Ranch Foods Direct greatly broadens distribution via buyout 

Side Dish

Ranch Foods connect

The St. Francis, Kansas-based natural meat company, Ranch Foods Direct (ranchfoodsdirect.com), which currently hosts a processing and retail outlet at 2901 N. El Paso St., has purchased the former Federal Food Service building at 4635 Town Center Drive, for $1.4 million.

RFD and its Good Food Concepts parent company gain a small truck fleet, more than 100 active customer contracts (including some for large organizations, such as prisons), staff, equipment and even "the crappy coffee in the kitchen cupboards," jokes owner Mike Callicrate.

His name may be familiar from the Callicrate Beef served at many area eateries, and also from recent reporting on his products being largely discontinued inside Colorado Springs School District 11 ("Got beef," SimpliCity, March 25) and other districts, because of budget woes. The loss of those contracts has left RFD scrambling to make up ground-beef sales, which must counterbalance those of primal cuts. Callicrate believes this new hub will help him "get back on track with ground-beef business," for two central reasons.

For one thing, in taking over Federal's contracts, Callicrate becomes a full-service distributor, handling everything from kitchen supplies and to-go items to produce. By deploying with larger, more-full trucks, his distribution can become more efficient, which in turn can make RFD's wholesale prices more competitive.

Also, in servicing new clients, Callicrate gains a foot in the door to negotiate swaps to RFD and more sustainable products. "We'll sell Callicrate Beef hard and hope that folks buy it," he says. "But we'll fulfill whatever products they want," he adds, including competitors' beef.

Where some might cry hypocrisy, Callicrate points to a victory of at least keeping more money in our local economy. Plus, he says, "You can't build a box that you can't survive in."

Post renovations, the 28,000-square-foot building will house a large commercial kitchen available to small businesses in need of a commissary; provide expansive cold storage; host The Sourdough Boulangerie as well as a smoked meats and charcuterie department; and feed the next retail sales point at the soon-to-open Colorado Springs Public Market downtown. The fate of the El Paso Street market remains undecided.

Care with flair

Thursday, May 14, ushers in the first of seven monthly Cooking for a Cause events at Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado (2605 Preamble Point, careandshare.org). On each night, one local chef — from outfits like TAPAteria, Jake and Telly's and The Margarita at PineCreek — will host a "chef's table cooking experience" inside CS' community kitchen, where a cooking demo will lead into a wine-paired meal. Tickets are $40, and the events go from 6 to 8 p.m.

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