Dear Savvy Senior, What do I need to do to get Social Security disability benefits? I’m 60 years old and have...
BY DORIS B. TRUHLAR GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER Former county sheriff Dave Walcher has been retained as a consultant...
BY PETER ALFORD FIRST WESTERN TRUST, DTC/CHERRY HILLS As a senior wealth advisor, I love that I get to work wi...
BY PETER JONES NEWS EDITOR “I feel like God kissed me with a mouthful of scotch.” So said one satisfied custom...
BY SCOTTIE TAYLOR IVERSON STAFF WRITER There’s a new name on the free-standing building on the southeast corne...
BY PETER JONES NEWS EDITOR To hear Belina Fruitman tell it, there really is a woman’s way to recovery—and a wo...
Cable show puts spotlight on Colorado entrepreneurs BY PETER JONES NEWS EDITOR Four years after launching a st...
BY PETER JONES NEWS EDITOR Like the barber on the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” A Fur Stylist boasts photographs of e...
Dear Savvy Senior, What do I need to do to get Social Security disability benefits? I’m 60 years old and have some health problems that won’t allow me to work, but I’ve read that getting disability benefits is difficult. Laid Up Lenny
Getting Social Security disability benefits when you’re unable to work can be challenging. Last year, more than 2 million people applied for Social Security disability benefits, but two-thirds of them were denied, because most applicants fail to prove that they’re disabled and can’t work. Here are some steps you can take that can help improve your odds.
Get Informed The first thing you need to find out is if your health problem qualifies you for Social Security disability benefits.
You generally will be eligible only if you have a health problem that is expected to prevent you from working in your current line of work (or any other line of work that you have been in over the past 15 years) for at least a year or result in death.
There is no such thing as a partial disability benefit. If you’re fit enough to work part-time, your application will be denied. You also need not apply if you still are working with the intention of quitting if your application is approved, because if you’re working your application will be denied. Your skill set and age are factors too. Your application will be denied if your work history suggests that you have the skills to perform a less physically demanding job that your disability does not prevent you from doing.
To help you determine if you are disabled, visit SSA.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html and go through the five questions Social Security uses to determine disability.
How to Apply If you believe you have a claim, your next step is to gather up your personal, financial and medical information so you can be prepared and organized for the application process. You can apply either online at SSA.gov/applyfordisability or call 800-772-1213 to make an appointment to apply at your local Social Security office, or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the phone.
The whole process lasts about an hour. If you schedule an appointment, a “Disability Starter Kit” that will help you get ready for your interview will be mailed to you. If you apply online, the kit is available at SSA.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits.htm.
It takes three to five months from the initial application to receive either an award or denial of benefits. The only exception is if you have a chronic illness that qualifies you for a “compassionate allowance” (see SSA.gov/compassionateallowances), which fast tracks cases within weeks. If Social Security denies your initial application, you can appeal the decision, and you’ll be happy to know that roughly half of all cases that go through a round or two of appeals end with benefits being awarded. But the bad news is with backlog of around 800,000 people currently waiting for a hearing, it can take 12 to 24 months for you to get one.
Get Help You can hire a representative to help you with your Social Security disability claim. By law, representatives can charge only 25 percent of past-due benefits up to a maximum of $6,000 if they win your case. It’s probably worth hiring someone at the start of the application process if your disability is something difficult to prove such as chronic pain. If, however, your disability is obvious, it might be worth initially working without a representative to avoid paying the fee. You can always hire a representative later if your initial application and first appeal are denied. To find a representative, check with the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR.org, 845-682-1881) or National Association of Disability Representatives (NADR.org, 800-747-6131). Or, if you’re low-income, contact the Legal Services Corporation (LSC.gov/find-legal-aid) for free assistance.
Dave Walcher was honored at a recent Centennial City Council meeting by Mayor Stephanie Piko and Mayor Pro Tem Ken Lucas.
BY DORIS B. TRUHLAR
Former county sheriff Dave Walcher has been retained as a consultant to the City of Centennial to assist with consideration of whether the city should have its own law enforcement agency.
