Local Businesses Reflect On Challenges Of The Last Year, Share Their Hopes For The Road To Normal
By Cara DeGette
A little more than a year ago, the pandemic was closing in fast. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered all restaurants, bars, gyms, salons and spas, performance and music venues, movie theaters, and casinos closed for normal, public use. What started as an executive order designed to last a month ultimately stretched over many, leaving local business owners scrambling to readjust and reinvent.
Restaurant owners slashed their staff, and switched to take-out. Exercise classes went online, or went dark. For some — including local grocers, flower stores and some liquor stores — business was booming. Others found their livelihoods, practically overnight, bottoming out.
Park Hill is home to dozens of independently-owned businesses, including at 23rd and Kearney; at 23rd and Dahlia; 28th and Fairfax; Holly Square at 33rd and Holly; and Oneida Park Center at 23rd and Oneida. Dozens of other local businesses line the major corridors that mark the boundaries of the neighborhood – including along Colfax, Colorado Boulevard and Quebec Street.
This month, we reached out to many, asking them to describe the most challenging and rewarding hurdles they’ve cleared over the past year, and what they are most looking forward to in the year ahead — as the world returns to more of a normal state of being.
The following is what several owners had to say.
Morgan McKay, owner
6115 E. 22nd Ave.; Obliospizza.com
There have been many challenges and difficulties: cutting beloved staff, decreased business, and closing for dine in and canceling all our events and Kids night. We are blown away by the love and support of our community.
We are looking forward to opening for dine in and bringing back Kids Night and Princess and Superhero nights! After this crazy year I think all the families could use some fun at our awesome Kids Events.
Amy Barrett, co-owner
2267 Kearney St.; TablesonKearney.com
The most challenging/difficult [thing] has been just staying in business and keeping everyone safe. There were so many different ways we had to pivot, sometimes we got a little dizzy. Rewarding? The fact that we are still here and our employees are still here — and this could not have been done with out the support of the community. One of the biggest rewards? When a guest says thank you for helping us to feel “normal” and safe with a dinner out in a greenhouse or just a Tables cooked meal at home, it just warms our hearts and makes it all worth it.
You asked, what is the main thing you are looking forward to as the world returns to more of a normal state of being? I think you said it right there. I think we are just looking forward to the world returning to a more normal state of being. I guess the only thing I would add to that is I hope when we do, we all have a little more empathy, appreciation and compassion.
Cake Crumbs Bakery & Cafe
Katie Magner, owner
2216 Kearney St.; cake-crumbs.com
Most challenging has been navigating the ever-changing restrictions and their impact on customer behavior. We have lost the rhythm to our business, requiring us to be very nimble and flexible. Our staff has worked their tails off through some periods and had their hours cut through others. The most rewarding hurdle we have overcome is survival. I attribute this to my staff’s dedication and commitment. I also attribute this to our creativity with new introductions like the upright freezer in the shop (take and bake cinnamon rolls, whole quiche, breakfast burritos) and online ordering.
Mostly, I am excited to return to gathering. A huge element to Cake Crumbs is our community and providing that community with a gathering space. We continue to see our regulars but we miss the days of them convening together in the shop. Our large community table sits empty most days. Similarly, I miss my friends! I turn 50 this month and I hope that I might have a celebration with them some day.
Trent and Emily Nestman
2206 Kearney St.; www.nestmanortho.com
For us, the most challenging aspect of the pandemic was, without question, the uncertainty. Being forced to close and with a return date up in the air, we worried about what this would mean for our staff, our patients, and our future.
We are a small staff of five. A silver lining of the pandemic was gaining an appreciation for what we can accomplish when we work together and are open to change.
The Art Garage
Katie Moran and Abi Ostendorf
6100 E. 23rd Avenue; ArtGarageDenver.com
The two most rewarding things have been seeing the community and parents supporting our organization more than ever. The second is seeing the dedication of our staff following every protocol and wanting to continue to provide art education to the community. The most challenging hurdle has been funding all of our programming, being able to keep every staff position and ensuring the personal wellness of every staff during a very isolating time.
The main thing we are looking forward to is prioritizing both the organization and the needs of administration during the pandemic, The Art Garage moved to co-executive directors, (Katie Moran and Abi Ostendorf). We eagerly await the opportunity to bring art and The Art Garage presence back to a broader audience within Denver. Our ability to withstand and conquer this last year gives us insight into our truest potential and strength as a small but mighty Denver art community.
