Demos had a tougher time convincing customers to buy his products. As owner of White Wave, he ?couldn’t give away? his healthy products for 20 years, he said. He began making tofu in a bucket and delivered it to participating stores in a little red wagon. Twenty-three years later, White Wave is the ?fastest-growing food in the marketplace,? Demos said.

?It takes enormous patience and perserverance, coupled with a persistent creative enthusiastic approach, to developing the product category,? Demos said.

With about 150 employees in its Boulder location and 450 working in its 16 factories across the United States, Demos sold privately owned White Wave to Dallas-based Dean Foods in 1998, turning the $20 million company into a $200 million company virtually overnight.

Despite his hard-lined business approach to success, Demos acknowledges that having the ?right spirit and team? to back a company is ?more critical than anything else.?

Inventor Thomas Alva Edison once remarked that genius was a result of 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. This year’s five inductees into the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame probably would agree with that statement. All passionately believe in their products and provide a hands-on approach to their company’s operations.

?It’s old-fashioned business,? said Dan Ball, co-owner of Nederland’s B&F Mountain Market, one of this year’s inductees. ?You treat people the way you want to be treated yourself.?

Case in point: On March 19 — the day after the blizzard of 2003 struck Colorado — Ball’s store lost its power.…

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