At the time Centennial was formed in 2000 and 2001, one of the “selling points” for the incorporation of the city was that it would not form its own police department, but would have a contract with the Office of the Arapahoe County Sheriff. The city and the sheriff’s office have had a contract for services for the past 17 to 18 years.
In 2018, the city budgeted more than $23 million for law enforcement. Presumably, if the city established its own police department, it would not cost much more – or likely would have a similar cost – to the expense that has existed when there was a contract by the city with the sheriff’s office.
At a recent meeting, the Centennial City Council honored Walcher, recognizing him for his years of service to the city. The council also passed a proclamation adopting Jan. 22 as “Dave Walcher Appreciation Day.”
Ron Weidmann, city councilman from District 4, the eastern-most area of Centennial, said in an interview that Centennial “snatched” Walcher “up,” and that Walcher is a “very highly qualified” individual.
The proclamation stated that Walcher “served the community with honor, distinction and integrity, forming a strong partnership” with Centennial. Walcher was given recognition for his “professionalism and integrity.” The proclamation expressed “appreciation and … best wishes” to Walcher as he “moves on to a new chapter.”
Walcher started his career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and also served with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years. In 2009, he was recruited by former Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson to work at the Arapahoe Sheriff’s Office. He was the No. 2 person in the office until he was elected sheriff in 2014.
As sheriff, he had the responsibility for a budget of about $80 million and for more than 700 employees. He also serves on several boards and committees, including the Aurora Mental Health Center and the Colorado Correctional Treatment Board.
A Colorado native, Walcher is a lifelong resident of the state and lives with his wife Linda in Aurora. He also serves on the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, for which he was elected class president by his peers.
As a part-time faculty member and lecturer at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Affairs, he received outstanding reviews from his students, many of whom have gone on to law enforcement careers.
Walcher holds a Masters’ Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Colorado-Denver.
BY PETER ALFORD
FIRST WESTERN TRUST, DTC/CHERRY HILLS
As a senior wealth advisor, I love that I get to work with my clients in providing customized banking, planning, retirement, and investment solutions to meet their financial needs. Too often, I find that clients work with one bank for their lending needs, and another firm for their retirement needs, and then another company for their investment needs. At the end of the day, how can anyone expect working with a number of different financial companies to provide holistic planning or even know how one financial decision may impact another?
At First Western, I work with my clients and offer them the best of an entrepreneurial and solution oriented team – right at our DTC office. We all work together to find solutions to our clients’ most pressing needs. Our local team can act quickly to provide advice driven services that deliver on our core expertise and value. We believe that financial decisions are about more than financials. Every investment, real estate holding, trust or philanthropic endeavor connects. We look at these four dimensions of our clients’ wealth and put their story at the center by connecting them to the best team of financial advisors they’ll ever work with.
Choosing a local financial team also allows clients to act quickly to pressing trends. For example, considering the rising interest rates, it’s important to consider how this may impact investment portfolios, tax planning, and budgeting into the new year. A local financial team can bring all of these subject matter experts to one table and craft customized solutions for their clients. They can also respond more quickly to clients’ needs with a perspective that’s better aligned to meet what’s happening in the community, rather than providing advice that’s centered on an East Coast perspective, for example.
Your financial wealth is as unique as you are. Be discerning in selecting a local financial team that can help you connect all of your financial dots into one holistic picture.
Aaron Hatle and Brian Poynter uncorked Englewood’s Whiskey Biscuit earlier this year with longtime friend Al Courtney. Photo by Peter Jones
BY PETER JONES
“I feel like God kissed me with a mouthful of scotch.”
So said one satisfied customer at the Whiskey Biscuit, an Englewood eatery that has seamlessly blended the best of two worlds, as suggested by the restaurant’s title.
Biscuits and gravy, and it imaginative extensions, are half of the story, and when three brunch-loving former bartenders get together, the whiskey is bound to pour—and not just into glasses.
Ever try whiskey barbecue sauce? Whiskey-glazed bacon? Whiskey doughnut dipping sauce?
