Biker Jim's Founder Jim Pittenger Steps Away From the Business | Westword

Jim Pittenger, Founder of Biker Jim's, Stepping Away From Company After Business Partnership Goes Bad

"I am so broken-hearted right now."
Biker Jim's dogs are a culinary staple in Denver.
Biker Jim's dogs are a culinary staple in Denver. Molly Martin
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It's the end of an era for Jim Pittenger. In 2005, he founded Biker Jim's as a cart on the 16th Street Mall, slinging sausages such as his signature elk jalapeño cheddar dog topped with Coca Cola-caramelized onions and cream cheese shot out of a caulk gun.

In the nearly twenty years since, he's expanded the business, opening a brick-and-mortar location in the Ballpark neighborhood in 2011 — one year after Anthony Bourdain visited the Mile High and became a fan of Pittenger's exotic dogs — as well as a now-defunct offshoot in Highlands Ranch.

But Pittenger is exiting the company he's spent the last two decades building. On June 10, BusinessDen reported that Biker Jim's had been "booted from Ball Arena for $870,000 in unpaid fees," which Pittenger says he thought had been paid by the CEO, Andrew Soulakis.

The actions of that CEO, whom Pittenger partnered with in 2020 when his business was struggling because of pandemic restrictions, ultimately led to his decision to part ways with the business he'd founded.
two men posing together
Anthony Bourdain was famously not a fan of Denver until a trip during which he met Biker Jim.
Courtesy Biker Jim
On June 17, Pittenger posted the following statement on Facebook:

Hiya Hot Dog Guys and Hot Dog Gals,
I am so broken hearted right now and here’s why. I started Biker Jim’s in 2005 with a little cart just off the 16th Street Mall. In the following years I found something that I was kinda good at. Feeding people and showing care…even if it was just for the time we spent together. We shared a ton of jokes and stories and for a while a camaraderie I hadn’t known before.

A few years later I was able to get the restaurant on Larimer open. You guys also showed me that I was cared about, even if it was just for the time we were together. It was a fun exciting place. We shot a lot, like a lot of TV there. We cooked tons of hot dogs and fed thousands of happy people. There were times when thirty people got to pay their rent because I decided to sling wieners on a street corner. I experienced a satisfaction and a purpose I had never had. Sure there was a slew of gnarly shit to deal with, but at the core there was a caring for and from our customer our crew, our vendors. We scratched something out of nothing into a thing that felt important.

When the pandemic hit us, we got beat up pretty bad. We were shut for most of half a year, and when we opened we were only able to serve at 25 percent capacity , then 50 percent…you know. I know it was tough on all of us. At the end of 2020, I partnered up with a guy that I had known for more than a decade. At that time he was CEO of a multi million dollar company. He promised me so many things in this partnership.

Long story short, none of what he promised came to fruition, and I gave control and ownership of Biker Jim’s away for nothing. I didn’t know that right a way, but little by little I watched all the good that I had worked for, with so much passion and love ebb away. Right now, I don’t feel like this is Biker Jim’s anymore, and I can no longer be a part of it. So, I am stepping away from the place that I have spent the last third of my life building and loving.

I can no longer watch how our crew, our vendors, customers, landlords and pretty much everyone that brought this place together have been treated.

I am truly sorry for my mistake in trusting this person. In believing what he told me, and giving away Biker Jim’s to someone that didn’t have the care, the connection, the ability to continue what we had. I’m not sure what the future holds for Biker Jim’s or me. Buuuut, I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Pretty sure it will involve us sharing some food, some stories and hopefully the love that we have for each other. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the last nineteen years…I am so grateful we got to spend that time together. I’ll catch up with you soon."
This isn't the first time Pittenger has reinvented himself. Before getting into the sausage business, he was a repo man in Alaska. Here's hoping his next era is as rich with passion as the one that's sadly ending now.
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