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Business owners honored by Hall

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — One of the inductees to the 11th class of the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame has a most obvious reason for looking forward to Wednesday’s ceremony.

“I think it’s nice recognition, and it’s a free lunch,” said Frank Day, owner of Rock Bottom Restaurants Inc. and the man behind Concepts Restaurants.

Day opened his first Old Chicago restaurant in Boulder in 1976. Today, his company operates 90 restaurants — Old Chicagos, Rock Bottom Breweries and Chop Houses — in multiple states. Concepts, which broke off from Rock Bottom in 1995, owns, among other things, Woody’s Woodfire Pizza and the Hotel Boulderado.

Day is one of five inductees into this year’s class. Inductees are chosen annually by a board representing cities and towns in Boulder County.

A permanent display of all the hall of fame members is set up in the Millennium Harvest House hotel in Boulder, which was instrumental in creating the event.

One of those board members is Wendi Nafziger, vice president of the Longmont Area Economic Council, and she was the person who nominated Steve Strong of Sun Construction, who will also be inducted into the hall with his wife, Margaret.

“We look at two things at the hall of fame,” Nafziger said. “First is Boulder County business success. Second, we emphasize community participation by a company or individual.

“Specifically, what really brought (the Strongs’) name to the forefront for me this year was the donation of land for the Tiny Tim Center.”

The couple donated 1.5 acres of land last May for the developmental preschool to build a new facility.

For his part, Strong said the recognition is particularly rewarding when he thinks about who has been inducted in the previous 10 years.

“Margaret and I are both very honored to be considered in the ranks of those who have come before us,” said Strong. “They’ve laid a huge trail in Boulder County that is kind of immeasurable.”

Strong, owner of Sun Construction, also credited the volunteers that work behind the scenes at places such as Tiny Tim, saying he was “in awe” of the “uncountable hours” of hard work they put in.

If hall of fame inductee Dan Ball had his way, the whole town of Nederland would join him.

“It’s a great honor, and I attribute 100 percent of it to the community of Nederland,” said Ball, the owner of B&F Mountain Market in Nederland. “They’re really the ones who deserve it — it’s a super community.”

Ball and some partners started B&F 13 years ago, when they bought out City Market. Since then, the store has not only become one of the mountain town’s largest employers, but Ball has become known around the county for his good works, such as donating computers to schools and supplying fresh produce for the Senior Nutrition program.

“We firmly believe that your community has to be a success before you can have success as a business owner,” Ball said. “Just good old-fashioned service — you don’t see too much of that anymore.”

The other inductees into the hall are equally deserving: Michael and Mary Colacci started Louisville’s Blue Parrot restaurant in 1919, back when mining was the big industry in town.

“I was born the year my grandmother died, and when my grandfather died in 1970, I wasn’t too terribly old either,” said Joanie Colacci Riggins. Still, she said, her grandparents’ spirit of giving back to the community lives on five generations later in the Colacci family.

Before her grandparents started their restaurant, Riggins explained, the Colaccis dairy farmers.

“Grandma just liked to cook, and she would cook big meals and have everybody over on Sunday afternoons,” Riggins said. “Finally, somebody told her, ‘You need to start charging for this.’”

Eighty-four years later, members of the Colacci family are still filling plates and stomachs.

The final inductee at Wednesday’s ceremony will be White Wave Inc. founder Steve Demos.

Launched in the spirit of the counterculture in 1977, Demos’ tofu product line grew out of an eight-week meditation in California.

These days, White Wave makes more than 40 different soy products and had sales of $125 million in its 2002 fiscal year. Texas-based Dean Foods, the world’s largest dairy company, bought a majority interest in White Wave last May.

On its mission statement, Demos’ company speaks of its commitment to “socially responsible and environmentally sustainable business practices.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.