It has been 10 years since I first spoke to Rancho Foods Direct founder (also political activist and independent cattle breeder) Mike Callicrate about his vision of what was then called the Peak Public Market. The project—a food hub for local growers and growers, something like Seattle’s Pike Place Market for C. Springs—never came to fruition. Instead, drastically reduced (read: sad) Pikes Peak Market was born, existed in constant motion and went into the shadows in 2019.
“Colorado Springs leadership has rejected the idea of a public market,” he says, citing the results of a public survey conducted by the city that showed interest in a public market in the city center top of the list of initiatives, along with other implemented projects ( for example, the stadium in the city center and the Olympic Museum) at the bottom of the list.
“Instead, we got three food halls and more business for Sysco,” he says.
Callicrates never gave up on his idea of a public market, developing RFD in different ways over the years. And most recently, he announced plans for a yet-to-be-named “local food village” at the Monument, next to the Woodman Valley Chapel. (West of I-25 between the Baptist Road and Monument exits.)
“Monument City looks very supportive,” he says of his first meetings with city leaders.
“The goal,” he says, “is to create a separate local/regional food infrastructure that more directly connects farmers, ranchers, and independent food businesses with consumers, while creating stronger, healthier, and more resilient communities.”
This will look like an 8.3 acre business cluster (currently under contract, tentatively closing November 1st with projected opening sometime in 2024) to include another RFD retail market and an extension for Sourdough Boulangerie, El Chapin (Mexican food cart parked outside RFD on Fillmore Street), Mountain Pie Company, Monte Cervino Winery and Ax and the Oak (those currently signed), with plans for a brewery and several eateries/retail stores (other words: the place is available to interested parties). He also notes that the commercial kitchen space helps incubate new businesses as their brands develop.
Callicrates says each entity will own its own real estate, gaining better market access while “taking advantage of co-location synergies with like-minded businesses.”
Callicrate notes that this will not be another food hall (even with businesses potentially sharing storage and common areas like food halls do), but rather a public marketplace targeted at manufacturers to promote their products. For example, an RFD butcher would be visible carving meat for customers, and customers could interact with their baker, brewer, distiller, roaster, etc. more directly.
“We want production to be on display. What if we could create a space for direct communication with the consumer and eliminate intermediaries? he asked. “And take predators out of the equation.”
He is largely related to Big Ag organizations, Big food cartelhe calls them those who drive small farmers and ranchers in rural communities out of business and engage in unsustainable activities (related to the environment, labor practices and monopolistic business practices).
“We are losing our food systems from scratch,” he says. “Consumers have never paid more for food than they do now, and most of that money doesn’t reach producers.”
His vision for this new public market space is that it’s a community gathering space that actually aligns with President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, he says, noting regional and local food development.building community and educating people about food supply.”
“The key to success is a development partner,” he adds, referring to Marvin Boyd, former CEO of Phil Long Ford, as the partner. (The former conflict of Kallikrates with the market in the center of the city was connected with Nor’wood Development President Chris Jenkins.)
“This is the answer to what we could have done 10 years ago. This parking lot now outside of the Olympic Museum could be a public market, attracting thousands of visitors a day,” he says. (FWIW, at least museum attendance itself has gone up.)
“But in many ways,” he concludes, “it will be better than that public market” (would have been).
Now it remains only to bring it to life.