City center’s resurgence filling vacancies

Katherine Schmidt, owner of Bella’s Bakery and Bistro, opened her business at 3 E. Bijou St. last month. Bella’s offers fresh-baked pastries, cakes and pies and cranberry chipotle citrus meatballs which, according to Schmidt, are her specialty. Bella’s is one of several new businesses opening both in the heart of downtown and along its periphery.

Katherine Schmidt, owner of Bella’s Bakery and Bistro, opened her business at 3 E. Bijou St. last month. Bella’s offers fresh-baked pastries, cakes and pies and cranberry chipotle citrus meatballs which, according to Schmidt, are her specialty. Bella’s is one of several new businesses opening both in the heart of downtown and along its periphery.

Downtown Colorado Springs can boast of several new shopping, dining, drinking and entertainment options, and there’s more in the works.

“Overall, we’re excited because there are new businesses coming that provide more diversity for shopping and dining, and that always helps,” said Laurel Prud’homme, director of communications for the Downtown Partnership. “Within the core of downtown, there isn’t a lot of new development, so filling vacancies has been a priority for us.”

With handfuls of businesses moving into new digs within the heart of downtown or on its periphery, those searching for something new from between Cascade and Nevada avenues needn’t look far.

French Fry Heaven on Tejon Street broke opening records for the franchise’s parent company during its first week in operation.

French Fry Heaven on Tejon Street broke opening records for the franchise’s parent company during its first week in operation.

Fry master

“We broke opening-day, opening-weekend and opening-week sales records and our week isn’t even done yet,” said Sarah Sasamoto, general manager of French Fry Heaven, which opened Aug. 1 at 107 N. Tejon St.

The everything french fry franchise is the 18th location and the second store in Colorado, the other in Breckenridge. Additional French Fry Heavens line the East Coast with other locations in Louisiana and Ohio.

Sasamoto said the eatery brings a one-of-a-kind concept to a lengthy list of downtown restaurants.

“I think people are attracted to this concept because it’s something new to downtown,” she said. “We have so many bars and a lot of familiar restaurants downtown, but I, like a lot of people, have run into the problem where I’ve eaten everywhere downtown. Now there are 20 different kinds of french fries to try. Who doesn’t love french fries?”

She attributes the record-breaking numbers to the high volume of foot-traffic along Tejon, adding there are already talks of expanding to the 16th Street pedestrian mall in Denver. Sasamoto, however, doesn’t think that store would generate the numbers the Colorado Springs location has.

“I don’t think it will be as successful because [16th Street] is more of a tourist destination,” she said. “We’re trying to leave a bigger footprint in Colorado Springs.”

Sasamoto said she thinks the momentum will continue for some time.

“As of [last week], we had over 3,000 “Likes” on Facebook and we do some Facebook-only specials. Plus, we’ve started an Instagram and Twitter account. We want to get in big with the kids.”

For more information, visit frenchfryheaven.com.

Bingo!

Bingo Burger’s first restaurant has been offering gourmet burgers made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients to fans in Pueblo for five years. The Colorado Springs location is expected to open Aug. 21, according to owner Richard Warner.

Warner is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, where he met his future wife, Mary Oreskovitch. She is the owner of another popular Pueblo eatery, Hopscotch Bakery.

“After some success in Pueblo, it was a natural progression to the Colorado Springs market,” Warner said. “We developed a relationship with a lot of customers from Colorado Springs who have eaten at our location in Pueblo.”

Warner said it took a year to find their spot at 132 N. Tejon St., most recently the home of Bruegger’s Bagels. While Warner had planned to be open before July, challenges, including the installation of a below-sidewalk grease trap, have slowed the process, he said.

“It’s a 120-year-old building,” Warner explained. “It’s always a challenge not knowing what you’re getting yourself into until you start digging deep. It’s been a learning experience.”

Bingo Burger is opening its doors less than a block away from another burger joint, the Skirted Heifer, but Warner said he looks forward to the competition.

“There aren’t any direct competitors in Pueblo,” Warner said. “People will compare us to their next-favorite burger joint and it’s always fast food. … I welcome the competition. It’ll make us stronger and better.”

If all goes well, Warner said, plans are to continue to expand north along the Front Range. For more information, visit bingoburger.com.

As summer moves along, the downtown scene is bustling with Bingo Burger among the newcomers.

As summer moves along, the downtown scene is bustling with Bingo Burger among the newcomers.

Literary arts

Mountain Fold Books, which is expected to open in mid-October, is a nonprofit LLC founded in February 2014 by Marina Eckler and Jonathan Fey “for the purpose of opening a physical ‘brick and mortar’ literary center in Colorado Springs,” according to the Mountain Fold Books website.

Eckler and Fey launched their vision with the backing of a $10,000 Ingenuity Grant from the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.

“We wanted to bring in a literary center that was somewhere between a library, reading room and bookstore,” Fey said of the store, which will open at 121 E. Costilla St. “It’s nonprofit and it’s going [to operate] mainly through membership donations. It’s free to be a member, but we encourage donations along with membership, and we’ll have a retail element as well.”

Fey said there has been a movement in North America within the past 10 years to “have small, independent publishers do handmade books with older letterpress machines, which lends itself well to poetry and art.

“It will be mainly a small-press bookstore,” he said. “There are only a few other small-press bookstores in the U.S., which should help distinguish us from all of the other great literary forces already in Colorado Springs.”

Eckler said many small-press books are themselves works of art and that a small gallery in the back of the store will also display artwork.

Fey, a writer and poet, said he and Eckler, who teaches visual arts at UCCS, researched independent libraries from Brooklyn to Denver seeking a model that would work here.

