As you stroll down Durango’s iconic main street in the fading light of a summer evening, look for the tree glowing through the front windows of one of Durango’s favorite establishments. Its luminous white leaves give an air of inviting novelty to the refined space located at 725 Main Avenue. Derailed Pour House has recently undergone its seventh remodel in the 10 years since its opening. This latest redesign also included changes to the outdoor seating area, just in time for the summer patio season. Owner Lisa Gibson admits that the constant changes are a bit of an addiction. Every year she attends the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas and she comes back with tons of new ideas. Like the sunlight gleaming through the windows overlooking Main Avenue, Lisa beamed and said simply, “I love what I do.” She looked around the room, smiling at the recent additions. “I love the fact that people enjoy the space. It’s like throwing a house party every day.”
Lisa lives to create an experience. From the moment she first purchased the business from Toby Peterson back when it was Farquahrts, Lisa has made it her mission to turn this into a hangout people are excited to frequent. This goal is evident in every detail from the modish décor to the beautifully handcrafted beverages. To get the full experience, Lisa recommends that guests order one of the porthole infusions. The drink is served in a clear, glass flask, the porthole, and is perfect for sharing. This handcrafted vessel is chock-full of a myriad of ingredients that varies each day. Beautifully vibrant flowers and freshly sliced summer citrus are hand-chosen for the intricate flavor they will bring to the day’s craft liquor of choice. The taste of each drinkable bouquet continues to evolve with time so that no two sips will ever be the same.
And like the evolution of the porthole infusions, so too has Derailed experienced its own evolutions. “In January 2009, I opened as a college bar,” Lisa explained. It was named Derailed Saloon because of its proximity to the railroad, which runs right behind the bar. “We were a beer and a shot bar, and I thought that was going to be the market. That was the scene. I did that for about a year.” Then Lisa realized that she wanted a more mature clientele.
It has been quite a journey from draft beers for college students to luscious mélanges for the cocktail connoisseurs, but Lisa has enjoyed every minute of it. “It’s fun to open a bar. It’s fun to remodel,” she said, thinking about Derailed’s transformations over the past decade. “We evolved, and every time we remodeled, I added something cozier or more inviting toward food,” she said. Lisa’s vision changed and she began working toward something more sustain-able and appealing to a wider range of patrons.
Through all the changes and evolutions, Lisa has maintained her dedication to welcoming the local market. She recognizes the importance of giving back to the community and to creating a space where locals want to congregate. Ever since they first fell in love with Durango in the early 90s, Lisa and her husband Todd have thrown themselves into the community. They started by owning a vacation home at Purgatory but eventually bought property and a house in Bayfield. Todd was a member of the Pine River Volunteer Fire Department and helped fight the Missionary Ridge Fire in 2002, and their son Grant was born and raised here.
“When I started this, back in the day, there weren’t this many restaurants,” Lisa recalled. “There weren’t this many liquor licenses. I felt like I was getting involved in a community.” Over the years, that dedication to the community has dictated many of Lisa’s business decisions as she has developed Derailed Pour House into the place it is today. It starts with the staff, Lisa explained. “My philosophy has always been that I am only as good as my people. I put a lot of stake in my staff, and a lot of appreciation.”
She has tried to draw from her own experiences as a young professional in the retail industry. She remembers being underappreciated in Chicago in the corporate retail world and struggling to support herself. Lisa strives to create a much better experience for her employees now. She respects them and acknowledges that they are the ones out on the floor every day, interacting with customers and hearing feedback firsthand. She gives them a lot of power.
“I am not the type of owner that is like, ’it’s going to be done like this.’ With the exception of rules and policies, they can come up with their own ideas,” Lisa said, adding that employees are welcome to invent appetizers or suggest ways to improve service. “I give my staff the freedom to create,” she said. “All of these drinks that we have on our menu are all from staff. Every bartender gets to come in and have their own drink. They come up with the name and we put it on the menu.”
Even when it comes to entertainment, Lisa tries to keep it within the community. Derailed has a small stage, and throughout the summer different musicians perform five or six nights a week. She prefers to keep it simple with a small acoustic setup rather than full bands because of the atmosphere, and as always, she strives to keep it local. Lisa has also carried her commitment to the community into the details of the menu. “I want to cater to the working class and the people who are actually working their tails off,” Lisa said. “If they want to go out on a Friday night and have a good time, they should be able to.” She strives to strike a balance between affordability and quality. She acknowledges that while price is a factor, many of the members in this community are also particularly conscious of their own health as well as the health of the environment. From the quality food to the engaging atmosphere, Lisa’s dream of building a cool local hangout has paid off. She has created a unique and inviting bar/restaurant that is fun and welcoming for everyone.
“We have pub food, but it’s all handmade every day. I want to offer food that is affordable, but also we know that young people are being better with their bodies and they are looking for better quality.” - Lisa Gibson
Story written by: Sara Knight Photos Provided by: Grant Gibson