What’s Up with Bear’s Backyard Grill?

Bear’s Backyard has had a heck of a ride! Although we’re still hibernating, this seems a good time to let our fans know what’s the haps with our little mobile food business. We’ve grown to be one of the best-loved food trucks in Northern Colorado, and enjoyed hundreds of special moments with our clients and friends. And why not, it’s a Backyard Party in a Box! To let y’all know where we’re going, it’s probably best to share a bit about how we got here.

Bear’s Backyard Grill (BBG) was born out of a never-launched restaurant intended to be known as Bear’s Backyard Bistro. This locally-sourced and community-oriented concept was developed over a period of years going back to 2008. Founder Curt Bear left a 15-year career in commercial banking to pursue the restaurant in the fall of 2013, armed with a business plan, a pair of possible locations to pursue, and abundant love and support from wife Jill Bear and other friends and family members. When the restaurant locations didn’t materialize, BBG was launched, bringing elements of international cuisine, and extended time together to any location in the region. Bear’s attracted and retained a great staff and has built an awesome brand, and we’re proud of where we’ve come. We’ve done backyard birthday parties, weddings, company picnics, and all kinds of festivals and special events across the region, and developed a reputation for great food, friendly staff, and snarky menu names like Nobel’s Peaceballs and The BaconAteHer! (Aahhh!)

As the 2015 season came to a close, Curt came to the conclusion (with the help of a small business peer advisory group that he also founded – the LoCo Think Tank) that working full time in the food industry didn’t fit well with his long-term goals in the community. Creating Bear’s Backyard was a joy, and Curt considered how he could use BBG to cultivate an even greater impact. Could the original concept be honored and even expanded upon?, and if so, how? The questions at hand became what to do with Bear’s Backyard Grill? – and what to do with Curt?!

Through his work with the Larimer Small Business Development Center, Curt had learned of the great need in the restaurant industry for trained job applicants, and by his service on the board of a non-profit agency called The Matthews House he knew there was a population of youth and young adults looking for job skills and hope for a better future. He learned about wage support programs through the Larimer County Workforce Development Center and federal initiatives like Opportunity Youth, and determined to explore the possibility that Bear’s could become a social enterprise arm of The Matthews House Education and Employment Center. As of right now, The Matthews House is working to acquire a pilot program designation and grant from The National Restaurant Association, and engaging with local restaurateurs to determine their level of interest and additional support. It’s a long way from a done deal, but we’re hoping and working that direction. With the NRA and local restaurant partnerships TMH would have funding support, programming, and credibility to this endeavor, and Bear’s Backyard Grill would provide the hands-on experience platform initially from the corner of Willow and Linden, and all around the community! Stay tuned – it’s likely Bear’s Backyard will come out of hibernation much later than normal this season, but when it does we hope it will be helping to give hands-on experience to program participants under one of the most unique social enterprise models in the state!

So now then, what to do with Curt Bear? Should he go back to banking? Start a new career? Many suggested the financial services industry, helping clients with their retirement planning, life insurance needs, and the like. LoCo Think Tank was profitable and very popular among members, but much too small to support a family in Fort Collins, and needs some attention and reinvestment in order to keep growing and blessing the small business community. Curt went to a few interviews in the banking industry, and interviewed a number of financial services offices to learn about training programs and compensation plans and the like. Thrivent Financial stood out markedly among this group, as an organization with purpose, helping clients view money as a tool and not a goal, and helping them to be wise with money so they can live generously today and in the future. As it turned out, they were excited about adding Curt to the team as well! Curt passed several challenging license exams and joined an existing team, Poudre Trails Associates in Fort Collins, with whom he’s renting a new-to-Thrivent location in an old building located at 504 S. College, right next door to Big City Burrito!

Love spicy food, Love This Community, Love You All. We’ll be seeing you, and we’ll be serving you. God Bless until then, and after that too. 🙂