March 27, 2018

From rock to restaurants, beat goes on for Greenlee

Diane Greenlee, Boulder Beer Co. • 2018 Boulder County Business Hall of Fame

Diane Greenlee well remembers her greatest learning experience, which turned into her greatest accomplishment.

“In 1975 I was young and naïve, getting into a loaner car in west Des Moines with two small children and a beagle and heading for Colorado,” she said. “But in the next 14 years I learned more, accomplished more, and gained self-confidence.”

Diane and husband Bob purchased a daytime-only AM radio station in Boulder — then KADE, now University of Colorado-owned KVCU-AM 1190.

“The hardest things I ever did is make sales calls,” she said, “because the advertisers didn’t like rock ‘n’ roll. We had to compete against KBOL, which was a typical small-market station back then where everybody gets their name on the stations once a month.” (That station at AM 1490 is now KCFC, simulcasting Colorado Public Radio programming.)

“In ’75, FM radio was just becoming available in cars, but only very expensive cars had FM,” Greenlee said. “Bob made a proposal to buy KRNW-FM, and we were taking a big risk. My parents helped us finance the loan.”

That station at 97.3 FM became KBCO, the legendary pioneer of a new music format called adult album alternative that has been copied around the nation. Led by Dennis Constantine, “our air staff created a format,” Greenlee said. “We sold KBCO in 1989, but to this day it never hurts me at all to turn on Ginger and hear her beautiful voice.”

Divested of KBCO and KADE, the Greenlees traveled to London and roamed through a warehouse full of pub fixtures such as back benches and paneling. Remembering a brewpub they’d seen in Milwaukee, Bob met with Frank Day and asked, “What do you know about brewpubs?” After checking out a few in California, the Days returned to Colorado and said yes, they believed they could run one. “Bob said ‘Good, because I just bought one,’ ” Diane Greenlee recalled. “This whole thing started over a handshake.”

The team gutted the downtown Boulder building that had housed Famous Pacific Seafood Co., and Walnut Brewery was born in 1990. It’s now Boulder Beer, with a brewpub at 1123 Walnut St., and a brewery at 2800 Wilderness Place.

Diane Greenlee had earned a bachelor’s degree in telecommunication arts from Iowa State University and a master’s in Asian art history at the University of Colorado Boulder. She used her involvement with the Iowa State and CU alumni associations to both recruit for the alumni groups and market Boulder Beer products. “We were introducing our name and our target into a market we knew,” she said. “They were the perfect demographic.”

The Greenlees started a family foundation in the late 1990s, and Bob served 17 years on the Boulder City Council, including a brief term as mayor. Diane Greenlee also has worked with the I Have a Dream Foundation, United Way of Boulder County, the Boulder Philharmonic board and the Denver Art Museum, but added that “You can only hit up the same 100 names so many times.”

View 2018 Boulder County Business Hall of Fame publication.

Diane Greenlee well remembers her greatest learning experience, which turned into her greatest accomplishment.

“In 1975 I was young and naïve, getting into a loaner car in west Des Moines with two small children and a beagle and heading for Colorado,” she said. “But in the next 14 years I learned more, accomplished more, and gained self-confidence.”

Diane and husband Bob purchased a daytime-only AM radio station in Boulder — then KADE, now University of Colorado-owned KVCU-AM 1190.

“The hardest things I ever did is…

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