After forty years, Denver Tofu shuts down

Here at Cafe Society, we're meat fiends who subscribe to the adage "stop tofu abuse, eat foie gras," so we don't exactly spend tons of time seeking out sources of tofu. But if we're going to buy bricks of silken soy beans, we'd prefer to get it locally, rather than have it shipped from across the pond.

Denver's had a local source for tofu for decades, but next month, that could all end. "My boss is 74 years old and ready to retire," says Spring Teim, an employee who's been with Denver Tofu for the past seven years. "And the plant is under eminent domain by RTD, so it has to move."

Those obstacles didn't faze Teim, who -- along with her partner Patrick Smith, another long-time employee of the company -- tried to buy Denver Tofu, even though it would have meant building a new location. "I still want to take care of my customers," she explains. "Several are upset, and they need tofu to fill up the shelf. We want to make tofu for them."

She also wanted to carry on a decades-long legacy that would be lost if the company shuts its doors. Denver Tofu may have a forty-year history under Haruhisa Yamamoto, its current owner, but its origins date back to the mid-1920s when the Sakurai Store first started hawking fresh tofu made from real Japanese nigari in the Mile High City. That store was sold a few times after its inceptions, eventually ending up where it is today.

And it may all be lost. "My boss decided not to sell the business," Teim says. "He decided to shut down."

Teim isn't ready to give up yet, though. "I'm still trying to buy the brand and name, but that's still under negotiation," she says. If the deal falls through, she'll move to a similar package and continue to use the same recipe, moving quickly to re-establish accounts everywhere Denver Tofu is sold.

That transition should happen when the plant shuts down next month.


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