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Real Estate & Construction  September 24, 2010

New owner considers The Forks’ future

LIVERMORE – Fort Collins businessman Wayne Schrader wasn’t intending to buy a restaurant/convenience store when he woke up on Aug. 28.

Schrader, owner of Schrader Oil Co. and more than a dozen Schrader’s Country Stores across Larimer County and in Windsor, was on his way to his ranch in Cherokee Park in north Larimer County when he and his wife, Phyllis, drove by The Forks and saw dozens of vehicles parked around it.

The Forks, an iconic building at the intersection of U.S. Highway 287 and Larimer County Road 74E, was being auctioned off to the highest bidder that day after it had been closed for months.

“We were headed up to the ranch and decided to stop in and see what was going on,´ said Schrader, who said he had “thought about and talked about” the possibility of buying the business that forms the heart of the village of Livermore about 20 miles north of Fort Collins.

“I thought if it went cheap it might be a good buy,” he said. “I like the place and it does provide a service to the local people and lots of people passing by.”

As it turned out, Schrader was the only person who showed up to make a bid on the property, which has a current value of $279,900 with the county assessor. With a minimum bid of $150,000 required, Schrader bid $160,000 and was suddenly The Forks’ new proprietor.

Colorful history

Schrader said he’s had mixed feelings about the purchase over the last several weeks but is starting to feel more assured that he did the right thing.

“I’m interested in preserving historic points of interest,” he said. “I’ve always thought The Forks could be a viable place if you could get it going right.”

The original Forks Hotel and cafe was built in 1875 – the year before Colorado became a state – and served as a local gathering place and as a stop for the Overland Trail stagecoach between Denver and Laramie.

In 1985, the original structure burned down. A community effort, led in part by Derek Roberts, great-grandson of pioneer Robert Roberts who first built The Forks, resulted in a faithful reconstruction and reopening in 1990.

Since that time, The Forks has had a series of owners who could never quite keep it viable through the seasons.

Roberts, a retired real estate agent and owner of the nearby 16,000-acre Roberts Ranch, said he was glad someone like Schrader bought The Forks.

“I’m sure he has the money to do whatever he wants to do with it,” Roberts said. “He’s a good businessman and a good member of the community and I think he wants to do what’s best for the community.”

Roberts said he’d personally like to see The Forks spruced up with an expanded outdoor deck and a coffee shop where locals can congregate. “That’s really the big hope,” he said of restoring the business as a community center. “They need a coffee shop for sure but a lot of people want to see a restaurant, too.”

Shirley Parrish, a Livermore resident who worked at The Forks before retiring, said she would love to see it reopen soon.

“The Forks is a social center for the community and without it, we’re lost,” she said. “I’d like to see them put a coffee shop upstairs and have the downstairs for a convenience store.”

Both Parrish and Roberts said they hoped Schrader would not decide to tear down The Forks and replace it with another convenience store location.

“The style of (The Forks) fits in with the community,” Parrish said. “(Tearing it down) would be a disaster. Nobody in the community wants that to happen.”

Locals love it

Schrader said he’s had “lots of suggestions” on how to move forward with The Forks and he realizes how important it is to local residents.

“I was standing out front one day and the lady from the post office comes over and says, ‘Are you Mr. Schrader?’ And I said yes,” he said. “And she says, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ I do get the feeling that people do miss that place.”

Schrader said a closer inspection of The Forks has revealed many flaws, including a problematic water supply and some structural deterioration. Then there’s the stairs to the upstairs restaurant area, which break up customer traffic in the downstairs area.

“It’s a terrible floor plan,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that’s handicapped it over the years.”

Schrader said he’s not planning to tear down The Forks but isn’t yet certain how or when it will be reborn. “I don’t want to dive into a sinking money pit,” he said. “I’d like it to be a viable thing.”

Schrader said for now he’s adding up what it will cost to bring the business back to life and is open to ideas. To reopen it with a restaurant would be very expensive, he noted, because the Aug. 28 auction saw virtually all of the restaurant appliances and equipment sold and hauled away.

“It was a strange auction,” he said. “They sold everything inside first and then sold the property. Really, there was a lot of stuff that I should have bought but never had the opportunity to buy.”

Schrader said in the end it will be up to local residents to help get The Forks up and running again.

“I’m going to try to keep it a viable place, and the only way it will be is if I get the support of everybody in the area,” he said.

LIVERMORE – Fort Collins businessman Wayne Schrader wasn’t intending to buy a restaurant/convenience store when he woke up on Aug. 28.

Schrader, owner of Schrader Oil Co. and more than a dozen Schrader’s Country Stores across Larimer County and in Windsor, was on his way to his ranch in Cherokee Park in north Larimer County when he and his wife, Phyllis, drove by The Forks and saw dozens of vehicles parked around it.

The Forks, an iconic building at the intersection of U.S. Highway 287 and Larimer County Road 74E, was being auctioned off to the highest bidder that…

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