Sipping coffee is a fashionable obsession in upscale neighborhoods. It's also common in more pedestrian 'burbs. Patrons idle away hours, sequestered behind computers and cups of caffeine. Revved on muddy brew at greasy spoons or organic octane at the more chic coffee shops, people are increasingly reliant on coffee beverages to energize flagging bodies, studies and social lives. The caffeinated delicacies fuel countless hours of chatter at coffee shops, both in-house and online. Even though coffee klatches have been around for decades (envision acoustic guitars, poets, beatnik beauties and Joni Mitchell supplying the soundtrack), the Starbucks era transformed a Boulder or Berkeley utopia into strip mall ubiquity, and energized the coffee shop clique as a pop culture powerhouse with an omnipresence in American society that approaches that of Twitter and Facebook.
Filtering through the coffee grounds of seemingly hundreds of coffee shops to discover the best brew is about as easy as filtering through the glut of cyberspace to discover the best online offerings. It's a daunting, if not impossible, task. While Denver is not Seattle, the Mile High City claims its share of decent native coffee joints. What really distinguishes these businesses is personality. A relatively recent addition to Denver's coffee fare is an establishment in the city's Golden Triangle neighborhood at 955 Bannock Street. Since its grand opening barely a year ago, Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub has earned a reputation as a unique addition to the coffee houses crowding Denver's trendier areas. Sure, the café concoctions are delicious (try the Cinnful Joe, a cinnamon meets coffee celebrations), as are the sandwich, soup and salad samplings (the VIP panini is highly recommended, a grilled medley of smoked gouda, mozzarella, bacon and avocado). Then, of course, there are the breakfast items, including some frolicking breakfast burritos. There is Wi-Fi and even a full bar for those thinking a straight espresso merely pulls punches. (How about adding a dash of alcohol to the Cinnful Joe and calling it a Sloppy Joe?)
Yes, Rooster & Moon sells spirits, but the place is also haunted. Don't believe me? Ask the staff about ghosts next time you visit. Whether the spooks are real or phantasmagoric apparitions and auditory illusions or just a case of caffeine overload adds to Rooster & Moon's mystique.
Even more so than the comestibles and beverages, the Rooster & Moon's atmosphere, character and charisma attracted my interest. Unlike the corporate behemoths saturating the coffee house market, Rooster & Moon's owners are also the staff - not only managing the business, but brewing the coffee and serving the customers. Jamie Britt, Nick Bode, Jason Calloway and Stephanie Gaddy ventured to guess that their conception of a coffee community - an artistic approach to creating drinks and food coupled with friendly but idiosyncratic personalities - would flourish. They're not only business partners but family members. Bode and Britt are husband and wife, as are Calloway and Gaddy. That the co-owners are joined in both business and matrimony (Britt and Gaddy retained their maiden names to expedite obtaining a liquor license, which is a whole other story) adds an additional bond and quirk to the operation. Gaddy is the only owner not involved in daily operations (she clerks for a judge). Intrigued by the quirkiness, I prepared a list of questions, to which the three hands-on owners responded describing the motivation and meaning behind Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub.
What gave you the inspiration/idea to open a coffee shop?
Britt: Jason, Bode, and myself all put so much time, love, and sweat into Joe's Espresso. When it was sold we were all pretty heartbroken. I think we were all left wondering: "What next?" My passion has always been spreading my unique love and positivity with people, and my expertise lies within the creation of artisan espresso beverages. So, for me, it was a no-brainer. In fact, I had long dreamed of one day opening a coffee shop of my own. The fact that it happened so soon after the Joe's sale was a happy -- and surprising -- chain of events. Without the collaborative nature of our particular partnership, though, Rooster & Moon as we know it would not be possible. We all learned Espresso craft from Joe Z. of Joe's Espresso; and we each have an unwavering dedication to quality and consistency in service. Our individual specialties within the service sector vary widely, allowing us to take on such a large endeavor. At the end of the day, I respect and trust these guys to carry out our shared vision on a daily basis.
Calloway: After many years in restaurants, where coffee is seen as a peripheral to the main product, I had the opportunity to take over the management of operations of an independent coffee house in Boulder. The place was dynamic in energy and, despite no significant advertising or promotion, had a huge following. The three years I spent there reawakened my passion for the industry as a whole, and showed me something that I had been missing in my many years in restaurants, hotels, and pubs: the people connection. The coffee was the catalyst for communal conversation outside of the scope I was generally accustomed to, usually relegated to sports and daily events. The guest interactions... were non-existent in my former establishments and the major percentage between myself and guests were fleeting, at best. The inspiration behind opening a coffee came naturally at that point out of the desire to see the reemergence of community, something that we think has been lost due to the isolating proliferation of laptops and social networks. We have a place that encourages you to talk to the person next to you, not just the people on the other end of a stream. The ability to combine this with our love for people, awesome coffee, and dynamite food is the frosting on that cake!
