durango colorado

The Hot Potato: Discover Durango's Restaurants

Carver Brewing Company

1022 Main Avenue
Business Owners: Jim and Bill Carver
Established: June 4th, 1983
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What inspired you to start your business?

Bill and Jim started in 1971 in a traditional German Bakery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Our boss was Herb and Hans who came to the United States just before WW2.  We learned a lot working 5 days a week all during high school.  Monday, Wednesday, Friday after school and at 3 am on Saturdays and Sundays.  We also skied a lot during high school.  Right after high school Jim moved to Aspen Colorado to be a ski bum and baker.  Jim would get up at midnight, work till 9 am, and ski a lot.  We learned from the best bakers on the planet.

Bill finished high school and college and when he graduated, we decided to open a bakery in Colorado.  We found a bakery for sale at the base of Winter Park ski area.  Bill graduated college on May 25th, 1983 and we opened on June 4th, 1983.  Our inspiration was skiing and baking, so Colorado was the place to be.

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Where did the name of your restaurant come from?

Over our 37 years in business we have had several names as we evolved. We started as Carver Brothers Bakery and then became Carver Bakery Cafe/Brewery and now we are Carver Brewing Company.  As the craft beer industry got bigger the bakery business in America was getting smaller so we followed the trend and our bakery faded away. We looked at lots of names like Durango Bakery, Mountain Top Bakery, etc. but decided having our name on it was nice.  Some people think the Carver has something to do with nice carved ski turns but it does not.

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How do you support the community?

Over the last 37 years we have been supporting the community in so many ways.  Our most prominent community support is the Powerhouse Science Center. Carver Brewing and the Carver family have donated over $600,000 to help save the Powerhouse from being torn down and revitalizing it into what it is today.  Us and many, many other Powerhouse supporters have repurposed the historic coal fired steam AC power plant. During the recent pandemic in March through June we donated every Friday to the Family Center Coalition food for 200 school kids, so they had food on weekends.  On 12 consecutive Mondays we baked 300 sandwich buns for sandwiches that were distributed through Cantera to in need people.

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Tell us a little history about your business? How has it evolved over time?

Started as bakery in Winter Park 1983
Bought Durango Bakery in 1986
Sold Winter Park Bakery in 1987
Opened the brewery in 1988, the 2nd in the state.
First non-smoking bar in Durango which was unheard of in that time.  No Smoking?? No way! is what we heard a lot.
Bakery faded away around 1995 and we became Carver Brewing Company
Stopped serving breakfast on June 28th, 2020 after 37 years.  We estimate we served breakfast for 13,450 days before Covid changed the world.  We are closed only 2 days a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas and I do not remember a day that we missed in the last 37 years.  Rain, snow, blizzards, power outages - we were always open.

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What is unique about your restaurant? What sets you apart from other restaurants?

We still have the big oven from our baking days, so a lot of food comes from our oven.  Bread bowls, pretzels, desserts, etc.

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What is your most popular dish?

This summer it is the homemade Bavarian pretzels with a Wisconsin cheese dipping sauce and a side of honey mustard.  We made the pretzels at the German bakery in Milwaukee, so it is a 50-year tradition for pretzel making from true German bakers.  Goes great with our German beer, Lightner Creek lager, and just in time for Octoberfest.

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Paint a picture in words about your dining experience.

I would say comfortable.  We are the "everyday" restaurant where people come in for lunch and return for dinner many times a week.  Somebody described it as "A trip to Durango is better with a stop at Carvers".

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Tell us something about your restaurant that the public might not know about.

We have never had a deep fryer at Carvers.  Our wings and Sidewinder French Fries are baked so they do not have all the oil that you get from a deep fryer.  Our kitchen stays really clean since a fryer puts out quite a bit of heat and smoke. It also forces us to be creative since we cannot just drop something in the fryer.

We also have the largest hot water solar heating system in the Southwest.  We have 16 panels on the roof that heat our water for use in the restaurant and brewery.  In the winter, the hot water heats the building. It is not visible from Main street but if you walk around to the back of the building you can see them quite easily. "Heated by the sun, powered by the wind" since we use wind power electrical offsets.

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