Meet two generational operations that continue to find success by reinventing themselves.
While Adams County, like all of the Denver metro area, has seen an influx of new residents looking to plant new roots, the community is home to families who have lived here for generations.
Though now developed, 150 years ago the area just outside Denver was still farmland. Families immigrated to try their luck at farming in a new country and, over time, the area’s development has offered different opportunities. For the generations who have stayed in the area, the key to thriving has been the ability to reinvent their businesses in Adams County.
“My dad’s grandmother came directly from Italy in the 1880s specifically to farm and homesteaded around the area that is 70th and Broadway now,” says Butch Fiore, president and CEO of Fiore and Sons Inc.
“They farmed celery, mostly, though they had other things growing, too. Welby, the community in the area, was all Italian, and a group had all come over together. The weather was so volatile for farming, so people were always looking for new ways to develop their farmland or make it profitable so they’d have the ability to generate an income without having to farm.”
Instead of vegetables, Fiore’s grandfather looked to what he calls “truck farming,” hauling gravel and other plentiful natural resources in the area because of the riverbed surrounding Clear Creek.
By the 1970s, the company did excavation, with Fiore’s dad helping even though he was still in high school. In the 1980s, Fiore’s parents bought the company from his grandfather, looping in their four sons, who have been able to grow the business consistently every year since – as an example, they’ve gone from five employees to 350 today.
Fiore and Sons even took over the defunct Wonder Bread factory and revamped it to use as their HQ – a place where as kids, they’d ride bikes to pick up a loaf of bread and treat themselves to a Hostess Twinkie with the spare change.
“One of the things that has kept us here is that we now have direct access to highways because Interstate 76 was built, and we were right in the middle of it,” Fiore says. “And the Wonder Bread factory – we took field trips there as kids, we could smell the bread baking every morning. My dad and grandpa actually put in one of the pipelines there – there’s an aura around it that we didn’t want to see go away.”
That’s the Spirit
The Balistreri family, owners and proprietors of Balistreri Vineyards, has a similar story. The family immigrated to the Denver area in the early 1900s from a small fishing village in Sicily, growing vegetables to sell at Denver’s sprawling Denargo Market, which was located on 30 acres of land at 29th and Broadway.
Opened in 1939, it was destroyed by a fire in 1971.
“In 1965, my mom and dad started growing cut flowers, and in the end, we had 190,000 square feet of cut flower greenhouses and shipped about 10,000 flowers out of here a day,” says Julie Balistreri. “When the flower market went to South America, we had to find something else to do. Dad got a little crazy in 1996 and planted cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes.”
“We got licensed to make wine in 1998 and made 22 barrels – now we make over 400 barrels – about 100,000 bottles per year.”
The family principles of winemaking remain: The winemaking process is all natural, from single vineyard grapes from Colorado’s western slope. What started as a small tasting room has now grown with the help of John’s wife, Birdie, and daughter, Julie, to include a winemaking facility with a wine cellar, tasting room, event center and restaurant.
Julie’s son, Johnny, is one of the new generation of Balistreris involved in the business – he and his grandfather and namesake go out for coffee downtown every morning “to talk about things.”
“It’s changed a lot, from farms to industrial, but there’s no way we would ever move anywhere – we’re just a little island,” says Julie Balistreri.
John Balistreri adds, “Where would we go? You just get further away from your people. Why would we move? It’s all we’ve ever known.”
Get to Know Adams County
Want to learn more about living and working in Adams County, CO? Check out the new edition of Livability Adams County Region, Colorado.