“We didn’t want people to think we were another diner, so we went with ‘whiskey.’ We didn’t want people to think we were just another bar, so we added the ‘biscuit,’” explained Aaron Hatle, who founded the so-named restaurant this year with friends Brian Poynter and Al Courtney.
The trio has taken its breakfast-for-dinner concept to new levels—from Bloody Mary-inspired eggs Benedict to a steak-and-french-toast combo—with hearty twists on American classics and bartender-fueled comfort food.
There is a wide-ranging brunch menu on weekends.
“Brunch is such a fun culture,” Hatle said. “People are either in a really good happy mood because they’re just starting the day, or they’re just recovering from last night—either way, they’ve got a good story.”
Among the more popular items on the regular Whiskey Biscuit menu is the fried-chicken biscuit with sliced heirloom tomato, shaved jalapeño, cheddar cheese and roasted garlic aioli.
Add to that some french-toast-battered onion rings, served with whisky barbecue sauce. Wash it all down with a bourbon strawberry-basil cocktail or a blackberry jalapeño margarita.
Another personal favorite of Hatle’s—the mushroom ragout served with pappardelle pasta and cherry tomatoes in a bourbon cream sauce—with veggie, steak or whatever other options might strike a diner’s fancy.
“That’s one of the nice things about our menu, including our desserts—go ahead and add bacon to it, or a fried egg,” the co-owner suggested.
The menu can take some getting used to, but the Whiskey Biscuit’s reinventions—even from the foundational American school lunchroom—have proven to bridge the generations.
Breakfast for dinner or vice versa—french toast and steak. Photos by Peter Jones
“Our idea was Grandma and Grandpa could come in with their millennial hipster grandchildren and see things they recognize, and the young people could find something that’s a little bit out there,” Hatle said.
Take the jalapeño and peanut-butter-and-jelly tater tots, for example.
“We decided to add some variations,” the co-owner said. “So we brought on the mac-and-cheese tots, which we also put bacon on, and then there’s the green-chili tots.”
Earlier this year, the Whiskey Biscuit’s fried-bologna sandwich caught the attention of The Villager. Although no longer on the regular menu, this variation on a lunchbox classic is expected to return as a special.
The restaurant’s menu is unusual enough that there is actually a section called “somewhat regular sandwiches.”
“If we had let [chefs] Jeremy and Nate just do whatever they wanted, we would have had some crazy, crazy stuff,” Hatle said. “We wanted to mesh this unique kind of craziness with some comfort-style foods.”
The Whiskey Biscuit, which opened March 1, is among the latest entries to a re-emerging section of Englewood’s South Broadway just north of Hampden Avenue. Although once dormant of life, new bars and restaurants, as well as a brewery and a distillery, have recently joined the neighborhood, whose historic Gothic Theater has been the main attraction for years. Hatle, a former Englewood resident, wanted the Whiskey Biscuit to be part of it, moving into a historical building that has variously housed a small grocery store and a car dealership.
“We came back here and kind of rediscovered what Englewood was doing,” he said. “We fell in love with this building and realized we couldn’t just do a bar. We had to go all out. This is on the verge of becoming one of the next destination neighborhoods.”
And lastly, do the biscuits contain whiskey?
Not really is the simple answer.
“We tried some rye. We tried a couple of different things and it just wasn’t working out,” Hatle said. “But we do whiskey-glaze our bacon in-house. We have bourbon ice cream.”
The biscuit and the whiskey: The cornerstones of the new restaurant’s menu.
A sweeping view of the expansive showroom reveals the see-through levels and triangular light fixtures affectionately referred to as the “bombers.” Courtesy of ZOLi
BY SCOTTIE TAYLOR IVERSON
There’s a new name on the free-standing building on the southeast corner of South Colorado Boulevard and County Line Road. And exciting new lines of furniture, redefining modern, that beckon from the impeccably merchandized pop-out windows.
Sophistication without intimidation—that’s the new ZOLi.
We’re not sure of the derivation or definition of ZOLi, but it sounds romantic, intriguing and European, and it’s easier to pronounce than its previous name, Roche Bobois. ZOLi is a boutique business on a grand scale for customers seeking a unique and premier source of European furnishings in a well-appointed gallery.
