McDonald’s restaurants in Northwest Colorado to change hands on April 1 | CraigDailyPress.com

McDonald’s restaurants in Northwest Colorado to change hands on April 1

In this 2012 photo

— McDonald’s fast-food restaurants in Craig, Steamboat, Granby and Winter Park will have new owners April 1 as the current owner sells ahead of retirement though operations will remain much the same.

"I've been doing this for 42 years, 33 of those in Craig," said Owner and Operator Chris Nichols.

Retirement is coming a little sooner than expected for Nichols and his partner Brenda Elsbree, director of operations for their restaurants.

"It's a little earlier than expected, but when an opportunity comes along you have to take it," he said.

Opportunity arrived when existing McDonald’s franchise owners, Paul Nelson and his son James Nelson of Glenwood Springs offered to purchase the four restaurants.

The Nelsons own nine McDonald's restaurants, mostly along the I-70 corridor, but also in Delta, Salida and Gunnison. The addition of Nichols stores will bring their total to 13.

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"My father started as a crew person at the age of 16 and has been with McDonald’s for 31 years," James Nelson said.

Once the deal closes, both Nichols and Elsbree will retire, but their teams are expected to stay.

"We are not planning on making any changes. Chris runs great stores, and it's something we are really excited to takeover and pick-up where he's left off," James Nelson said.

The Nelsons feel blessed by the company and the communities they serve and expect to give back.

"Chris has done such an outstanding job being active in the Craig community and we want to continue what he's done so well and to give back to the community," James Nelson said.

Nichols and Elsbree intend to stay in Craig.

"We are still going to be in town and will see our old friends and customers," Nichols said. "I'm running for city council and if I'm elected I will have time to focus on that work."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.