Good-bye Farmer... Hello, Ranch House

       “I think I ate there the night it closed,” Mike Callicrate said of the former Hungry Farmer restaurant at 575 Garden of the Gods Road. “I had a dinner, and then it was done.”
       Little did he know that less than a year later he would own the property and be making plans for a new restaurant/market in the same building. The Ranch House - American Grill & Market is scheduled to open sometime next spring.
       Callicrate is a rancher as well as co-owner of Ranch Foods Direct, a Colorado Springs retail and wholesale meat-processing business. He bought the old Farmer building in September for $1.3 million.
       Although no plans were ever submitted, informal talks with City Planning had led to a public notice being posted on the vacant, 11,000-square-foot building last May, asking for public comment on a plan to demolish the unique, rural-style structure - home to the locally owned Hungry Farmer restaurant for almost 35 years - and replace it with two fast-food outlets.
       “We are now giving people the option to support a local business and eat healthy, nutritious food instead of foods made for travel and long shelf-life to suit the fast food industry,” said Callicrate, who also has a cattle operation in Goodland, Kan. “We wanted to preserve a family restaurant in the midst of the overwhelming pressure of fast-food encroachment.”
       Callicrate helped start Ranch Foods Direct, which offers what he believes is a healthier and more producer-friendly form of meat processing, after running into legal blocks with the corporate meat-packing business in the late 1990s. As the business grew, to where it now serves 45 restaurants in Colorado Springs, he started considering the idea of a location that would allow a restaurant/market combination.
       He credited a friend, Jim Wolf, owner of a steakhouse in Alabama, for researching the idea and guiding him to his Garden of the Gods Road destiny. “He called up and said, 'I found you a spot,'” Callicrate recalled.
       Work is underway to clean out the building and get it ready for the necessary renovation. Callicrate said he hopes that within about six weeks he can have plans ready for submission to the city's Development Review Enterprise Office, which needs to approve any interior or exterior remodeling.
       Tentative plans call for the market to be in the southeast corner of the building. The market will be 1,500 feet in size. The rest of the facility will be restaurant, including a “couple of nice-sized banquet rooms.” He said he hopes to rent the rooms for such gatherings as banquets, meetings and wedding receptions.
       Alcohol will be served, but only for diners. There would not be a sit-down bar.
       When the renovations are done, “the building will basically appear the same, but it will have a fresher, brighter look,” Callicrate said.
       Elsewhere, Ranch Foods is continuing with expansion plans that include opening a deli and meat shop in Pine Creek Village east of the Briargate Shopping Complex, possibly in November. The original location continues at Fillmore and El Paso streets.
       Ranch Direct products include beef, pork, lamb, buffalo, chicken, seafood and cheeses. The “Ranch Direct” name stems from the products being sourced directly from farms and ranches, according to Callicrate.

Westside Pioneer article from press releases