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Meet Richard Birnie and Ronald Wenger of The Orphanage, LLC in Yuma

Today we’d like to introduce you to Richard Birnie and Ronald Wenger.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Richard and Ronald. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born and raised in Bloomfield, NJ – Tony Soprano territory. I went to Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ to graduate with a degree in Biology and worked for two Chemical Companies in their Agrochemical Divisions before moving to Denver to earn a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at CU Denver. In 1995, I met Ron. We lived together in Denver for several years and moved to Yuma in 2004. Ron was born and raised in Yuma, CO and went to Yuma High School. He graduated with a certificate in Automotive Technology from Northwest Kansas Technical College (NWKTC) in Goodland, KS taught at NWKTC for two years and opened Ron’s Car Care in 1977 after returning to Yuma.

Has it been a smooth road?
For the most part, the road to where we are today was smooth. Ron, repairing all types of vehicles and collecting and restoring vintage cars much of his life and I, approaching the “hobby” from the aesthetic end, it was a good fit. Neither Ron nor I had any experience renovating a commercial space before The Orphanage. But we started with a vision and a great team of local contractors who were willing to listen to our crazy ideas and experiment along with us. Once finished, we couldn’t help but comment that the place looked the way we imagined it nine months prior.

While sitting in the finished Orphanage, I was reading a book called Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. It’s a book about another kind of renovation, and a quote stood out to me; “An accomplishment out of the fullness of our ignorance.” That seemed appropriate.

Tell us more about the business.
The Orphanage was created, ostensibly, through a need for additional car storage. We ran out of space at Ron’s Car Care, but the cars didn’t stop coming, at a certain point, vintage cars start finding you. The beautiful mid-century building at 300 S. Main Street, directly across from Car Care, came on the market in mid-2017 and a nine-months renovation commenced.

Our eccentric collection is made up of mostly orphan cars, thus the name The Orphanage. A generally accepted definition of an orphan car is one whose manufacturer is no longer in business. Over the years, the definition has been broadened to include brands no longer made by the big three. Some even consider discontinued models to be orphans.

Not only does The Orphanage have vintage cars on permanent display, but it is also a revolving showcase for the works of local and regional artists who display in, on and around the cars. In the past, we have exhibited local photographers, mixed media and textile artists and sculptors.

The Orphanage is also a relaxed venue, available for events with up to 130 guests. We have hosted anniversaries, business meetings, high school reunions and other community functions – like the Yuma High School prom last May. We have a small kitchen from which caterers can serve, or the events can be potluck. Audiovisual equipment is included as well as a baby grand piano for those guests who are musically inclined.

The Orphanage joins several other new businesses on Main St. in Yuma, including a small craft brewery, flower shop, three clothing shops, a children’s retailer and a dog groomer. Go online, at orphanageyuma.com, check out our links for other things to do while you are in Northeast Colorado and see which car museums we think are cool.

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Meet Denver Series Sponsor:

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Voyage Denver

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