How Colton Shoults is Leading the Restaurant Industry and Beyond

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12 mins read
Colton Shoults, Owner of The CraftCade

Colton Shoults wasn’t always a business restauranteur and entrepreneur. Before launching multiple business ventures, Shoults was a product manager for a large industrial contractor. Despite beginning his career on an alternative path, Shoults had a certain entrepreneurial mindset that placed him on the road to success. Today, Shoults operates a multitude of businesses across the Bismarck-Mandan area, including Grand Junction Grilled Subs, Laughing Sun Brewing Co., The CraftCade, Northern Immersion and more.

Shoults’ History and Rise to Success

Years ago, Shoults may not have strived for technical training in the restaurant industry. However, that’s not to say he had any less of a reason for pursuing the position that he’s in today.

“I love eating, being hospitable and interacting with and meeting new people. I also love creating a good experience for somebody and making their day a little brighter. To be honest, I truly don’t enjoy cooking food at all; it’s a nuisance to me,” Shoults said. “I’m a very methodical thinker and like to reverse engineer things, implement processes and see what works.

With Grand Junction, I saw an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often that I knew I had to jump at, so I dove in headfirst. I love being able to interact with customers, solve problems and work with a solid team in the restaurant industry for long hours. It’s really rewarding for me.” With multiple restaurants taking off the ground and finding a unique niche in the Bismarck-Mandan restaurant market, it was safe to say that things were going well. That is, until the pandemic turned the world, and restaurant industry, upside down. Despite taking a hit at first, it became evident that Shoults was willing to take risks to find success during uncertain times.

“2021, surprisingly, ended up being a record year for Grand Junction, Laughing Sun Brewing Co. and The CraftCade. We bounced back really strong after that first wave in the economy. Within Laughing Sun, one of the best things that we did during the pandemic was get creative with axe-throwing lanes, which proved to be extremely successful and cost-efficient,” Shoults said. “Our profit margin was impressive, since the weapons and lumber were low-cost, and we already had the real estate for it. We had to learn a few new things, such as booking software and safety precautions for customers, and there’s some time and money invested with additional insurance costs, but this is all relatively low compared to other aspects of the business. It was the perfect strategy that we came up with during COVID and it luckily really paid off.”

Highlighting Colton Shoults’ Many Business Ventures

Grand Junction Grilled Subs

Grand Junction Grilled Subs was first started by a Vietnamese immigrant named Vu Truong in Fargo, ND. Once Shoults tried and fell for the Grand Junction recipes and business model, the two teamed up with plans to franchise the business.

No matter how solid a business plan someone may think they have, it can still be painstakingly challenging to get a business off the ground. When Shoults was beginning his business venture into Grand Junction Grilled Subs’ franchising, there were countless obstacles to overcome, both big and small. “When we first started out, we originally began being funded by the banks for capital. I was turned down by two separate banks before the third one took us up on a chance with our first Grand Junction,” Shoults said.

Today, there are eight locations across the Midwest, ranging from the Fargo-Moorhead and Bismarck-Mandan areas to Grand Forks and beyond. Despite the success that came from spreading the Grand Junction brand across the Midwest, Shoults didn’t stop with one bold business venture.

Did You Know?
“All of Grand Junction’s fries are freshcut. I think of all the potatoes that we’ve cut by hand and how it would be so much easier to buy a bag of frozen fries, but that’s not what we’re here to do. We advertise quality food and it’s important that we deliver on that promise.” – Colton Shoults

Laughing Sun Brewing Co.

Laughing Sun Brewing Co. offers plenty of indoor and outdoor seating for even the busiest of days in the warmer months.

Laughing Sun Brewing Co. is a brewery and BBQ restaurant located in downtown Bismarck. With a wide variety of brew flavors and meal selections, live music and axe-throwing lanes, Laughing Sun Brewing Co. has developed notoriety across the Bis-Man community.

While Shoults, his partners and his employees have all seen immense growth and success over the past year despite a radically-changed economy, there’s no cause for celebration just yet. Shoults detailed some of the many plans that he has in store for the ever-increasing Laughing Sun Brewing Co. empire.

“I plan to focus on increasing the businesses that we have. Laughing Sun Brewing is now distributing in four states; North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota. We’ve got plenty of room for growth across the country, so the sky’s the limit with the brewery. We can be everywhere in essence,” Shoults said.

Looking beyond the goals of distribution and sales, Shoults has some impressive plans up his sleeve for the physical space in Bismarck. “We have some exciting plans of purchasing the building when the time is right. We’re going to be moving the brewery to the other side of the building and relocating the stage to the NE corner. It’ll be much bigger with a private green room for the bigger artists that we’re booking. That way, we can have much bigger shows and increase the venue capacity to roughly 500 people,” Shoults said. “Right now, we just don’t have the space to be able to fully open up and be the venue that we want to be. With this expansion, we’ll be able to do bigger events and have bigger artists. We truly feel like it will be the best music venue in town. I feel that Bismarck is lacking in music venues when compared to Fargo and we want Laughing Sun to fill that gap. We’re looking forward to essentially doubling the size of Laughing Sun Brewing as part of our three-year plan. Last year may have been the best year that we’ve had at Laughing Sun, and we’re poised to beat it this year, so it’s something exciting to be a part of, but it’s going to be a really special place by 2025.”

