Katie Reinisch kept her cool through four years at the Colorado Legislature, when she was communications director for the Senate Democrats, so it's not surprising that she's having a blast running her own frozen-yogurt spot. "It's so fun, and I'm learning so much," she says. "I'm actually creating jobs, when before we would just talk about it."
More than a dozen jobs: Before she and her husband opened their Red Mango at 2504 East Colfax Avenue on June 16, she went to the Denver Youth Job Fair, where she collected a hundred applications and interviewed many young people. "They knew how to shake my hand, look me in the eye," says Reinisch, who rewarded the city's training efforts by hiring fifteen kids -- one as young as fourteen, one as old as 24. And she needs that staff, because this shop is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week -- and Reinisch is there much of the time.
How did she get to frozen yogurt after hot times at the legislature? "We'd always wanted to own something instead of just getting a paycheck," she explains. "My husband and I had tried this new tart, healthy frozen yogurt when we were in New York and loved it; it tastes so fresh and so good, and you feel great after eating a big bowl, as opposed to a big bowl of high-fat ice cream."
Friends suggested they look at a franchise, and they choose Red Mango. Then they found the perfect spot for it: In the former Jersey Mike's location in the Lowenstein complex on East Colfax Avenue, where their landlords are the very simpatico Jill and Paul Epstein, owners of Twist & Shout. "In other yogurt shops, it's all moms in yoga pants and teenage girls," Reinisch says. "Here it's hipsters, kids, teenagers, families of all ages -- incredibly racially diverse and income-diverse."
Over the hot days of June and early July, the shop has become a gathering spot, a place where neighbors can meet neighbors and where people pull up chairs outside as soon as the sun goes down. "It's been hard and challenging and terrific," Reinisch says. "In many ways, this is the perfect job for me. It's like hosting a party all the time."
But she hasn't given up on politics altogether. She keeps her eye on progressive causes, and plans to hand out free yogurt at a grand opening party at Red Mango on Friday, July 20. And if some of the politico she's worked with in the past pop by, here's what she'd recommend they try:
Secretary of State Scott Gessler, whose nickname is "Honey Badger": Honey Badger with gummy worms and cinnamon bears so he could bite the heads off. (By the way, our awesome Honey Badger is made with two ingredients: our own yogurt and Colorado clover honey from Rice's in Greeley.)
Governor John Hickenlooper: After noticing that we don't have a beer flavor, he'd swirl Original with Pomegranate -- and also try Chocolate with Peanut Butter...thereby disappointing some onlookers but not terribly upsetting anyone.
Sal Pace, Joe Miklosi and Brandon Schafer : Since they're busy campaigning for Congress, they'd send surrogates who keep asking others for "just a little," over and over again, until everyone ignores them.
Former Governor Bill Ritter: He'd ride his bike here and get so distracted admiring the beetle-kill pine, the CFL bulbs, the low-flow toilets that Jeanne would have to mix him a cup of white peach and black cherry. Senator Pat Steadman and representatives Mark Ferrandino and BJ Nikkel : They'd top their cups with a colorful array of mini-M&Ms and rainbow sprinkles, even as some GOP legislators pelted BJ with Sour Patch Kids.
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Speaker Frank McNulty: He'd want a mango smoothie; no, a cup of chocolate; no, he hates it; no, he loves it; no, he disapproves, but won't stop it. Oh, look, he's leaving empty-handed.
Former senator Ken Gordon: He'd make a fuss about who paid for all this
A version of this story originally appeared on Cafe Society, our blog dedicated to food and drink in Denver; read more here.