Corinne and A.J. (Avi) Brown have been in the furniture business for several decades, but found the current site in 2000. They collaborated with noted Colorado architect Arley Rinehart to create a loft style, almost warehouse-looking space, with three cascading levels, each with natural light.
Having the luxury of nearly 30,000 square feet affords an airy, see-through effect from all quadrants for more drama. Triangular light fixtures also shine down to reach all levels. There’s a 240-foot long skylight and glass walls. Guests are welcome to browse a variety of price points (many less than one would expect for such exacting quality and timeless appeal) displayed on polished porcelain floors throughout, except on the stairs, where the texture turns to matte for safety.
Remodeling was completed just a month ago. It’s a feast for the senses – the fragrance of top-grain leather in dozens of colors, hidden push-button reclining sofas, swivel chairs, the beauty of technology, including motion tables with the mechanism embedded for glass-top expansion, 360-degree moveable desks, bent-glass table bases, a rug gallery, art from Italy, modular furniture with colors that pop, LED-light headboard trim and accent furniture made of crystal stone formed in a cave from the one quarry in the world.
ZOLi staff members include Daniel Kopnisky, owners Corinne and A.J. “Avi” Brown, Gail Frances and manager Tony Jennings. Courtesy of ZOLi
Design, form and function are created with the Colorado lifestyle in mind – less formal with a nature focus, incorporating wood. At least 90 percent of the items on the floor can be purchased and white-glove-delivered the next day. Mountain deliveries are made in the summer months.
Avi, the creative driving force. is constantly designing and adding to the collections. He claims to be semi-retired, meaning he only works six days a week now.
He listens to the customers and makes their ideas come to life.
“We are here for the long ride,” said co-owner Corinne Brown, who wears several hats in the company. “We have a commitment to being relevant and fun.”
Corrine fondly remembers when her son, in elementary school at the time, was asked what his mom did.
He said: “My mom makes people’s lives beautiful.”
Pantone color trends are largely ignored here, opting instead for neutrals in the larger pieces, as well as returning to tertiary colors, evoking urban colors of life.
ZOLi offers complete design services and also works with the trade. There is special project pricing for designers and architects.
Avi, who strives for the practical, has his designs produced in Italy, Spain and Portugal, such as this sleek ecru leather desk enhanced by wood with the trim, high fashion office chair and movable file cabinet. Photo by Scottie Taylor Iverson
A Woman’s Way to Recovery: Belina Fruitman, a licensed clinical social worker and a level-3 certified addictions counselor, leads Colorado’s only DUI-licensed gender-specific program. Photo by Peter Jones
To hear Belina Fruitman tell it, there really is a woman’s way to recovery—and a woman’s way to suffer in the first place.
“Women tend to deal a lot more with depression, shame and secrecy,” the licensed clinical social worker said. “A lot of the times women who become addicted end up abusing alone.”
And while women, though often struggling in isolation, are generally more inclined than men to seek help, they still do not always do so as quickly as they should.
“I wish people came in here before they get a DUI or before they get a child-neglect charge and all these other consequences come up,” Fruitman said. “… I really believe that people need to find meaning in their life, a sense of purpose. If they don’t have that, why would they even work this hard to manage their mental health or addiction?”
The existential search is one of the most important paths on A Woman’s Way to Recovery, a southeast Denver clinic that boasts Colorado’s only DUI-licensed gender-specific program of its kind. Fruitman, a level-3 certified addictions counselor, opened the practice six years ago with a hands-on approach to guiding her mostly female patients down an often-bumpy road.
“I’m readily available to my clients,” she said. “Everybody knows my cellphone number. I’m very supportive of my clients. I get to know them on a pretty intimate level. I help them see the issues that maybe they don’t recognize yet through posing effective questions. For some people, it’s a radical idea not to open a bottle of gin after a long day. For them, it’s a radical idea to think about trying a yoga class or going on a walk.”
Although Fruitman’s practice is wide ranging in most areas of mental health, she has received particular attention for her group-based DUI program.
