Skorman’s trend-setting businesses live on

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Richard Skorman and Patricia Seator, besides being husband and wife, also have been business partners for the past 24 years.

Richard Skorman and Patricia Seator, besides being husband and wife, also have been business partners for the past 24 years.

The feeling a shopper or diner has when entering Richard Skorman’s businesses depends on which business she enters.

There’s Little Richard’s Toy Store, blasted by the bright colors of toys begging to be played with.

There’s Poor Richard’s Books and Gifts, permeated with the sublime smell of books, new and used stories, lessons and tomes lined up on bookshelves from floor to ceiling. Immediately inside the front door, Father’s Day gifts invite the curious shopper to explore. Unique gifts and locally handmade jewelry greet customers in the center of the store. New and used books beckon the visitor to the back, where more of the 100,000 titles await. 

There’s Poor Richard’s Restaurant, with happy people bustling around the kitchen preparing pizza and fresh, organic salads with a variety of custom teas.

There’s Rico’s Café and Wine Bar, delighting the olfactory senses and giving parents a nice break while their kids play next door in the toy store. There, greeting cards are sure to appeal to everyone.

Welcome to the business enterprises that have grown over the decades, owned and operated by Skorman and Patricia Seator, his wife and business partner.

“I get the credit because my name’s on the signs,” Skorman said. “She does the design work, gifts and cards. The whole gift shop is hers.”

In the beginning

When he was a student 40 years ago at Colorado College, Skorman worked at the Granite Harp, a bookstore on Tejon Street.

When the Granite Harp went out of business, Skorman opened his own bookstore at 519 N. Tejon St. in 1975. Two years later, he relocated to the current restaurant location in the 300 block of North Tejon. There, he began serving food while his patrons had their choice of hundreds of books to read during their meal.

“I always loved books. I wanted people to feel at home when they were in the restaurant,” Skorman said. “Even back then, we had a good number of people who would come and spend the time. Now it’s parents who bring kids to the play area.

“I’m proud to say I brought the first espresso, frozen yogurt, fresh bagels, quiche, gazpacho to Colorado Springs.” 

Seator moved to Colorado Springs in 1990 from New York City, where she was a psychotherapist. “I roped her in to coming to Colorado,” Skorman said. 

Kimball’s gets its start

In 1982, Skorman started showing movies. 

Seven nights a week, the employees would move the tables and set up the chairs to show independent and foreign films. 

“It was the smallest independent movie theater in the country,” Skorman said. “I was the projectionist and Kimball Bayles became the movie theater manager.” 

In 1992, Bayles bought the theater portion of Skorman’s business and eventually moved it to its current location, Kimball’s Peak Three Theater, at 115 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

“If you go to his theater, you’ll see the old [1948] projector in his lobby,” Skorman said.

“I’m proud to say I brought the first espresso, frozen yogurt, fresh bagels, quiche, gazpacho to Colorado Springs.”
– Richard Skorman

Little Richard’s Toy Store

In 1995, Skorman and Seator opened Little Richard’s Toy Store. 

“There’s as many grownups that enjoy playing as the kids do,” said Skorman, who jokes with his customers that the puppets are for the kids and he’ll check IDs if the adults don’t behave. 

“It’s a nice addition to the business. I think we need more play in our lives,” said Skorman. 

Some of the older toys are timeless — Etch A Sketch and Slinky, for example. Little Richard’s toys won’t contain batteries or computers. Instead, you’ll see make-your-own crafts and other ways for kids to be creative.

“We try to specialize in interactive toys, toys that have a purpose,” Skorman said. “We don’t have Mattel, Hasbro or Disney. What we get are specialty toys from European toy-makers.” Most sell for less than $10.

Food offerings

The goal of the restaurant is to offer healthy food with top-notch ingredients, “and we try to keep the price between $5 to $9-$10,” Skorman said. “It’s niche, wholesome American food or pizza.

“We do a lot behind the scenes people don’t realize,” like buying local food, organic fare, local chicken.

“We don’t put anything in our food that has a long chemical name to it, where you don’t have to spend $15 to $20 for a healthy meal,” Skorman said.

After renting the combined multiple spaces for 26 years, Skorman and Seator bought it in 2007. They feel strongly about the environment, so they’ve greened the building since then. They installed 117 solar panels to the roof, added efficient air conditioners and changed 275 halogen light bulbs to LED. The business composts all the food and paper waste, buying only compostable cups and straws.

“We feel like it’s really worth it,” Skorman said.

Treatment of employees

Poor Richard’s starts employees at $12 an hour.

“We want to pay a living wage,” said Skorman, who made much less when he spent a handful of years (1999-2006, making $6,250 annually) on City Council and also served as vice mayor. At the store, the average salary is $16.50 an hour, and after six months, the employees are given health insurance.

The businesses also give paid vacations.

“We want people to stay with us and feel appreciated,” Skorman said. “It’s a benefit to us. We don’t have to keep hiring people, and people know their jobs.

“We don’t have to retrain them, and they care about the business.

“We think it makes our business better.”  nCSBJ

Poor Richard’s

Addresses: 320-3241/2 N. Tejon St.

Number of employees: 52

Years in business: 39

Contact: poorrichardsdowntown.com, 578-5549