Bicycles, beer, and coffee. Sounds like a slam-dunk concept for business success, especially in a bike-friendly, beer-brewing, coffee-drinking city like Fort Collins. But for Evan Rau and Susan Dalke, Cranknstein, their business on North College Avenue, success is a journey two years after opening.
Coffee + Bicycles = Community.
Evan started thinking about a bike-and-coffee shop 10 years ago as something to do in retirement. He had worked in a bike shop that made a profit but had no “community.” And he had worked in a bike shop that had “community” but no profit. With a master’s degree in English and a teaching license but no teaching job, Evan started looking for a coffee roaster so he could bring locally roasted high-end coffee to bicycling events. So much for waiting for retirement.
Susan was a wholesale coffee roaster. She supplied the beans. Evan then became a regular at Susan’s weekly coffee cuppings, or tastings. They began talking about a concept, brainstorming ideas. Eventually, an offer of a partnership.
“I wanted to be a part of it,” Susan said. “I love being a barista, and I was stuck in a warehouse wholesaling beans. I had a small drive-through operation, but why pour latte art and then stick a lid on it?”
SBDC a Resource.
“It was time to go after this,” Evan said. “I had no business background, so I needed some help. I took some classes at the Small Business Development Center to get familiar with business terms. The SBDC was our biggest resource in terms of establishing a foundation.”
Then the work really began. Finding the right space. Sweat equity in fixing up their choice – an auto garage since 1907. The sweat equity included buying a barn in Severance and disassembling it to recover the boards that now grace Cranknstein. Exposing the brick in the building, and painting where necessary, too.
Of course, the name – Cranknstein – took lots of brainstorming, too.
Beer, Food Added to Equation.
Beer and food service complete the concept. “Beer is a big part of the culture of Fort Collins,” Evan said. “We have plenty of customers at all times of the day.”
Along the way, more SBDC classes, including marketing and Leading Edge Strategic Planning workshops, have helped. But for a still-new business with a unique concept, running the business keeps Evan and Susan going at a frantic pace. Most of the revenue goes back into the business.
Still, there’s been time for a personal relationship to blossom. As Evan says, “First it was a business partnership. It has developed into a life partnership.”