In July 1973, Charlie Wilson, a graduate of the University of Denver's Hotel and Restaurant Management School, opened White Fence Farm on his parents' property on what was then rural land in Lakewood. It took a year to convert the working hay and cattle farm into a dining hall and tourist attraction with a gift shop, petting farm, duck pond and entertainment stage. Now, more than forty years and five million chicken dinners later, Wilson has sold the farm. But he says new owners Tom Piercy and Craig Caldwell "aren't going to change a thing, except for a few family photos on the wall."
Piercy and Caldwell have been business partners in the past, when the two owned the Blake Street Baseball Club and Splinters From the Pine across the street from Coors Field in the 1990s. Caldwell has lived in Colorado most of his life, while Piercy moved from Illinois in the mid-'80s. Most fans of White Fence Farm probably don't realize that the Lakewood farm is the second of a set; the original is in suburban Chicago, where Piercy remembers attending birthdays as a child -- his sister even had the rehearsal dinner for her wedding there. "I chuckle thinking of my grandmother sneaking corn fritters into a napkin at dinner to keep the little ones at bay on the car ride home," he recalls.
Denverites who came of age in the '80s may remember Caldwell's 3.2 club, Thirsty's, which later became Brooklyn's. More recently, he's managed food and beverage operations for six golf courses.
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While Wilson will no longer have an ownership stake, he'll be around to help the new owners with the transition, so he'll still be there to greet you at the door through the end of the year. The menu, waitstaff and family-oriented appeal of the Farm won't change, according to the new owners. We can continue to look forward to some of the best fried chicken in town, served with goofy charm that the kids will love and parents will endure.