Loving His Job: From Finance to Ice Cream
Issue   |   Fri, 11/11/2016 - 03:25
Diane Lee‘19
At Amherst, Chris Bock majored in history and took advantage of the liberal arts curriculum.

Beneath his name on his business card, Chris Bock ’92 has the title “Gray Hair.” Once a two-season student-athlete at the College, Bock spent close to 20 years in finance in New York and Denver. He now uses his financial acumen and experience to invest in local businesses, notably Stem Ciders and his family’s business, Glacier Homemade Ice Cream and Gelato.
His biggest advice for Amherst students is: “reassess and don’t be afraid to try something new.”

From the high-powered financial world to small town Colorado, Bock’s adventurous attitude has led him to pursue his personal passions, advance his professional skills and still have time to drive his kids to school.

Changing Course at Amherst
A Colorado native, Bock wanted to play hockey in college and saw Amherst’s balanced athletic and academic programs as a significant draw. He eventually played for both the hockey and lacrosse teams on campus and initially pursued the pre-med track. He looked forward to medical school until he took the course History of Medicine with Professor John Servos.

“It’s funny. I almost completed the pre-med requirements, but I enjoyed history so much and wanted to follow the liberal arts idea of taking courses that spoke to me,” he said, “The flexibility to take courses in whatever disciplines is what makes Amherst great.”

After graduating as a history major in 1992, Bock went to New York in search of a job. He landed an offer at a small investment bank, Hambro Resource Development, a few months after graduation. After working there, he moved to National Westminister Bank as an analyst.

“The single greatest thing Amherst taught me was to write. I became a great writer and a good communicator. The quantitative elements always came naturally for me, so I was able to apply those skills together in order to succeed within the finance realm,” he said.

After five years in New York, Bock decided to move back to Colorado where outdoor activities like skiing and biking were more readily available. Initially jobless, he eventually joined KRG Capital Partners a year after the company’s founding as its first professional hire. During his 15 years there, Bock saw the firm grow to 50 employees that managed close to four billion dollars of capital.

“It was a very fun, very exciting time of my life. But it was also very exhausting – there was always lots of travel, lots of hours.”

Bock’s life took a turn when he got married in 2002 to a high school classmate.

“My wife was looking to get into the working world, and I was actually burnt out. After some period of time, I had to decide what I really wanted.”

Ice Cream, Cider and More
In 2012, Bock decided to resign from KRG and found himself scooping ice cream instead.

Two self-proclaimed lifelong ice cream lovers, Bock’s father and wife, Sarah, started a local ice cream shop in Denver. They had seen a bigger market for homemade ice cream in the area and wanted to explore the growing trend.

In addition to installing shelves and scooping ice cream, Bock “became the financial mind behind the operation,” Sarah said.
Offering gelato made with fresh ingredients, Glacier Homemade Ice Cream and Gelato is now opening its third shop in Denver, and it aspires to grow to seven-10 stores and solidify a local presence.

“Unlike at KRG, starting at a grassroots level in business means that all your decisions will impact what you do next week, next month and even next year. So it’s a lot more personal and a little more intense. But, it’s also a lot more fun and much more meaningful.”

In addition to Glacier, Bock’s latest project involves something he and his peers cared deeply about at Amherst: alcohol. Bock actually brewed his own beer during his Amherst days with some dorm mates, but he quickly discovered that he was not a “world class brewer.” (Nobody took the beer.)

Bock is now part of the board of managers at Stem Cider, a local hard cider brewery in Denver where brewing is a big trend. At first, Bock thought the market was too saturated, but a friend introduced him to Stem, and he began investing in the company in January.

“Their position in the market is really interesting. Cider is now growing at a pace that microbreweries were 15 years ago. It’s in the high growth early phase and Stem definitely has the opportunity to be the cider company in the area.”
As a “Gray Hair,” Bock spends 10-15 hours a week advising Stem’s finances and negotiations in addition to investing in the company. One of his most recent contributions was communicating with banks in the construction of the company’s new production facility.

“I’m a little more seasoned and older, so I give them the benefit of experience. It’s a lot more free form than what I was doing before, and I really enjoy that,” Bock said.

“In addition to his knowledge of finance, Chris is just a great guy to work with. I’ve been in the business for a while, and there are a lot of different people I’ve worked with. Chris is a true pleasure to be around. He’s laid back and easy to talk to,” Stem’s Founder and CEO Eric Foster said.

Hockey Dad Next Door
In addition to Glacier and Stem, Bock looks to continue exploring how he can help companies grow. He seeks to work on two to three companies at a time.

When he isn’t busy building companies, Bock is a stay-at-home dad. In addition to driving his children to school, he serves on the board of his children’s private school. He also uses his experience as a hockey player to coach at the local rink at night.
“I think my life right now suits me very well. I didn’t like the long hours and travel at KRG, and eliminating that travel has been great. I’ve had the flexibility to do what I love.”

In this day and age it may be hard to do what you love, but Bock offered some optimistic advice: “It’s really hard to leave a job that pays reasonably well, but I couldn’t have been happier with the way that it turned out. Just keep your eyes open for what you want, and it’ll lead you to what you love,” he said with a smile.