If you're relatively new to Denver, you probably don't remember a time not so long ago when the city was desperate for a good sandwich. But in the last years of the twentieth century, we were facing a new millennium with the same insipid chains that passed off poorly made subs with inferior ingredients. Then along came Spicy Pickle, an independent, locally owned shop in Capitol Hill that gave us hope for a new era.
Spicy Pickle was founded in 1999 by Kevin Morrison and Tony Walker. The company grew quickly and went public in 2007, but Morrison left shortly thereafter and eventually went on to open Pinche Taqueria (now Tacos Tequila Whiskey) and Fish N Beer.
After a disastrous attempt to go national, Spicy Pickle crashed and burned. The original Spicy Pickle at 988 Lincoln Street closed in 2012 (the space is currently vacant). But the Spicy Pickle company never completely died; after being purchased and downsized to just a handful of stores, it reevaluated its mission. And now Spicy Pickle has returned to the town where it was born: The first Denver location in five years just opened at 1875 Lawrence Street downtown.
John Ward is the new franchise owner, but he's been with the company since 2012. He was hired as a corporate accountant when the new ownership took over, and as he watched the business dwindle to one lone U.S. location in Reno, Nevada, he knew that Spicy Pickle still had something left to offer Denver. So he shifted gears from accounting and put his efforts into opening a new sub shop.
Spicy Pickle's headquarters are now in Broomfield, with operations overseen by managing partner Garth Moore, who was recently brought in by the new owners. Moore and Ward both consider food quality and customer service top priorities, a foundation on which to slowly rebuild the Pickle's reputation.
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There's a new commitment to housemade ingredients, Ward explains, including a ciabatta that's one of the bread options on the menu. Sauces and sides are also made in-house, and other breads come from Aspen Baking. The shop is still in soft-opening mode until the September 22 grand opening, but downtown customers are already starting to find the inconspicuous location across the street from Sakura Square. The sandwich shop is currently without an outdoor sign, as Ward's design was nixed and he had to go back to the drawing board.
Spicy Pickle is now open from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays, serving breakfast sandwiches and a full coffee menu as well as a range of panini and deli-style sandwiches. "We're back, and we're going to rock it," says Ward.