Published: July 19, 2017
Your grandfather, Chet, started Enstrom. Walk us through a timeline that takes us to today.
Rick: Well, in 1919 my grandfather saw a billboard that said, “Boy Wanted” in Colorado Springs. That was an old term for a young man to come and be an assistant. So he answered it and became a soda jerk and an assistant at a candy shop. He spent a lot of time with the owner and decided that small business was going to be the thing for him and what he wanted to dedicate his life to.
My sister, Jamee, and her husband, Doug, now own the company with their sons. They live in Grand Junction, and Linda and I operate everything on this side of the mountain. We’ve been doing this for 45 years now.
How did you and Linda meet?
Rick: We were high school sweethearts. We both went to high school in Fruita, Colorado and met there. She started working in the family business when she was 17 years old.
So your company started in Grand Junction. Why did you decide to expand to Cherry Creek North?
Linda: We actually opened our first location at the old Tivoli in 1985. In 1990, the Cherry Creek Shopping Center opened, and we decided to move to this area. Cherry Creek North had really become a hopping shopping district, and the Tivoli was closing as a retail destination. We found this beautiful space available on University, which has 10,000 cars a day drive by every day.
Rick: It also came with great parking. We’re a destination type business. We don’t rely on walk-in traffic, so convenience was important to us. The Cherry Creek area is historically the greatest shopping district in Colorado. When I was a young man living in Southeast Denver, my mom used to bring me down here to shop. That would have been in the 1960s.
The most popular thing Enstrom sells is….?
Linda: Our almond toffee. We started with ice cream and then Chet, Rick’s grandfather, decided to add candy to the ice cream, so we put the toffee on top. Pretty soon people just wanted the toffee.
What do you think is one of the underappreciated aspects of being in the confections business?
Rick: Consistency. You have to make the same product all the time. The other thing is great customer service. You will find that all of our staff have been here for a long time, and we take good care of them because we like to train them and keep them around. We don’t go through a lot of staff here. It’s a family business, so we like having people who can represent the family and know the family. I think part of our allure is that we’re a Colorado family business of four generations.
In addition to selling all of these amazing confections, you also have an internet café inside your store?
Rick: That’s right, we have an internet café and free Wi-Fi. In the mornings, people want to get out of the office towers around here, so we often see small business meetings taking place. People will bring a client over, pull a couple of tables together and have coffee and a pastry. We use local bakers here in the area for our pastries, and our coffee is from Caffe D’arte out of Seattle.
I noticed there is a sign over there advertising Palisade Peach Ice Cream?
Linda: Yes, we have Palisade Peach Ice Cream during peach season, which is coming up!
Rick: It is the best dang thing you’ve ever had.
What has it been like to work with your spouse for so long?
Rick: It’s the best ever. After doing it this long, we have our own areas. I do promotions, community affairs. Linda runs the important part of the business which is the nuts and bolts, the inventory, human resources and all the hard stuff.
When you aren’t working, I understand you have a passion for ranching and farming?
Rick: Hunting, fishing, camping, anything outdoors…that’s how Linda and I recreate. We have a ranch out in Holly on the Arkansas River. We have a duck refuge on our property and The Division of Wildlife estimates that we winter between four and seven thousand mallards every year.
Linda: Right now we have corn, we just harvested forty acres of wheat and we have forty acres of corn coming up, just waiting for next Spring.
So probably like in the candy business, when you’re a rancher or farmer you have to have good relationships with the people around you…
Rick: That is exactly right. Holly is a very small and very close-knit community. I’m the only guy on one side of the road for three miles.
201 University Boulevard
Denver, CO 80206