Sid Levin, an owner of Buckhorn Exchange, dies

  • Sid Levin was an owner of the Buckhorn Exchange.
  • He  survived a semi crushing his car while driving on I-25.
  • Mr. Levin, who  joined TV Guide the year it was founded, died on Sunday.
Sid Levin, an owner of the Buckhorn Exchange, died on Sunday. He was 88.

Sid Levin, an owner of the Buckhorn Exchange, died on Sunday. He was 88.

Sidney Levin led quite the life.

The lanky Mr. Levin, known to “Sid” to everyone, was part of a group that bought and saved the historic Buckhorn Exchange restaurant, the proud home of liquor license No. 1 in Denver.

A decade ago, Mr. Levine survived a horrific accident in which a semi-truck trailer careened off an overpass on Interstate 25 and fell on the roof of the Lexus he was driving.

In the early 1950s, near the dawn of the television era in the U.S., Mr. Levin helped build the fledgling TV Guide into a major publication.

On Sunday, Mr. Levin died.

He was 88.

Services will be today at 1 p.m., at the Hebrew Educational Alliance, 3600 S. Ivanhoe St. in Denver. It will be followed by interment at Emanuel Cemetery at Fairmount.

Mr. Levin started his working career as a journalist.

After writing for the Davenport Daily Times in Iowa, he moved to Denver in 1953, where he became the editor of the Western edition of a brand new publication, TV Guide.

That also was the year that the color TV was introduced in the U.S. and the time of an explosive growth of televisions. The number of TVs in the country had grown from 44,000 in 1947 to about 25 million by the time Mr. Levin entered the scene.

Mr. Levin played a role in that explosive growth by helping to build TV Guide into a major publication.

After Walter Annenberg purchased TV Guide, Mr. Levin traded the world of TV for real estate investing.

In 1978, he assembled a partnership including real estate developers Roi Davis and Marvin Naiman and Colorado ski pioneer Steve Knowlton, a ski racer and member of the 10th Mountain Division, to buy the Buckhorn at West 10th Avenue and Osage St.

Sid Levin, who died Sunday, was a long-time owner of the Buckhorn Exchange.

Sid Levin, who died Sunday, was a long-time owner of the Buckhorn Exchange.

The Buckhorn, founded in 1893, was struggling for survival under its original family owners.

“He was part of the two or three guys who first hired me 38 years ago,” recalled Bill Dutton, who started working at the Buckhorn as a bar manager and now is one of the owners.

Mr. Levin, who ate at the Buckhorn for weekly meetings since buying it, proved a master at reconciling differences among the various owners, especially those who were passive investors, Dutton said.

For example, Mr. Davis championed providing workers with health benefits, something they didn’t have to do and few restaurants offered.

“Some of the owners looked at the p&l (profit and loss) statements and thought it was too expensive,” Dutton said.

However, Mr. Levin thought it would help retain employees and he was right.

“We have employees who have worked at the Buckhorn for well over 20 years,” Dutton said.

The Buckhorn, which early on had been a tavern, paycheck exchange and house of prostitution beside the railyards a mile south of Larimer Street, thrived under its renewal by Mr. Levin and his partners.

They marketed a history that highlighted its guns and other western memorabilia, including photos of famous patrons such as Buffalo Bill and President Teddy Roosevelt.

By the 1990s, its buffalo steaks and other exotic game fare had drawn an international clientele, prompting Mr. Levin to print a menu in Japanese.

After the Buckhorn acquisition, Mr. Levin and his partners purchased the historic Carnegie Library building in downtown Littleton.

Sid Levin was one of the owners of this historic building in downtown Littleton.

Sid Levin was one of the owners of this historic building in downtown Littleton.

In 1986, they opened the Kandahar, a ski-themed restaurant celebrating Colorado’s 10th Mountain in the library building that had been designed by famed Denver architect Jacques Benedict.

The building, now leased as the Melting Pot restaurant, is still owned by the partnership.

He also was involved in preserving buildings along Denver’s 16th Street Mall, including the Symes and University Buildings at Champa Street.

Mr. Levin was born April 11, 1927, in Kansas City, Kansas.

He spent his early years in Minneapolis.

In 1945 he served in the U.S. Army, one of 35,000 American Jews to serve during the war against Nazi Germany.

Although he was in the infantry, because of his age, he entered the Army near the end of the war and did not see combat.

After the Army, he earned a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota.

In November 2005, he found himself making headlines, not writing them, as he had done in his younger years.

On a Saturday morning, he was driving along I-25 to pick up a tuna salad from a delicatessen, when a semi fell of the I-25 overpass at Belleview Avenue, during the T-Rex light rail construction.

The semi flattened his car.

He suffered a fractured neck, five broken ribs, a busted collarbone and a concussion.

Mr. Levin was reluctant to describe it as a miracle that he lived, although many did.

“I personally have a problem with the word,” Mr. Levin told reporters at a hospital news conference, following months of recovery.

“I don’t believe in miracles. I don’t believe in coincidences.”

Upon reflection, he had second thoughts.

“Use whatever word you want. I think it was a miracle.”

Following his recuperation Mr. Levin authored what sounds like an autobiographical novel.

The unpublished 650-page tome, The Rest Is Silence, follows two brothers growing up in a poor Jewish neighborhood in Minneapolis, as the Second World War was gathering

However, the I-25 accident wasn’t his only scrape with death.

“He was vey much a guy with nine lives,” said Mark Samuelson, who writes a popular real estate column for the Denver Post and was Mr. Levin’s son-in-law.

When he was 83 or 84, he was thrown off a treadmill at the Greenwood Athletic Club, Samuelson said.

He broke so many bones in the fall that family members weren’t sure he would recover.

His father-in-law also had numerous bouts with pneumonia, “that would have killed just about anyone else,” Samuelson said.

“Finally on Sunday, his luck ran out,” Samuelson said.

Mr. Levin is survived by his wife of 64 years, Renae Dechter Levin; son, Bradley A. Levin and his wife Patti Jo Robinson; daughter, Beth and her husband, Samuelson; son, Ted Levin and his wife,Jenifer Crolius Levin; daughter, Laure Levin and her husband, Gary Rand; Sid’s brother, Irving Levin of Minneapolis; and nine grandchildren.

Mr. Levin was the last surviving member of the original group that bought the Buckhorn, Dutton said.

“He will be missed,” he said.

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.




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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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