The nonprofit has a six-person board that includes individuals versed in fundraising and business development, Fey said.

For more information, visit mountainfoldbooks.org.

Iron Bird Brewing Company opens Saturday on South Nevada, an area seeing increased commercial and residential development.

Iron Bird Brewing Company opens Saturday on South Nevada, an area seeing increased commercial and residential development.

Birdmen of Nevada

Quenching the thirsts of those trekking to the southern edges of downtown is the aim of Iron Bird Brewing, which is scheduled to open its doors at 402 S. Nevada Ave. at noon Saturday. Iron Bird is the newest in a long line of recent breweries opening in Colorado Springs. According to co-owner Aaron Celusta, cask ales are what set this pub apart.

“They’re naturally carbonated; there’s no CO2 added,” Celusta said. “They’re all-natural and hand-pumped from our cellar. … We’ll have cool, small batch brews that maybe aren’t experimental, but interesting in that you won’t find them in any other places. Things like Amarillo session ales and IPAs with unique hops, like Caliente hops. The focus is on the beer, but keeping true to our roots.”

Those roots run deep for Celusta’s partner and master brewer Mike Centanne, who has homebrewed for a decade.

Centanne’s been busy preparing for the opening, which will feature nine beers and cask ales, according to Celusta, who added that the brewery is collaborating with local food trucks to provide patrons with sustenance.

“We want it to seem like we have a kitchen here,” he said. “If you order food, someone from the trucks will bring the food in. You won’t have to go out in the rain. We want it to be a seamless integration with the trucks.”

As for the vibe, Celusta said Iron Bird is a “1940s-era British pub meets small aircraft hangar.”

He said he is really excited to bring a brewery to the outskirts of downtown.

“I think we fit in well with this expanding area,” he said. “It’s a really cool part of downtown, but it’s been ignored for years. There should be a lot of good development soon.”

For more information, visit ironbirdbrewing.com.

Vie Boutique

Vie Boutique and Floral Studio opened St. Patrick’s Day at 8 S. Tejon St., the former location of the Fox 21 TV studios.

Vie comprises mother-daughter duo Sharon Hunt and Laura Acresti in their first retail experience. The business features a full flower shop, women’s fashion, home décor, gifts and baby items.

“We always had a dream to own a boutique,” Acresti said while designing a floral arrangement. “We wanted to be downtown or the Old Colorado City area. We like the uniqueness of this location and the walk-by traffic.”

“She’s the one with the artistic vision, and I work the business side,” Hunt said.

For more information, visit shopvieboutique.com.

The Mezz

The Mezzanine has presented a summer of performance events open to the public. However, in October the Mezzanine will become an exclusive members-only venue offering a wide spectrum of performance art including live jazz, classical chamber music, theater, burlesque, literary art and more, according to its website. Located at 20 N. Tejon St., the club can be accessed via a private back-alley entrance.

For more information, visit themezzcos.com.

Bella’s Bakery and Bistro

Offering a diverse menu of sweet and savory, Bella’s bakes cookies, cupcakes and breads, but owner Katherine Schmidt’s signature dish is her cranberry citrus chipotle meatballs. Bella’s also offers a full espresso bar as well as a variety of coffees and teas. Schmidt has been providing downtown with fresh-baked smells since opening at 3 E. Bijou St. in early July.

“We’ve been very blessed,” Schmidt said. “It’s been very, very busy.”

Schmidt, who grew up around groceries and food service, said she wrote her “meatballs and cupcakes” business plan as a child.

“I just felt this would be my place one day,” she said of visiting her Bijou location when it housed a prior tenant. “It’s been awesome.”

For more information, visit bellasbakeryandbistro.com.

Bellissima

Specializing in apparel, accessories and home décor, Bellissima moved from its digs on South Eighth Street to its new home at 104 N. Tejon St. Owned by Teresa Farmers and managed by Cynthia Pimental, Bellissima offers, among other things, furniture, clothing and window treatments.

“Bellissima is committed to providing excellence in interior design planning,” according to its website. “We offer personal customer service with the assurance that the client’s needs are always carefully considered. Our goal is to create a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing living space for each individual’s lifestyle.”

For more, visit bellissima-interiors.com.

ANB Bank 

Entertainment, food and drink cost money. Good thing the new three-story ANB Bank building is slated to open Aug. 25, according to Lonnie Parsons, the bank’s regional president.

Located at the corner of South Cascade Avenue and West Cimarron Street, Parsons said the bank was originally scheduled to open in October.

“We rent our current spot [at 102 N. Cascade Ave.] and we wanted to be a little stronger in our brand identity and at the same time, take control of our property by owning rather than renting,” Parsons said. “This move will provide more parking and easier accessibility to our customers.”

The new building cost $7 million to construct. Approximately 2,000 square feet of the second floor and all 6,000 square feet of the third floor will be available to lease.

“When the [Cimarron-Interstate 25] overpass is completed, this will be a major gateway into the community,” Parsons said. “We’re excited to see that happen and be a part of it. There are a lot of good things going on in downtown Colorado Springs and our reinvesting in the community reaffirms our commitment to the city.”

Marija B. Vader contributed to this story

One Response to City center’s resurgence filling vacancies

  1. Coquette’s Bistro & Bakery @321 N Tejon has been thrilled to add to the downtown expansion to the north end too along with the Meeting House and others. It’s great to be part of the vibrancy that makes a walkable city with lots of options. We celebrated our 5th anniversary this month.

    michelle marx
    August 19, 2014 at 1:57 pm