High rent? A cluster of businesses in downtown Fort Collins has found a solution that works for them.
An eclectic mix of four businesses with no common thread — other than a desire to make ends meet and to attract a disparate group of customers that might have an interest in something other than what they came ready to buy — has gathered in a space at 155 N. College Ave.
Visitors might see a wall of comics first. Or maybe a showcase of baked goods.
Or maybe they might look to the back and see the flowers displayed in coolers, or a collection of wines to the side.
The vision: a gathering place where people can sit and read a modern comic book, wait for flowers to be arranged, sample a wine or learn how that wine might pair with a cupcake.
Each business, its own limited liability corporation, shares the space equally, pays rent and other expenses equally, and works to drum up enough business to make the collaboration viable.
So far, it’s working.
“We operate a lot on handshake,” said Freestone-Gilbert. She said the partners did sign a simple, internet-derived memorandum of understanding, but since they are all in the space each day, they work through any issues in real time.
The floral shop came first. Freestone-Gilbert and her husband, Caleb Gilbert, had been living in New York until the pandemic, when they decided to move back to Colorado. Freestone-Gilbert took over the flower operation from her mother in law.
Caleb Gilbert, a production designer with a sculpture degree, had enjoyed reading comics as a kid.
“Reading comics brought a lot of joy,” he said. He discovered that some of the modern comics from independent publishers were better than the mainstream. That doesn’t mean he avoids the Marvel and DC Comics titles such as Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Avengers and Black Panther along with other popular titles, but he likes the independents better. And he’ll occasionally design a cover for some of them.
When not selling titles, he also serves as technical director of OpenStage & Theatre Co. Inc.
“I’ve got my creative outlet, and my nerd outlet,” he said.
The other businesses, Mystic Moon Bakery, recently relocated from Loveland to the space along North College Avenue in Fort Collins.
Blendings at the Hillside Vineyard completes the mix. It specializes in wine blends; at present it can sell for home consumption but is not able to serve at the store.
That may change as the partners work to clear regulatory hurdles.
Still, “It’s a great solution for high rents,” Freestone-Gilbert repeated.