“You have to figure out what the carrot is, what’s going to motivate them to engage,” the counselor said, emphasizing that while many of her clients are there on a court order, her approach to positive reinforcement is anything but officious.
“It’s very small and personable. It’s not a typical DUI program at all,” she said. “People are always surprised when they come.”
Perhaps no one has been as surprised as Fruitman, who happened on her career after receiving a bachelor’s degree in business and landing unhappily in the bustle of retail buying.
“I became very disconnected with that whole world,” she said. “It felt very competitive and not nurturing, so I started volunteering with a rape assistance and awareness program. I didn’t even know what social work was.”
Before long, the onetime retailer was earning a graduate degree in social work at the University of Denver. She later managed a mental-health residential program and taught at Metropolitan State University before founding A Woman’s Way to Recovery.
To make sure everyone can find their “way,” Fruitman accepts Medicaid and some health insurance and offers a sliding scale for payment.
“I don’t want to turn anyone away,” she said.
While Fruitman says the stigma of mental health—even for men—has lessened in the last couple of decades, she wishes mental “check-ups” were more common.
“I think we’ve made huge progress over the last several years, but I think there’s more to be done,” she said. “I wish everybody had a therapist to check in with every now and then.”
Cherry Hills Village’s Brian Watson interviews Icelantic Skis CEO Ben Anderson on the aptly titled Mountains of Opportunity television show. Courtesy of Opportunity Coalition
Four years after launching a statewide multi-industry networking and business education organization, Brian Watson has taken it to television.
“I really realized that there are certain parts of our community that aren’t speaking to each other,” the businessman said. “Whether someone’s on the Western Slope, mountains, Front Range, Eastern Plains, whether they’re in business, academia or philanthropy. That’s what birthed the Opportunity Coalition. From that comes Mountains of Opportunity.”
Watson is not just talking endless peaks of business connections—but quite literally, Mountains of Opportunity, his new ultra-concise interview-based television series.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” the Cherry Hills Villager said. “We go throughout the state and share these different stories, whether somebody has one employee or a thousand employees.”
You might call it the ultimate elevator pitch. The 90-second episodes of Mountains of Opportunity can be seen by Comcast customers on a random basis in place of local commercial cutaways on CNN, Fox News and ESPN, among other channels. More intentional viewing is available at opportunitycoalition.com/mountains-of-opportunity.
So far, Watson has profiled the likes of Tony’s Meats and Primus Aerospace, as well as the nonprofit worlds of Urban League and Centennial-based Project CURE. Although preliminary episodes have centered on the Denver area, Watson says future shows have been booked in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Grand Junction.
“I think it’s vital to share these stories,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur and a job creator is not easy. I get to go out and meet amazing people.”
Mountains of Opportunity is essentially a spinoff from Watson’s nonprofit Opportunity Coalition, which hosts regular networking sessions and presentations by Colorado business and nonprofit leaders, from furniture mogul Jake Jabs to Lloyd Lewis of Arc Thrift Stores.
When an executive from Comcast saw potential for a television version, Mountains of Opportunity was born. The real estate investor decided to bankroll the show himself and has no plans to seek sponsorships to defray production or underwriting costs. Watson also serves as host and executive producer. Several segments are produced each month.
“We show up with a TV crew. Comcast has their makeup artists. We record everything right there at their location. I don’t want to do it in the studio. I want to be right there on the manufacturing floor,” he said.
Comcast’s editors cut the roughly one-hour discussion into a succinct minute and a half. Plans are to eventually produce longer versions for the Opportunity Coalition website.
Those profiled are allowed to use the spot on their own sites or other marketing platforms. No money exchanges hands for the decidedly “positive” non-commercial.
Some of the most interesting stories for Watson have been those about unlikely entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses from scratch. Take Golden-based Icelantic Skis, one of the largest ski manufacturers in North America.
“The guy started in his parents’ basement waxing boards and skis and has now grown it up into a great ski company that’s creating great manufacturing jobs and is kind of the essence of Colorado,” Watson said.
