Bellwether opened this week in the Elm District on East Colfax Avenue, becoming the neighborhood's go-to spot for fashion, coffee and whiskey — and for members of its private social club, the best new place in town for a shave and a haircut.
Initially co-founders Rustin Coburn and Josh Schmitz wanted to open a retail spot for their clothing line, Ruckus, as well as several complementary brands. The part of Bellwether accessible to the general public houses this boutique, as well as a bar serving up coffees and a curated list of whiskeys.
As the two planned the space for their clothing line, they began adding to their dream. Wouldn't it be nice, they asked themselves, if customers could sip a drink while they shopped? This idea evolved into the coffee and whiskey bar that is now the focus of the front retail space.
The coffee side of the bar will serve Sweet Bloom and Boxcar roasts to begin with. Coburn and Schmitz are considering using Method, another local roaster, for cold brew. Bellwether may eventually mix it up with roasters from outside Colorado, but for now the company is happy to showcase the locals.
The whiskey bar will serve just that—whiskey. The pair wanted to keep it simple and focus on providing a few things they love. "It allows us to do those few things really, really well," said Schmitz.
Bellwether will be drinks and fashion in the front, members-only social club in the back. Coburn and Schmitz wanted to create a modern-day social club, and decided to devote part of Bellwether to a shared workspace for creatives.
"It kind of just evolved into this big experiment," said Schmitz. "We have a ton of friends who are entrepreneurs, who are working out of their houses or working out of coffee shops. So many coffee shops you go into and they're overcrowded, there are no outlets…[we thought] well, what if our office was also an office for all of our friends?"
For a fee of $10 a month, members will have access to the shared workspace and will also be eligible for monthly giveaways, drink specials and invitations to VIP Events. Oh, and an on-site barber.
Matt Chavez, personal barber for the Denver Broncos and Nuggets, will be the head barber at Bellwether. During business hours, Chavez or one of two other barbers will be on hand to provide Bellwether social club members with shaves and haircuts. No products, no washing, just classic barbershop style.
"It's not meant to be exclusive or the cool kids club," says Coburn. Memberships to the social club will be capped at 100; as of this week, Coburn and Schmitz had already sold 50.
The business partners aren't done dreaming yet. Along with additional business partners Athena Brownson and Adam McCarty, they hope to open other locations in the future.
But for now they want to focus on making the current Bellwether as high quality of an experience as possible. "We're huge supporters of Denver and the community here," said Coburn. "This is our heart; this is our home."
Coburn and Schmitz hope Bellwether will become a spot where other Denverites can make their dreams happen. "I think one of the problems with dreams is most people dream too small," said Schmitz. "If you dream, might as well make it big."
The East Colfax shop celebrates its grand opening next weekend; check Bellwether's Facebook page for upcoming opening events.