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Old Town Churn serves up ice cream to the Fort Collins community

people share icecream
Residents of Fort Collins share various flavors of Little Man ice-cream at the grand opening of Old Town Churn on Saturday. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

A towering recreation of a hand-cranked ice cream churn stands tall over the other restaurants and stores in The Exchange. Though as of the opening on Oct. 27, the building is still missing its crank.

The opening was headed up by Little Man Ice Cream owner Paul Tamburello who spent more than five years trying to bring his brand of ice cream to Fort Collins. This past weekend, his work finally paid off and provided Fort Collins residents with a day full of fun and community.

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“When we had the opportunity to come to Fort Collins, we thought, ‘Let’s just do something akin to (Little Man),’” Tamburello said at a media preview Oct. 24. “We got a big fat no. At the time, we were very frustrated. The city made it clear to us that they didn’t want another Little Man.”

Little Man is a Denver ice cream store which is designed to look like a 28-foot-tall milk can. It took some time for the Fort Collins branch to come to fruition after the initial proposal was shot down by the city.

“We had the wrong site, the wrong timing, the wrong plan … it just wasn’t the right fit,” said Josh Guernsey, a Waypoint Real Estate developer. “Fast-forward, we had this parking lot that we branded The Exchange. We wanted something community focused, a gathering place, so we started talking about this plaza. First thing that came to mind was, ‘We’ve gotta get the band back together.’ We picked up right where we left off.”

In five years, from the time when Little Man Ice Cream signed the letter of intent to when they were given a second chance, their outlook on how to expand their business had entirely shifted.

“(Fort Collins) doesn’t want

things that are familiar,” Tamburello said. “(Being turned down) changed our business approach permanently. We’re never going to do another replica of a can. Every community that we go into, we now listen to what they’re about, try to understand what the roots of that community are and we design for that.”

woman holds ice-cream sandwiches
General manager of Old Town Churn Sharaine Peoples holds two ice-cream sandwiches at the Media Sneak-Peak last Wednesday. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

A churn was chosen to represent the agricultural background of Fort Collins.

“We’re excited to run our business with purpose and become part of the Fort Collins community,” said Loren Martinez, a Colorado State University business graduate who worked his way from an ice cream scooper in 2018 up to operations director for Little Man. “Being back in Fort Collins reminded me why I was proud to be a CSU Ram. It’s just a unique place, and that’s why I fell in love with it.”

woman laughs
Claire Fields, the chef behind Old Town Churn’s creations laughs as she talks about the different ice-cream flavors. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

Even the flavors of ice cream are inspired by the community. Old Town Churn will provide a rotating cast of flavors, including three Fort Collins-inspired flavors by chef Claire Fields.

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“The inspiration is really obvious here in Fort Collins,” Fields said. “I was thinking agricultural, college town – I guess I wracked my brain. What kind of cool funky things can we make from agricultural products? What things can we make that are green for the Aggies? What kind of things are classic college student flavors?”

Three flavors came out of those questions. For the agricultural aspect, “The Exchange” is a brie-based ice cream with pancetta bacon mixed in. The Matcha Honey is a green tea ice cream with local Colorado honey. For college students, “The Boilermaker” is a New Belgium Fat Tire caramel ice cream with whiskey.

This community-focused business model paid off at the opening, of which hundreds of people attended. The ribbon-cutting was performed by members of the city government alongside other Fort Collins business owners and artists.

Live music from members of local band Bonnie and the Clydes played over the crowded Old Town Square, filled with people enjoying their ice cream and waiting in line to try different flavors. A trick-or-treat street event drew children dressed in costume, and later that night a silent disco costume ball was held.

As for Tamburello, he’s already looking to the future.

“I think the winter’s going to be fun, but I think the spring is going to be amazing,” Tamburello said. 

Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham.

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