Ginger & Baker: a Delight to the Senses

Materials, patterns, textures, and colors shape our lasting impressions of a place as profoundly as does its overall formal organization and composition. — Sarah Williams Goldhagen

I had the privilege of eating lunch at Ginger and Baker last week, followed by a tour of the building. The historic part of the structure, most recently inhabited by Northern Colorado Feeder Supply, was originally the Poudre Elevator Company in the early 1900s, and soon after became the Farmers Co-op. A new addition has been constructed that feels more like an adjacent building than an enlargement of the historic structure, although once inside the old and new join together seamlessly.

This tax assessor photo of the building from 1949 shows the building when it was the Farmers Co-op Elevator. (Image from the Fort Collins Archive. 359Lin49)

Jack and Ginger Graham purchased the Feeder Supply building in 2015. Jack Graham is a former Colorado State University athletic director and Ginger was President and CEO of a pharmaceutical company until 2007 and is now the Executive Administrator of Two Trees Consulting. Ginger also oversaw all of the interior design in Ginger and Baker, and her attention to detail and love of texture is a true delight to the senses.

The addition to the older building has a very contemporary look, speaking to the modern time period in which it was made, but it also stands back from the historic building on the west side, almost as if it is giving a deferential bow to the older structure.

The 1917 Sanborn Map shows the outline of the Farmers Co-op building. I’ve added a few notes about what can be found on the property today.

What thrills me most about Ginger and Baker is the meticulous attention that went into making this a place where memories will be made. Sarah Williams Goldhagen, in her book, Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives, pointed out that memories are place based. In other words, as we recall memories in our past, we see them spatially in our minds, remembering the locations in which they happened. And the richer our environments are, the more likely we will build strong memories about the times we spent there.

Ginger Graham said at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, November 13th, that she hoped Ginger and Baker would be a place where memories are made and special moments happen. If Sarah Goldhagen is right, and rich environments do activate our brains such that memories are stored in a richer way, then Ginger and Baker might very well be a memory-making goldmine thanks to the marvelous use of natural materials, texture, color, and sunlight.

The ribbon of windows along the pie shaped seating area in the Cache draw in a lot of natural light.

Richness and resonance comes with authentic textures and surfaces. — Sarah Williams Goldhagen

While walking through the building I joked with friends that I constantly felt compelled to pet the building. The variety of textures along walls and other surfaces invites the sense of touch while also providing visual interest.
My favorite wall is in the vestibule to the bathrooms in the Café. I don’t know what the wallpaper is made of, but it looks like newspapers stitched together and feels like overlapped strips of bamboo.

When we consider the senses, we tend to think of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound, all of which are stimulated in the lavish sensory environment of Ginger and Baker. But I believe that humans also have a sense of time that can be activated when we walk through an older building or hold a historic artifact. There’s an emotional reaction akin to the feelings elicited by running your fingers along a richly textured table or reposing in the sunlight surrounded by vegetation. To connect with history can be a sensory experience in its own right.

And that’s where Ginger and Baker comes out tops yet again. Not only was the historic Feeder Supply building renovated and restored, but parts of the historic fabric that could no longer be used as a structural component of the building were repurposed as pieces of furniture.

The beadboard ceiling in the old office (the smaller room that you entered when walking into the old Northern Feeder Supply) was removed when the roof was replaced. But it was reused when a local craftsman turned the wood into cabinet doors and drawers that are now located in that same office room.
These pulleys were used to haul grain in the elevator. They have been repurposed as a whimsical art piece in the stairwell.
The sign was found, printed side down, covering a hole in the basement floor. It was cleaned up and now graces the wall of the coffee shop.

Darin Atteberry, the City Manager, called Ginger and Baker “magical” at the ribbon cutting ceremony, and there’s nowhere you get that sense more than in the wine cellar. Located in the basement of the grain elevator, the lush use of wood, the exposed foundation stone of the historic building, and thick chunks of granite that form countertops along the inner walls all contribute to a sense of Gothic opulence.

The wine cellar is in the basement of the old Feeder Supply building. Despite the fact that it has no natural light, the backlit open shelving not only provides ambient lighting, but also highlights the natural local stone that makes up the foundation of the old building.

In the second story event space, the massive chandeliers, the historic brick, and the long expanses of wood that support the roof add to the magic in this building.

