[Colorado-talk] Denver Business Journal Article on Randall Crosby

Dan Burke burke.dall at gmail.com
Fri Jun 6 21:13:19 UTC 2014

Nice article - here's the link if you want to comment on the article,
but I've pasted the entire article below it as well.



More on the cover story: Being blind doesn't mean you can't be in
business - Denver Business Journal

>From the Denver Business Journal


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Click to Print Now
Jun 3, 2014, 4:05am MDT

More on the cover story: Being blind doesn't mean you can't be in business
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L. Wayne Hicks | Denver Business Journal

Randall Crosby, at Crosby's Cafe, 1525 Sherman St., Denver

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L. Wayne Hicks
Associate Editor- Denver Business Journal
Cultural Attache blog
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Randall Crosby
 relies on trust and technology to get through the day.

Crosby, an entrepreneur who happens to be blind, operates two downtown
Denver cafeterias, both named Crosby's Cafe. One, in the basement of
the state Capitol
building, is small -- just 600 square feet. The other, on the first
floor of the State Services Building at 1525 Sherman St., measures
3,200 square feet.

With five employees, including wife Patty and their daughter,
Stephanie, Crosby manages to do something he wasn't sure he would ever
be able to do again:

See Also
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* DBJ cover story: Workers with disabilities are breaking barriers
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Diagnosed at age 8 with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye
disease, Crosby had relatively normal vision for most of his youth.
Night blindness and
a loss of his peripheral vision were the biggest problems.

He worked on his family's farm in Florida, got a job after high school
in the purchasing department of a Marriott hotel in Naples, married
and had two
children. But at age 27, he had to give up driving and then his job
when his vision worsened.

"I walked out of the human resources office at Marriott in 1989,
telling myself, 'You'll never have a job again. Ever. Nobody's going
to hire you because
you're blind'," recalled Crosby, now 53.

Crosby stayed home for the next 18 months, taking care of his son and daughter.

"I was Mr. Mom," he said. "I was there for my kids. To stay home, that
was my role. My wife had to take on the role of earning the income and
paying the
bills, paying for our modest home and car payments and keeping us
above water. She did that so effectively and well."

Then, Crosby said, he heard about "this amazing program." The program,
under the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936 -- signed into law by President
Franklin D. Roosevelt
 -- creates an opportunity for blind people to own and operate
cafeterias in government buildings.

"Instead of being on unemployment or disability ... we are owners of
businesses that not only employ ourselves, we employ other people as
well," Crosby said.

Crosby applied for and was accepted into the program. For eight years,
until the contract was canceled in 1998, he operated a cafeteria at a
technical college in Naples. He was invited to try for another
location and wound up in Merritt Island, at the Kennedy Space Center.

Crosby would be there still were it not for the end of the space
shuttle program. NASA ended the shuttle program in 2011, prompting the
elimination of
about 7,000 jobs. Over the course of about two months, sales at
Crosby's cafeteria at Kennedy Space Center fell by 70 percent.

Crosby's time among NASA's best and brightest is visible in his two
cafeterias. A framed miniature flag that was flown aboard the shuttle
Atlantis' last
flight hangs in the state Capitol location. Autographed photos of
astronauts are on display in his larger cafe across the street.

Even more interesting are the framed articles about Crosby's
accomplishments as a runner. Crosby has competed in more than 70
races, including 5Ks, marathons
and triathlons. He was completely blind when he started running,
having lost the last of his vision seven years ago and learned to
navigate by use of a
white cane.

"It wasn't usable sight," Crosby said. "It wasn't doing me any good,
other than psychologically it was telling me I still had sight. I
could see the blue
sky and the green grass, but I couldn't see people. I wasn't able to
drive or walk around around without using a cane. But in my mind I had
sight still.
I became totally blind. That very day and moment it happened, I knew.
It was a huge loss. You might as well have cut my leg or my arm off,
it was that
significant. Even though I knew it was coming all these years, it was
very traumatic when it happened."

Crosby ran his first race, on the shuttle landing strip, in October
2006, only after prompting by
George "Gabe" Gabrielle,
an engineer at the Kennedy Space Center. Crosby had been navigating
his neighborhood using a cane. Working up to the race, Gabrielle got
Crosby to leave
his cane at home, walk with him through the neighborhood and then jog
alongside him.

"That's part of the Kennedy Space Center experience," Crosby said.
"The mindset is you can do anything."

He ran the 5K, and it was slow going. But Crosby was hooked on running
after he crossed the finish line, where he was cheered, his hand
shaken and his
back slapped.

(About 11 months later, for another race on the shuttle landing strip,
Gabrielle ran blindfolded to get a sense of what Crosby faced.)

Crosby continued to run with Gabrielle as his guide; he was the only
person he trusted at first to guide him. Now Crosby often shows up for
a race not
knowing who will be his guide.

"I really evolved greatly on the trust issue," he said.

Crosby and his wife moved to Colorado two years ago; their daughter
was already here. Crosby took over both the Capitol and the 1525
Sherman St. cafes
in November 2012. But the Sherman Street location was closed for about
10 months for a complete remodel after the Colorado Department of Law
vacated the
building for the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in January 2013.

Crosby spends most of his time at the 1525 Sherman St. location;
business drops by about 80 percent at the Capitol cafe once the
120-day legislative session
ends in early May.

Technology enables Crosby to run the cash register. A scanner attached
to an iPad reads the bar code and audibly tells Crosby the price. But
he has to
trust his customers to give him the right amount of money. Coins feel
different from each other; paper money doesn't.

Crosby said he doesn't know what he would have wound up doing if he
hadn't come across the program that allowed him to become an
entrepreneur. But he's
glad he did, and Crosby is willing to take on a third location if one
becomes available.

"I would be open to it," he said.

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L. Wayne Hicks is associate editor of the Denver Business Journal,
writes the "Cultural Attache" blog, and compiles the daily "Morning
Edition" email.
Phone: 303-803-9221.
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Dan Burke
My Cell:  406.546.8546
Twitter:  @DallDonal

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