Laughing Sun is known for far more than just their brews. They’re also known for their food, live music and weekly events!

Did You Know?
Laughing Sun Brewing often partners with different organizations for events for custom products. They create custom beer and labels for any event ranging from alumni events to golf tournaments. For anyone interested in taking their event to the next level and with their own branded beer, Laughing Sun Brewing Co. will work with them on what beer they want and then we have our in-house graphic designer making an optimum label with their brand.

The CraftCade

The CraftCade offers a self-serve beer wall, where customers can serve as much as they’d like by the ounce, blend flavors and make each drink customized to your taste!

The CraftCade, a popular restaurant and bar in downtown Bismarck, opened in the Spring of 2019 to immense praise for its unique dining and retro-styled entertainment concept. The restaurant offers the same premium flavor that his other ventures carry, yet brings a wildly different range of meals, beverages and experiences to the customers.

“The CraftCade is very well-known for its arcade lineup. We have a wide range of titles, both old and new, that grab everyone’s attention. From sci-fi games to racers and classic throwbacks, all of the games are getting plenty of use in the restaurant,” Shoults said.

Within a few months of opening, The CraftCade was voted “Best Place to Have a Beer” by the Bismarck-Mandan community, and placed second for “Best Place to have a Date”. In 2021, The CractCade was voted “Best Pizza” in the Bismarck-Mandan area.

Did You Know?
While The CraftCade is a 21+ older establishment during the majority of business hours, they do offer Sunday Family Fundays, in which the food and games are available for all ages.

The CraftCade offers a self-serve beer wall, where customers can serve as much as they’d like by the ounce, blend flavors and make each drink customized to your taste!

Did You Know?
“At The CraftCade, we have a second floor upstairs that can be rented out and reserved for closed, private events. The area is filled with plenty of seating and fun games that everyone can play. It’s a great spot for 40 people to get together and celebrate, meet up or any other reason for gathering.” – Colton Shoults

Northern Immersion

Shoults behind the scenes of the Laughing Sun Brewery, which will look radically different in the coming years.

In addition to his long list of successful restaurant models, Shoults set forth on a new path that led him to something wildly different. Founded in 2022, Northern Immersion is a Bitcoin mining company that installs and services data centers to utilize North Dakota’s flare gas and transform that energy. “I started my company when I saw a fantastic opportunity here in North Dakota. In my opinion, North Dakota is going to be a top three Bitcoin mining state in the country. Bitcoin mining uses these high-powered computers that utilize a lot of energy,” Shoults said.

The Bitcoin industry is relatively new when compared to other aspects of the economy. Despite this, Shoults is taking his knowledge and breaking new ground. Using forward-thinking techniques, Northern Immersion is on the rise and paving the way for other companies with their immersion cooling technology for Bitcoin mining.

“We’re focused on capturing stranded energy. When gas is flared, it puts methane into the atmosphere. We capture that gas, run it through a natural gas generator and we’re able to then harness that energy,” Shoults said. “We then capture that energy and use significant amounts of it to run the Bitcoin miners. We work with a gas capture energy expert, a power generation expert and we have the data mining center. We created this effective solution and partnered with the best in the industry.”

While Shoults may not have been the first to dive into the world of cryptocurrency, he did pick up the trend earlier than most, allowing him to have a leg up in the field on others.

“I’ve always been very aware of what North Dakota has to offer. There are only about three of us locally that are serious about taking this to the next level while these big companies are coming in. I’m in a group with these other local miners that are passionate about coming together, collaborating and doing wonderful things for North Dakota,” Shoults said. “Interestingly enough, the reason why we got into this is that all of our restaurants are mining Bitcoin. Having Bitcoin exposure at all of the businesses has brought forth many benefits. Instead of our operating capital sitting in a bank account and losing value due to inflation, we instead have put that cash to work to mine an asset that has a finite supply and can’t be inflated. Bitcoin is also classified as digital property so any gains are taxed as capital gains instead of the more costly income tax.”

Having studied the ins and outs of the industry, Shoults encourages everyone to, at the very least, look into the industry and consider implementing it within their business to a certain extent.

“I highly recommend that North Dakota business owners try to understand what Bitcoin is. Northern Immersion will probably have some opportunities down the road for North Dakota business investors to get involved,” Shoults said. “Our mining operations are strictly going to be in North Dakota, as we’re 100% focused on working with local people that want to see their community succeed. Once we get the next few steps in place, we’re going to have a very solid model that we can open up to North Dakotans and give them an opportunity to get involved.”

A Substantial Success!
Recently, Northern Immersion closed on two deals that allowed them to launch two new mining sites with 600 Bitcoin miners under their management.