Park Hill Yoga
Deborah Baker, owner
2072 Ash Street; parkhillyoga.com
The sense of community that has taken place during students’ immediate switch to the online class format has been unbelievably rewarding. Before and after class, I witness this camaraderie every single day. At the beginning of the pandemic, online classes were especially helpful in soothing people’s minds at a time of fear and uncertainty, and I felt I was contributing to students’ mental and physical well-being. This has continued for a year.
Since the studio opened for in-person classes again, the vast majority of my clientele has continued to participate in online classes. I still miss seeing them live, but know it is impossible to anticipate what the future of classes will look like.
Park Hill Community Bookstore
Polly Wirtz, board member
4620 E. 23rd Ave.; parkhillbooks.org
Closing was hard, but, we understood, a necessary decision. Then, once guidelines said we could re-open, the challenge was, “How to disinfect? How often? How many people in the store at one time? How to improve ventilation?” Many details to work out. Even then, about one-third of our volunteers did not return either because of new childcare responsibilities or other personal considerations. So, we’ve had to limit our hours. Fortunately several local teens volunteered to help, and they have been great!
For the store, the main thing we are looking forward to is returning to more normal hours, as we gain new volunteers or old ones return. Personally, I’m looking forward to real dinner parties, social occasions, in-person time with my grandkids (with masks) and maybe US travel!
Anytime Fitness Mayfair-Park Hill
Kate Jenulis, owner
6005 E. Colfax Ave.; anytimefitness.com/gyms/4786/Denver-CO-80220/
It’s been incredibly gratifying to have community members support our business over the past year, hearing them tell us how important health and fitness are to them, especially now. Some have even told us that by remaining open, we’re supporting not just their fitness but saving their sanity.
I’m really looking forward to seeing people’s faces. Making connections and getting to know our members is so important to building the supportive community we value.
Mia Peterson, owner
1417 Krameria St.; mozartsdenver.com
The most challenging thing for us has been worrying about our people/bartenders. It’s hard to know that our place and their work, albeit part time, is what they count on for their livelihoods. Our bar is a neighborhood bar, so we also worry about our regulars who look to Mozart’s as a place for social interaction.
We look forward to Mozart’s returning to regular business, meaning darts, karaoke, live music, and a local watering hole where our regulars can co-mingle, dance, and have fun without the risk of sickness.
Art Gym Denver
Brady Smith, marketing and communications director
1460 Leyden St.; www.artgymdenver.com
Over the last year the biggest challenge has been keeping engaged with our art community despite being socially distanced. We’re thankful for technology that has helped us along the way though.
As the situation improves, we’re excited to gather in person and enjoy the relationships that art brings us. Making art together in the same space creates an incredible bond for artists, and we look forward to experiencing that again.
Esters Neighborhood Pub
Paul Sullivan, owner
2201 Oneida St.; www.estersdenver.com
The whole year has been incredibly difficult to navigate and the constant worry of not knowing when we will be able to open at full capacity again has been challenging.The support of our staff and especially the neighborhood, has been the most rewarding aspect of the year.
The main thing we are looking forward to is being able to have people back in the restaurant at full capacity and have them feel safe and comfortable. We cannot wait and will be ready.
The Local Butcher
Justin Herd, owner
2242 Oneida St.; thelocalbutcherdenver.com
We have been fortunate enough to be quite busy during the pandemic with people cooking meals at home. Keeping up with the demand and adapting our offerings has been the biggest hurdle for us throughout the past year.
Looking ahead, I am excited to have seats back at our Denver Central Market location (in RiNo). The building has so much energy with people eating and drinking and being merry, indoor seating is key to establishing that energy again.
Kyle Wells, owner
2231 Oneida St.; torpedocoffee.com
The changing COVID-19 restrictions and the lead time to adjust to these restrictions has been the most challenging and difficult. The most rewarding aspect of this whole situation has been the Park Hill neighborhood and the support that they have shown to our coffee shop during this time. We have been able to keep most of our staff on the payroll through all of this, which has been really awesome to still offer employment during this time.
We are looking forward to offering our full space for our customers and returning to a little bit more of the neighborhood coffee shop where folks can study, have a meeting, or just chill out for a minute. Personally, it is my wife’s 40th birthday this year and we would really love to travel to Spain for this milestone birthday. She has wanted to visit Spain for some time now and it would be great to travel again.
The Greater Park Hill News will continue to provide updated information about local businesses in the months ahead. Please send changes in services and story tips to email@example.com. Readers are also encouraged to submit letters to the editor, photos or other anecdotes about their favorite businesses, and what they have been doing to help keep them afloat.