Nate Haas, Owner of Krazy Karl’s, Answers 10 Krazy Questions
Nate Haas owns and operates local pizza favorite, Krazy Karl's, located on 1124 W Elizabeth Street in Fort Collins, Colorado. With plans for expansion in the Shops at Rigden Farm on Drake and Timberline Road, Nate is taking pizza to the next level.
We reached out to Nate to ask him a few questions about how he got started in the pie-making business, and he was more than happy to oblige.
We have to ask it. Who is Krazy Karl?
Karl Mobley was the original investor into this project. He came to Fort Collins with the idea of opening a delivery/pickup/to-go pizza place near campus to take advantage of the booming CSU enrollment. My wife (Claudia) as well as my Dad (Glenn, former CSU prof and department head) and I bought in in December of 2009 and had a larger vision for Krazy Karl’s! We wanted BEER! We also wanted strong community relationships with many local vendors. We wanted a cool place that's affordable, that you could come enjoy a local beer, watch a game, listen to music or play trivia! Karl thought we were the “ krazy" ones at the time but eventually got on board. Unfortunately, in August of 2015 he passed away from a battle with cancer.
Why did Krazy Karl's start in Fort Collins, of all places?
Karl really wanted to open shops at or near many of the large midwestern universities. When he partnered with the Haas family he realized how huge this opportunity was in Fort Collins because of all of our family connections at CSU and in the Northern Colorado area. Our family alone has at least 8 undergraduate degrees and 4 masters degrees from CSU! I met my wife at CSU and have lived in Fort Collins for 36 years. We wouldn’t have even considered another city to start our first restaurant adventure! Now we have restaurant #2 opening in December of this year on the east side of town at the Rigden Farms Shops.
How did you finance the launch of your business?
It took a few friends and family members to make small investments to help out. We probably didn’t open with enough cash behind us but Karl and I worked tirelessly (not taking a salary for the first 16 months) to make it work. It was truly amazing how quickly our sales took off! FoCo and CSU connections plus awesome local support from friends and family had us heading in the right direction almost immediately
What's your favorite pizza on the menu to eat and to make?
It’s been a minute since I’ve made a pizza to be totally honest! For the first 4 years I was managing and making most pizzas and helping with dough, cheese and sauce. Now I’m strictly administrative.. meaning that my seasoned cooks won’t allow me anywhere near our makeline! For the better, I guess, 'cause they do a phenomenal job! I’m more proud of our "North of the Border" pizza (pepperoni, cream cheese and green chilis) than any other. That pizza changed the pizza game in Northern Colorado. Now you’ll see cream cheese offered at most places around the area but we’re very proud of the fact that we were the first to really feature it! Now we have it on several of our specialties and we go through upwards of 400 lbs of it A WEEK!
What's your recipe inspiration?
Well, we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel so we stayed with tried and true pizza basics. Fresh never frozen ingredients, top of line mozzarellas and cheddars that we shred ourselves, and a dough recipe that we worked on for weeks before we opened in March of 2010. We wanted to make sure the crust was something we rarely see left on customers' plates when they’re finishing their meal. I worked for a few (not to be named) pizza places in town when I was in school at CSU and they brought in frozen pizza crust each week! Yikes! That was something I knew we weren’t going to do when we opened, no way, no how! Only one of those places are still open…
The pizza combos are both traditional and Krazy! I’ve enjoyed creating many of our combinations but it’s been more fun watching our employees brainstorm and try new things that eventually make it on our menu. Our "Mile High" is a good example-- that pizza was created by one of our original managers named Meg. That pizza was such a hit with our staff that I had no choice to put that on the menu. 6 years later, that pizza is still selling strong!
What do you like best about working in Northern Colorado?
It’s home! My wife and I are raising two boys (Marco and Mateo) in the one of the most beautiful places in the country. Business-wise: I’m very proud of the fact that the Northern Colorado area really supports local businesses! There is a mentality here that people will always at least try local place before they go national chain.
How did you get into the pizza industry?
Chance meeting with Karl on Craigslist! We knew that we wanted to open a business but hadn’t settled on exactly what. The nuts and bolts of running a business are very similar whether you are running a landscaping company, own a liquor store, or are a GM at a major big box store. There are fundamentals that are consistent when running any business. Luckily for me, pizza ended being as much fun as it is challenging!
Favorite non-pizza related food.
Anything Mexican! Specifically Yucatecan street tacos and its pickled red onions (and no, not just because my wife is from there)!
How do you try to distance Krazy Karl's from other pizza joints in the area?
Honestly, I don’t particularly care what the other pizza places in town do. I don’t know what anyone is charging for their product or what specials they are running. It can’t be our focus. There’s enough room for most of us. My focus is to have the best product and the very, very best staff! I’ll put my group of managers up against anyone in town and feel very comfortable that they’d get the job done whether it's at a fine dining establishment, McDonald's, or a funky local pizza place on the west side of town!
Our GM (Dustin) tracks our margins and vital numbers daily and we have weekly staff meetings which I think has really helped us stay on top of everything. Our turnover of key personnel is almost nonexistent over the last five years because they all take pride in what we’ve grown here. This feeling of pride gets extended out to our customer base! We have many regulars who love to talk about our growth and the direction we’re headed, since they feel a part of something special.
Last question-- what's your favorite, no-fail ingredient?
Cream cheese is our no-fail topping but I would say the secret concoction we put together that makes our spicy ranch pretty is pretty special too!
Interview by Madi Scruggs.
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