The wine cellar and the event space, both housed within the envelope of the historic building, were so lovingly restored and furnished, that they illicit within the visitor a sense of awe. And awe, according to Sarah Williams Goldhagen, “promotes in us other-directed, prosocial feelings, [and an] awareness of people’s shared humanity.” What a great ambiance to create, then, in two rooms that will likely host many a wedding party, graduation or work event, or other special time in people’s live.

The second story of the Feeder Supply building is an event space with a raised vestibule on one end (that sits over the retail space below).

When describing how we should design buildings so that they work well with the humans that will inhabit them, Sarah Williams Goldhagen speaks to the balance of patterns and complexity. She explains that, “recognizing patterned organization rewards us with a little jolt of the opioids in the area of our brain associated with our ‘liking’ system.” But that, “patterns in the absence of complexity repel us. A look at typical developer-built tracts of residences is enough to know that sameness and repetition dull the senses.” So, after enjoying an iced coconut chai following the ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, I was delighted when I hopped off the coffee bar stool to discover both patterned organization and complexity in the furniture.

Most of us wouldn’t consciously note the variations in these bar stools that stand in the coffee shop, but the fact that no two are the same might still register unconsciously, providing a sense of delight that we might feel, even if we don’t know where it’s coming from.
The items for sale in the retail shop as well as some of the decorations on the walls provide a sense of whimsy.

The old Northern Colorado Feeder Supply building is a somewhat oddly shaped structure. In addition to the crow-stepped gables in front, the mid-section of the building expands further on one side than the other, creating a bit of a lopsided feel. The new portion of the building is just as oddly shaped, jutting out towards Linden street like a giant slice of pie. Somehow, the oddball older building and the oddball newer building seem to compliment each other well. This addition might not work on many other historic structures in town, but it works here. The buildings speak to each other and the new building clearly acknowledges the older through its stance.

The old Farmer’s Co-op building is receiving some finishing touches before opening up as Ginger and Baker.

The Fort Collins Landmark Preservation Commission held a preliminary hearing on this building on October 26, 2015 and a final review on November 18 of the same year. When it came time to vote, eight out of nine commissioners voted for the project. The ninth abstained only because he had been absent during the October meeting and therefore didn’t feel it was appropriate to weigh in.

That said, there’s still discussion among the commission about the building. According to Section 3.4.7 of the Land Use Code, the dominant building material of the new structure should match the dominant material of the adjacent historic structure(s) and the setback of the new building should be similar to that of the historic building. The new portion of Ginger and Baker doesn’t follow either of these prescriptions (although it does fit other parts of the code well, such as with building height and mass). The code does give an out for setback, stating that, “Not withstanding the foregoing, this requirement shall not apply if, in the judgement of the decision maker, such historic structures would not be negatively impacted with respect to their historic exterior integrity and significance by reason of the new structure being constructed at a dissimilar … setback….” And though the materials are different, they do align with the suggested materials in the River District Guidelines.

The new and the old stand side-by-side on Linden Street.

The Fort Collins Historic Preservation Department is currently overseeing a rewrite of the preservation code and Section 3.4.7 is a primary portion undergoing scrutiny. How do we, as a community, support creative and thoughtful building design while also protecting our historic resources and preserving our community’s character? There’s no easy answer, and the code will probably be updated, changed, and modified many times in the future as we continue to tweak it in hopes of not just maintaining the historic character of our City, but strengthening that character with creative, new construction that still feels rooted in who we are and where we are.

The Landmark Preservation Commission wants to support the kind of construction that, in 50 years, a future Commission will look at and say, “This is a marvelous example of Fort Collins craftsmanship and design. Let’s landmark this property.”

The view of Ginger and Baker walking northeast on Linden from Jefferson street.

Ginger and Jack held a ribbon cutting ceremony for Ginger and Baker on Monday. Doors open to the public on Tuesday. And a Grand Opening event will take place Saturday, November 18th, with “tastings, giveaways, free mini-classes in the Teaching Kitchen, live music and, of course, pie!”

The ribbon cutting took place on November 13th, indicating that the building is now open to the public.

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on the building, both inside and out. Does it resonate with you? What do you like? What do you struggle with? What do you think exemplifies Fort Collins character and how do you see that being built into new buildings as we continue to grow?

Bud Frick, Meg Dunn, and Cassandra Bumgarner in the wine cellar at Ginger and Baker. (Photo by Maren Bzdek.)