By: Hap Fry
By all accounts, the Cranknstein story is a good one.
On this mid-September day co-owner Susan Dalke points to the nearest wall from the high-back wooden chair and granite-topped table she’s sitting at and begins to tell the tale of Cranknstein.
“The décor was very important,” Dalke said. “We bought a barn in Severance and tore it down, cleaned it all up, then brought it in and put it on all the walls. Pieces of that went into the bar. The barn doors are used as security gates for the roaster and the bike shop. We polished, repainted – just everything.”
So there’s a story behind everything? “Yes pretty much,” she said.
For starters, Cranknstein is a unique haunt of sorts. Located in Old Town, on College just North of Laporte, the just-turned-one-year-old business triples as a coffee shop, beer bar and bike shop. Only in Fort Collins, right?
“I always wanted to have a coffee shop/bicycle shop combination,” fellow co-owner Evan Rau said. “I’d seen a few examples of them around the country, but they always seemed divided or separated. They didn’t blend in as well as I thought they could have.
“I looked around at different places, but I was just like: ‘Fort Collins is the place for something like this.’”
On any given day, a Cranknstein customer can pop a squat on one of the comfy barstools that came from Coors Field, order one of the 13 beers on tap or a cup of Dalke’s java roast, have a slice of one of employee Megan Heenan’s award-winning pies take in some of the numerous art pieces hanging on the wall curated by fellow employee/art director Eric Nelson all while waiting on their bicycle to get repaired by Rau.
Talk about a perfect tonic.
“We knew the overall combination we had here was not that common, and it’s still difficult for people to try and understand it all,” Rau said. “They try and pigeonhole it: ‘It’s a bar. It’s a bicycle shop. It’s a coffee shop.’ Our big push – what we’ve always wanted to do was create a cultural hub of sorts that unites all these things seamlessly.”
One of the biggest hurdles for Rau was locking down a catchy name for the all-encompassing business.
“It took a while to get that name,” Rau said. “We wanted to come up with a name that let everyone know what we had, but they were starting to become sentences – like ‘Bikes, Beans and Beers’ or something. It wasn’t happening. I like simplicity. After several terrible ideas, Cranknstein came out, and everybody in the room just kind of was like: ‘yeah.’”
Had things gone as planned, Rau would be teaching high school English somewhere right now. He earned a Masters from CSU and had his teaching certificate, but after looking for a while, no legitimate job offer surfaced.
“I just always thought it would be something I would do when I retired from my ‘real job,’” Rau said. “But everything seemed to kind of be fizzling on me. I thought maybe this was the time and place to do this.
“My family had their doubts because I had jumped around. I was a journalist, engineer and a biologist for a while. I tried all these kind of avenues, but never really stuck with something. With this, I basically painted myself into a corner, and I knew I better figure it out.” Chances are Rau would not have figured it out without Dalke’s aid and knowledge of coffee.
Dalke had been in the coffee business for over 15 years and had her own brand of coffee (Black Cup Coffee) when she met him. Pretty soon he became a regular at her weekly coffee tastings and pitched his business idea to her.
“It sounded amazing,” Dalke said. “I wanted to just work a couple of shifts a week because it sounded so great. Then all of the sudden, he’s asking me if I would like to be his business partner. Dalke’s and Rau’s business partnership has overflowed into a personal partnership. The two both admit taking their relationship to a personal level has been challenging. But the two appear to be cut from the same cloth.
“He’s definitely a detail-oriented person, as am I,” Dalke said. “We approach them [bike and coffee] both with craft in mind. We put a lot of skill into them both.”
Cranknstein, which opened on Sept. 2, 2011, will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Nov. 3 with a big bash.
Dalke and Rau both say the one-year ride has been amazing.
“We’ve developed an extremely loyal clientele that we see day-in, day-out”, Dalk said. “We’ve really been accepted into the community by the breweries, by the bicycling community and the by the coffee community. I’m just really impressed with how they’ve accepted us and kind of made us their home. It’s what excites me and has made this really enjoyable.”