Looking Ahead
“Our goal for the end of the year is to be mining 5 megawatts, with a goal of mining an additional 20 megawatts with 5,000 Bitcoin miners by the end of 2023.” – Colton Shoults

Keys Please Properties

Keys Please Properties is a 47-unit trailer park that’s professionally managed by a local property management company. While the property is an impressive asset, it was a long road for Shoults to work his way up to owning that large of an investment.

“I purchased my first duplex when I got my National Guard bonus at 21 years old. Once the deal went through, I completely renovated it myself while working full-time to afford school. Naturally, that evolved into another duplex and another after that,” Shoults said.

When Shoults decided to sell his portfolio of duplexes, he had an interesting idea of what to do with them.

“I decided to sell my portfolio of duplexes to my managers within our different business models and brands to help them get into an asset where they can be business owners through renting,” Shoults said. “I truly believe that if you create opportunity for others, that creates opportunity for yourself in return. That’s what I did with those duplexes, which led to Keys Please Properties in September of 2014. We wanted to diversify into something that we felt was recession-proof.”

Shoults’ Business Advice

Shoults behind the scenes of the Laughing Sun Brewery, which will look radically different in the coming years.

Over the years, Shoults has picked up a wide range of business tips and advice from his entrepreneurial journey. While some may have been learned from mentors or others that influenced him, much was developed through trial and error, personal experiences and overcoming obstacles on his path.

1. Surround yourself with the right people

I tried to position myself around people that push each other to be better, work well together and offer a very unique skill set. With all of these different restaurants and ventures, we’ve basically built this nucleus of North Dakota business leaders that are seriously some of the best in the state’s restaurant industry, in my opinion. There’s not a single restaurant concept you could throw at us that we wouldn’t execute at a high level. Every brand has two to three core members running the specific business and then some oversee the array of operations. We have a core that I’m really proud of and I think that’s the most important aspect of our success.

2. Show your circle mutual trust

All of these brands are essentially housed under the same ownership, so we have the ability to shift willing people around that are involved in multiple of them. For example, my brother, Jared, is a partner in both Laughing Sun Brewing Co. and Grand Junction. James is a partner with me at Laughing Sun, as well as a partner in The CraftCade. We’re able to grab people from one system and bring them to another if they’re up for the challenge. As they start to do that, pay naturally increases for them. We have intelligent, hardworking and smart people within each business and their track record is only proving what’s going to come next for us. By collaborating with a reliable support system, we’ve found some amazing ways to create more revenue, create a better culture, make new menu items and continue opening other businesses. I have full faith in them and confidence that everything is handled. If a situation does work its way up to me, it’s usually a major situation that needs my attention to be taken care of.

3. Don’t let a lack of capital scare you

Don’t focus so much on the capital that you need to make something happen. You shouldn’t get intimidated by capital, but there’s always somebody out there that does. Oftentimes, people will get stuck when they start crunching the numbers and realize how expensive it could be. It’s important to really focus on your business plan and how you’re going to execute that idea. I think there are a lot of younger, aspiring entrepreneurs that have great ideas, but they stop before they execute them, which is everything.

4. Connections are critical

You also have to be connected to a certain degree to make a name for yourself. You have to have some connections and try to reach out to other people that you can learn from. If they see that you have a legitimate business plan, have a good business mindset and your idea has merit in the marketplace, everything else will follow suit. When it comes to any young entrepreneur, they have to follow it all the way through. If you have the right connections and mentors, you’ll be blown away by the doors that open. You just have to be open-minded, pursue that opportunity and reap the benefits of your hard work in due time.

While it’s evident that Shoults has made great strides in the Bismarck-Mandan business community and beyond in recent years, it’s also clear that he’s not slowing down. With plans to expand his existing businesses and improve on those for customers and clients, there’s plenty to be excited about in the near future for Shoults and his endeavors.

Support Grand Junction (Bismarck)

Phone: (701) 751-0375
Email: [email protected]
Web: grandjunctionsubs.com
Facebook: @GrandJunctionBismarck
Twitter: @eatGJSubs
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/grandjunction-grilled-subs
Address: 4303 Ottawa St Bismarck, ND 58503

Support Laughing Sun Brewing Co.

Phone: (701) 751-3881
Email: [email protected]
Web: laughingsunbrewing.com
Facebook: @laughingsunbrewing
Twitter: @LaughingSunBrew
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/laughing-sun-brewing
Address: 1023 East Front Avenue Bismarck, ND 58504

Support Grand Junction (Mandan)

Phone: (701) 595-SUBS
Email: [email protected]
Web: grandjunctionsubs.com
Facebook: @GrandJunctionBismarck
Twitter: @eatGJSubs
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/grandjunction-grilled-subs
Address: 4524 Memorial Hwy Mandan, ND 58554

Support The CraftCade

Phone: (701) 450-1414
Email: [email protected]
Web: thecraftcade.com
Facebook: @TheCraftCadeBismarck
Twitter: @TheCraftCade
Instagram: @TheCraftCade
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/thecraftcade
Address: 405 N 4th Street Downtown Bismarck, ND

Contact Northern Immersion:

Phone: (701) 214-2025
Email: [email protected]
Web: northernimmersion.com