When the weather is nice in Aspen, you’ll find staffers from Jimmy’s bar and restaurant pedaling around town together on bikes, delivering cocktails from a cooler and an old ice cream cart.
They play music or jingle the bells on their bikes, letting people know they’re rolling down the street. Some of the staffers wear funky costumes. When they drop off the drinks, people often invite them to stay awhile and chit-chat or have a socially distanced drink with them.
The bike booze delivery service has helped Jimmy’s team stay connected with locals — and vice versa — while the bar and restaurant is shut down for on-premise service during the coronavirus pandemic
“A lot of people certainly miss our food and our drinks, but even more than that, so many of our guests just miss having a bar, just miss having a place where people can come and catch up and meet and just be part of our local community. It’s been really difficult not having that,” said Jessica Lischka, Jimmy’s general manager and partner.
The pandemic has forced many Colorado businesses to think outside the box — sometimes way outside. Some have had to completely reinvent themselves to stay afloat, while others have successfully pivoted to tangential services or offerings.
Several Colorado small businesses are experimenting with off-beat, quirky and, above all else, fun delivery methods for bringing food and drinks (and even books, in the case of Boulder’s Trident Booksellers & Cafe) to people’s doorsteps.
In Longmont, the popular BrewHop Trolley stopped running after Gov. Jared Polis ordered bars, restaurants and breweries to close to on-site dining and drinking. The trolley typically drives from brewery to brewery (and a few cideries and distilleries) in Longmont, dropping off and picking up customers who can enjoy a few drinks without driving. Plus, riding around on the old-timey trolley is just a fun way to spend the day with friends and family.
But, of course, with taprooms and tasting rooms closed, the BrewHop Trolley had nowhere to go. And its rows of seats for 24 people made it challenging, if not impossible, to practice social distancing. People also began canceling private parties and weddings, which make up a good chunk of the trolley’s business.
After the trolley stopped operating in the middle of March, owners David and Radha Lewis put their heads together and started brainstorming. They wanted to support all the struggling breweries, distilleries and cideries in town, especially those that don’t distribute their products, but how?
They realized that their big, green, impossible-to-miss, 25-foot-long trolley, affectionately named “Dennis Hopper,” was the perfect vessel for making deliveries. Not only would deliveries help drum up business for their partners, but they would also put a smile on people’s faces and keep the trolley running. Who wouldn’t love to hear the iconic “ding ding” of the trolley barreling down their neighborhood street, with delicious cocktails onboard?
They tested the idea with distillery Longtucky Spirits a few weekends ago and got a huge response from Longmont residents. Now, they’re teaming up with Dry Land Distillers to make weekend cocktail deliveries in Longmont and Boulder. They’re looking for other businesses to partner with, too.
“It was the most beautiful day ever; everyone had so much fun,” said David Lewis of the trolley’s first delivery excursion. “It was a combination of just talking to people, seeing the trolley, getting their spirits delivered and supporting local businesses.”
Nels Wroe, Dry Land Distillers co-founder, said the BrewHop Trolley is part of the extended beer and spirits family in Longmont. He worried that the small trolley company would go out of business because of the pandemic and wanted to do whatever he could to help.
“It’s a small way, but we’re hopeful that this keeps them solvent for the next several months,” said Wroe. “It helps us, too. It keeps us in the eyes and ears of both Longmont and Boulder.
Boulder’s Black Cat Organic Farm has also deployed a creative vehicle for delivering fresh vegetables and other foods to Boulder residents: Mabel the farm truck.
Mabel is a jazzed-up farm truck with multicolored vegetables and witty phrases like “Baby carrots on board” painted on the sides. The delivery truck is the brainchild of Eric and Jill Skokan, who also run two Boulder restaurants: Black Cat and Bramble & Hare.
After opening up a farm stand to sell produce and frozen meals prepared by the restaurants’ chefs, the Skokans decided to try something different. They spruced up one of their old farm trucks with some paint and jingling bells, and repurposed it into a “glorified ice cream truck selling bags of arugula,” Eric Skokan said.
Mabel visits different Boulder neighborhoods each day of the week, with a schedule posted online. And as you might have guessed, she’s wildly popular.
“I really thought, ‘Worst-case scenario, we do this for a couple of weeks and we end up with an old farm truck with the name Mabel on it,’” Eric Skokan said. But “Mabel the farm truck has taken off like a rocket. It wasn’t intentional, but we just happened to stumble upon this really fun way of turning this really dark time into something that makes people smile.”
People sprint to the curb to flag Mabel down, then text their neighbors to come outside. Soon, a socially distanced group has gathered around the truck, with neighbors checking in on each other and catching up.
“It’s middle-aged people like me, reliving the ice cream truck experience, and instead of push-pops it’s bunches of carrots,” said Eric Skokan. “The joy that you see on people’s faces when Mabel comes by is priceless.”
Mabel has been such a hit that the Skokans plan to create an entire fleet. They’re also creating and distributing yard signs that customers can put up to signal for Mabel to stop.
Like many small-business owners, Eric Skokan is just trying to keep up with the ever-changing new normal. But he’s happy to have hit on a relatively simple idea that brings people so much happiness.
“All of this stuff is so brand new,” he said. “If you had asked me a few months ago if I could have envisioned any of the stuff that we’re doing, it’s all foolishness. There’s no way.”
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