Interview with Richard Skorman
Owner of Poor Richard’s
320 N. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Poor Richard’s Restaurant has been a loyal partner and featured destination on our Original Colorado Springs Food Tour for more than seven years. As the second oldest restaurant in all of downtown, it has been a place of community gathering since 1977. Along with their signature New York style thin crust pizza (watch owner Richard Skorman describe how they make their pizza), they also serve an array of fresh salads, soups, and appetizers.
We sat down with Richard to get behind-the-scenes at Poor Richard’s. The restaurant is part of a complex of a few other businesses including a toy store, a bookstore and gift shop, and Rico’s Café. Read below to discover the story of how this restaurant became a local favorite!
Poor Richard’s has a pretty rich history—can you tell us a little bit about how the café started? Poor Richard’s Feed and Read was started in 1977 as one of the first bookstore/café combinations in the country. The Feed and Read sold the first espresso, quiche, frozen yogurt, and gazpacho in Colorado Springs. We changed the name to Poor Richard’s Restaurant in 1982 when we opened a separate bookstore where Colorado Co-Op is today.
Then in 1986, we moved the bookstore to where the toy store is today, built movie risers, and had a movie theater/bookstore combination. We showed art films in one of the smallest independent movie theaters in the country. The theater was bought by Kimball Bayles in 1992 and was moved to the Kimball’s Peak Three Theater in 1994. We opened the toy store in 1995 (which, by the way, is probably the only toy store in the country with a liquor license).
Rico’s Café opened in 2005 as a jazz tapas wine bar and has evolved into a wonderful coffee shop and music venue.
When did you decide to start serving pizza? I lived in NYC from 1986 to 1989 to write a guide to art films titled: “Off-Hollywood Movies: A Film Lover’s Guide,” which was published by a division of Random House Publishing in 1990. Previously, I was a film critic for the Colorado Springs Sun and the Ft. Collins Coloradoan. While living in New York, I learned about New York-Style Pizza and, more importantly, met my future wife and business partner, Patricia Seator.
I trained at the Pizza Emporium in Yonkers for two weeks as a trainee volunteer. Cousins Frank and Frank taught me how to make real NY pizza between running numbers and cursing each other out. I took what I learned and brought NY pizza to Poor Richard’s in 1992. Our pizza is hand-tossed, brick oven baked, chewy and crispy, thin. It’s the kind of pizza that can be folded and eaten with one hand while reading the NY Times in the other.
Poor Richard’s has been a staple in downtown Colorado Springs for over 40 years. What keeps Poor Richard’s so popular with the locals? (1) Our huge mix of retail products and over 50,000 books, most of which are under $10. (2) Our healthy and reasonably priced menu. (3) Our kid-friendliness not only in our toy store but also with our large play area in the back of Poor Richard’s. (4) And finally, our casual and welcoming atmosphere and the sense of community we have created over the past 40 years.
Are there any fun facts or secrets about the menu or products available at Poor Richard’s? The best-kept secret is that my wife, Patricia, is also co-owner of the complex and runs all the retail businesses. She and I direct the whole design and physical look of the businesses. Many of the products sold in the bookstore and toy store are fair trade, made from recycled materials, or are locally sourced. Many customers also may not realize that we have 117 solar panels on our roof and that the majority of our complex is solar-powered during a sunny day.
What are your favorite menu items? Like many of our customers, I love our crispy, chewy, fresh-tomato-sauced pizza and our salads. From Rico’s, I love the locally roasted coffee and our gluten-free macaroons dipped in dark chocolate.
What is the latest food trend that you are inspired by? Currently, about half of our menu is organic, local, pasture-raised and/or gluten free, and we look to increase the items we serve in these categories every month. We, like many others, have cultivated a following by offering several choices for vegan, Paleo and gluten-free diners.
Tell us about some of the core values of the business. We believe in environmental stewardship. This takes shape not only with our solar panels, but also with our recycled products, non-toxic cleaning and construction supplies, and regular practice of composting all of our food waste and paper products. We also believe in paying our 54 employees a living wage with benefits.
You are very active in the community. Would you mind sharing a little bit about that involvement and what that means for the restaurant? Poor Richard’s has always been a gathering place for local politics. I was a recently elected City Council member representing downtown and the Westside of Colorado Springs. I am also President of the Council. Several years ago, I served on Council for two terms, was Vice Mayor for two years, and also ran U.S. Senator Ken Salazar’s Regional Office. I enjoy leading local efforts to protect thousands of acres of land from development.
Time for our final question we ask everyone! If you were stranded on a desert island and could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would that be? Our Organic Chicken Soup, a dish that can happily sustain life on a desert island.
Thanks, Richard! We appreciate the opportunity to learn more about this amazing place to dine and hangout in downtown Colorado Springs.
If you’d like to check out Poor Richard’s famous hand-tossed pizza, hop on the Original Colorado Springs Food Tour offered every weekend!
Cheers, Your Rocky Mountain Food Tours Team