Just off of the east frontage road of Interstate 25 at Highway 14 in Fort Collins now stands a rental company. If you look closely, you can still the semblance of how it used to be a gas station, and how it also used to be Debbie Duz Donuts.

Dennis Cortese, the doughnut shop visionary, is now 75 years old, still lives in the Fort Collins area, and is currently fighting pancreatic cancer. He came into our studios to talk about his legendary spot.

Rental Company Off of I-25
Google Maps

For those not familiar, Debbie Duz Donuts opened in the summer of 1989 as a coffee/doughnut shop that featured topless waitresses. There's no simpler way to put that. It made national news; it made worldwide news. It was open for about a year.

We recently broke down seven stories about Fort Collins that made Fort Collins famous across the country and included Debbie's. After that story published, we got a call from Dennis Cortese, the man who operated the coffee and doughnut shop. I spoke with him for a few minutes and thought it would be great for others to hear his voice telling his story, so I invited him to come in for an interview.

Dennis and Dave
TSM/Dave Jensen

Dennis grew up in Chicago, went to college and got into the heating and air industry. He married, had three boys, and did very well as a businessman; he had some of the largest accounts in the Windy City. After visiting Colorado, he decided he needed to move the family out of the big city and slow down a bit.

In 1982, he moved to outside of Lyons, Colorado, and built up a new heating and air service company, becoming once again, very successful, now in the Fort Collins area. By 1989, he had retired, and had time, money and drive on his hands.

He saw that a gas station had closed by the interstate and was available. Since it was close to the truckers' scales, he thought a little truck stop/coffee shop was a good idea— but not quite big enough of an idea. Then it came to him: "Topless waitresses serving the truckers."

In addition to the coffee, doughnuts and other truck stop items, patrons would pay $25 to have their Polaroid pictures taken with the staff. Truckers got on their CB radios to tell other truckers about the place; local media covered Debbie's; and news of the Fort Collins doughnut shop spread far and wide, quickly.

I really enjoyed talking to Dennis, the man is outgoing, real, and funny. He reminds me of a close friend that I have, only older. You can take a listen to Dennis tell his story, with his great voice, and hear a man talk about achievement, persecution, perseverance, and posterity.

Debbie Duz Donuts - Archival Photos

For those not familiar, Debbie Duz Donuts opened in the summer of 1989 as a coffee/doughnut shop where the waitresses went topless. The shop closed after one year of controversy and international attention.

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