Bode: I think we must have been sniffing glue. In retrospect, it seems crazy that we decided to open a new shop smack dab in the middle of the worst economic crisis of my lifetime. But we believe in our idea, and in each other. We knew then and know now that we have the ability to give people a place where they can go to get out of the house but feel at home; where they can get away from work and still get work done; where they can meet up with their friends or make new friends.
What is the meaning/inspiration behind the shop's name?
Calloway: We wanted a pub atmosphere, so a pub name was in order. Also, with any business, you want an iconic name that is going to stick in your head, as well as conveying what you want your business to cater to. "Rooster" is as iconic as you get, also addressing the morning aspect of our concept; "Moon" symbolizes that morning isn't all we do while being an iconic image, as well; The "Pub" drives home that we are a gathering place.
Bode: We were looking for a name that evoked the old tradition of a Public House. These days, a pub is normally associated with a bar that has British or Irish decor - it's just a theme. But the tradition of the Pub goes back to the Roman Taverns. Public Houses were often a focal point for the community; Samuel Pepys described a pub as the heart of England. We want to be the heart of the Golden Triangle Neighborhood in Denver. So when we were looking for a name, we wanted something that you could imagine seeing on a three hundred year old sign, like the Elephant & Castle or Pig & Whistle. Jamie came up with Rooster & Moon because we serve fantastic coffee in the morning and amazing cocktails at night.
What is unique about your shop that distinguishes it from other coffee shops?
Britt: I can't think of another place where you walk in at 6 a.m. and Run-D.M.C. is blasting on the sound system. And there aren't but a sweet few coffee shops where staffers come around with a carafe of coffee for table-side refills. Customer service is paramount here.
Calloway: I would have to say the staff, 100%. Every competitor we have offers, in some small part, the products we offer. But they do not have, nor will never have the people that create here, form bonds here with our guests, or present our products with the care and professionalism that we offer.
Bode: You will not find the same sense of entitlement or snobbish attitude from a Barista or Bartender at Rooster & Moon as you might someplace else. We are genuinely excited about what we do and the guests we serve. We designed the shop to be as comfortable and accommodating as possible, with a mind to people who are using it as an office space. You will not find a TV at most other coffee shops, but a lot of guests enjoy watching the news or a game. We have fresh to order food made in house, and of course, booze. Most coffee shops don't have booze. But we don't compare ourselves to other coffee shops, because at the heart of it, we are not a coffee shop. We are a neighborhood-gathering place that does coffee and espresso drinks really, really well.
Why did you decide on the shop's current location?
Bode: When I was the GM for Catacombs Bar in Boulder, Colorado, I started exploring the options of opening or buying a bar of my own. I always loved Boulder, but knew first hand how difficult it could be to create a successful establishment in that town. I also did not want to step on any toes, or steal any business away from my friends at Catacombs. At that time, I looked really closely at the area, and even looked at 955 Bannock Street, which was VFW Post #1. It was an easy landmark with a huge mural of the Marines and Navy Corpsman raising the flag at Iwo Jima. At the time, it was too big a spot for what I was looking for, but I fell in love with the area. Fast forward a few years and we are all working together at Joe's Espresso in Boulder. The shop was doing pretty well, and we were thinking about expanding the operation, and it just so happened that some of our regulars at Joe's - the talented crew from Arch 11 - were the architects in charge of remodeling the building for it's current owners. It seemed like a great fit, but before we had a chance to put something together, Joe decided to sell Joe's Espresso to Pekoe Sip House, another locally owned and independent place. That put Jamie, Jason, and I a bit adrift. After some thought, and with the help of a very generous regular from Joe's, Brian, we decided to roll the dice and make a move from Boulder to Denver. That's the story, the reasons that 955 Bannock were so appealing to us were easy to see even before you get inside. Patio? Check. Off Street Parking? Check. Visible from Speer Boulevard? Check. Transferable Liquor License, existing kitchen, great neighborhood? Check, Check, Check. Long and great history in Denver as the VFW that we're are excited to be associated with? CHECK. We put a lot of work making the space our own, and I guess the building is haunted, but there is nowhere I would rather plant our flag in Denver right now than where we are!
Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub is open Monday - Friday, 6 am - 9 pm and Saturday & Sunday, 8 am - 5 pm
Follow Wayne Trujillo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/latinoescritor