Yes, there will be life beyond the Olive Branch

Filed under: Hazlehurst,Print | Tags:, ,

104451929When did the breakfast meeting establish itself so firmly in business culture? You can’t imagine the characters in “Mad Men” going to breakfast meetings — they were too hung over in the morning, barely able to dictate to their secretaries and fend off their mistresses.

Such stressful lives required three-martini lunches, not breakfast meetings.

The culture hadn’t changed 20 years later, when I was a young investment banker in New York City — at least as far as breakfast meetings were concerned. Breakfast was takeout coffee and a pastry, picked up as you emerged from the subway. Business lunches were de rigueur, but the three-martini lunch had all but disappeared.

Returning to Colorado Springs in 1981, I saw that the breakfast meeting clearly had taken over the business world. Never mind that 7:30 a.m. meetings effectively extended the business day by an hour — if you wanted to succeed, you had to conform to cultural norms.

Restaurants appeared that catered to this new phenomenon. Of them, the longest-lived and most successful has been the Olive Branch. First located in a restored brick building at the corner of Boulder and Tejon, the Olive Branch catered to a new generation. The morning crowd was a lively mix of downtown regulars, visitors and younger businesspeople attracted by fresher, more healthful and less traditional breakfasts.

In 1996, owner Mark Meltzer moved the restaurant further downtown to 23 S. Tejon, where it became the preferred meeting spot for local elected officials, senior city and Colorado Springs Utilities employees — and journalists working their sources.

After a third of a century baking his signature lemon bread, Meltzer will close the restaurant at the end of this month and lease his building to another restaurateur (who reportedly will change it to Mexican). It’s a sad moment for those of us who have patronized his establishment for decades, but downtown will endure — as will the breakfast meeting.

The downtown and near-downtown restaurant ecosystem, which Meltzer helped create, endures. It’s one of downtown’s greatest assets, and not just for breakfast meetings.

Consider: if you work downtown, you likely have at least a dozen restaurants and coffeehouses within easy walking distance. You park your car in the morning, and that’s it.

There are more than 20 eating places within two blocks of the Business Journal offices, and twice as many within four blocks (not even counting the half-dozen food trucks). You can eat with the classes or hang with the masses. You can go gluten-free, organic or vegan. Sushi, steak, seafood, fine wine, craft beer, gumbo or grits — yes to all.

That’s a boon to downtown workers, businesses and visitors. Unlike those who labor in suburban office complexes, we don’t have to jump in our cars to go to lunch, or to have a breakfast or afternoon coffee meeting. It’s all here.

That may not seem extraordinary, but in other cities such local density and variety have been an occasion to brag. Here’s an excerpt from a recent issue of New York Magazine:

“Take a stroll along Sunnyside’s multiethnic Queens Boulevard — from 39th Street to 46th Street — and you’ll encounter cuisine as varied as Romanian and Nepalese, Sichuanese and Colombian. Try the sancocho de cola — oxtail soup — at La Hoguera Paisa; or at Bucharest Restaurant, the tochitura, a meat dish of Transylvanian origin. And at Salt & Fat, its pork belly with apple kimchee and foie with bacon brittle feel inspired by the far-off lands of … Brooklyn.”

Substitute Tejon Street for Queens Boulevard, change the food mix, and that’s us. The facts on the ground are cool enough to make us a noteworthy neighborhood in New York — but one located at the base of Pikes Peak. It’s particularly interesting when you consider that Colorado Springs was ground zero for Eric Schlosser’s incendiary book, Fast Food Nation.

In the introduction, Schlosser notes that fast food has infiltrated every aspect of American life — even NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex, where a Domino’s Pizza deliveryman brings warm blue and white boxes to the weary troglodytes behind the blast doors.

That’s not downtown. We have so many food options that it’ll make your head spin — including great pizza.

And here’s the kicker: Would you like to relive the 50’s and Mad Men? No problem — as long as you’re male and own a respectable suit. Fork over a few bucks, join the El Paso Club, go to the Men’s Bar at noon and order three martinis.

Or maybe a Manhattan — a drink better suited to our city’s real status.

One Response to Yes, there will be life beyond the Olive Branch

  1. This past year saw several of my favorite restaurants shut down in Colorado Springs. It’s not a good sign. My business rarely takes me downtown. It may be time for a special trip.

    Steven Shepard
    December 30, 2013 at 5:17 pm