On the nonprofit side, the host-producer cites Michelle Sie Whitten, who cofounded Global Down Syndrome Foundation after her daughter was born with the condition.
“Sometimes the beauty of life is the idea of having something happen and all of a sudden becoming part of your profession or your passion,” Watson said.
The passionate CEO of Northstar Commercial Partners is unsure about the future of the series, though he says he would be amenable to expansion into longer formats.
“I’m open-minded about it,” he said. “In the meantime, it’s just been great fun sharing these great stories.”
A client gets a brush down from Gloria Craig at A Fur Stylist. The full-service pet spa also offers nail trimming, paw care, poultry-flavored teeth brushing, and even blueberry facials.
Like the barber on the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” A Fur Stylist boasts photographs of every head the owners have had the pleasure to know—or at least a few of them.
“Some want it round and I’ll go ahead and cut it round,” stylist Gloria Craig said as she toured the wall of pampered dogs donning sunglasses. “The one next to it, the Wheaten—that’s a rounded-out face because she doesn’t like the beard.”
“There’s a picture of a 200-pound St. Bernard,” added Paula Evans, Craig’s business partner. “It takes a long time to get him done. We’ll wash him and dry him and put him in the kennel.”
“So he can take a nap,” Craig said with a laugh.
“Then we’ll bring him back out and dry him some more, brush him out,” Evans added. “The customer’s request is that we go slow so he doesn’t get wiped out.”
Since last September, Craig and Evans have let their new business go to the dogs with a commitment to treat each customer—or furry client, as the case may be—the way they would like to be treated, as long as it is in the healthy interest of the dog or cat in question.
“Sometimes they go out of here in mohawks,” Craig said, citing an example. “The hardest thing we ever did was put a mohawk on a cat.”
In addition to the standard hair fashioning implied by the business name, southeast Denver’s A Fur Stylist offers a wide range of other spa treatments for man’s and woman’s best friend—nail trimming, paw care, poultry-flavored teeth brushing, and even blueberry facials.
“It’s a special soft shampoo,” Craig said. “It kind of lightens the face. It’s all natural. It has essential oils in it to calm and relax the dog.”
The services here are decidedly “old school,” according to the owners, who met nearly 20 years ago and bonded over their mutual love of animals while working as newspaper carriers.
The best part of a bath is drying off. Co-owner Paula Evans does the honors. Photos by Peter Jones
“The ‘new school’ is to shave them down, no matter what the customer says,” Evans said.
The 60-ish partners say they wear the “old school” moniker with pride after having been phased out by newer players in the dog-pampering industry. After Craig survived a bout with breast cancer, she was determined to prove her younger critics wrong.
“Like my good friend Barb says, I’m not six feet under yet,” she said.
With Craig pushed from her job and Evans no longer in charge of a nonprofit no-kill animal shelter, the two decided to tie their leashes to the same pole. The result has been A Fur Stylist, a customer-service-geared beauty shop for dogs and cats (and even a few guinea pigs).
The business is run their way—“old school,” in the nicest sense of the term.
But that is not to say the owners are not hip to the latest styles, Asian fusion, for example.
“They take these little Maltese and they actually make them look like a stuffed animal,” Evans said. “It’s moving from the West Coast.”
Out of style is the standard poodle look with those poofs at the ankles and shoulders.
Still, A Fur Stylist is not all about looking good. The dual stylists spend a lot of time removing really bad perms—you know, that matted hair from lack of brushing. The standard treatment is usually a bath and the equivalent of an unstylish crewcut, but that is better than skin cracking, infections and fungus.
Customers, especially those from states at lower altitudes, are also warned not to have their dog’s hair cut too close to the skin.
“They don’t realize their dog will get sunburned,” Evans said. “If they get sunburned, sometimes their cuts won’t grow back in that spot.”
Although A Fur Stylist will try the latest in tools to be more efficient in such jobs, they more frequently find that the best tool on the belt is the way have been doing it for years.
“We try it and see if it works,” Craig said with a laugh. “But mostly, we go back to the old school.”
Old dogs. New tricks. Pick your own chic at A Fur Stylist.
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