Will and Coral Frischkorn opened Cured in 2011 with two ideas in mind for their business. The first was that “we wanted a place with what we eat for dinner six nights a week,” says Will. The second was simply this: “Passion.”
Four years later, those two ideas have produced a successful deli, market, liquor store and catering company, all built on a foundation of artisan cheeses and cured meats, many of which come from American producers. Cured shares a retail space on Pearl Street in Boulder with Boxcar Coffee Roasters, a company with a similar DIY ethic and commitment to craftsmanship — whether it’s meticulously sourcing, roasting and brewing coffee beans, or searching out the top American farmhouse cheeses to display whole and unwrapped for the best possible presentation to customers.
Now the Frischkorns are ready to expand the Cured concept. This fall, they’re opening Cured West on the opposite end of the Pearl Street Mall, at 10th Street. The space will once again be shared, this time with clothing retailer Ceder & Hyde and florist Fawns Leap. “It keeps an energy in the space that wouldn’t be there otherwise,” Will notes. Although the new location is smaller than the current Cured/Boxcar combination, there will still be plenty of room to focus on sandwiches, soups, salads and other prepared foods in addition to gourmet chocolates and a small selection of other epicurean pantry items.
The idea for Cured sprouted while Will, a former professional cyclist who raced with the Garmin-Slipstream team until 2009, and Coral, a graphic designer, were living in Spain. Coral grew up in Boulder, and the couple owned a home there; it was a place where they knew they wanted to return and start a business. Will loved the Spanish bar scene and considered opening an authentic tapas bar, but quickly thought better of the idea after looking into the details of restaurant ownership. Since he and Coral had noticed a lack of high-quality cheese available in Boulder, they instead decided to bring a European-style market and deli to the town, but with more of a focus on American-made products.
The first step was research: The couple embarked on what Will calls “an epic four-month road trip across America.” They were already familiar with traditional food production in Europe; immersing themselves in that culture was part of connecting with the food they ate every day while living and working there. On their American journey, they visited the dairies, wineries and other small businesses that were creating artisan products that were new to them. “We wanted to connect with people here like we were lucky enough to do over there,” Will explains.
Among the places the couple visited were the Melrose Market in Seattle — a multi-use space with restaurants, a butcher shop, seafood and produce vendors — and a cheese shop called the Calf & Kid, where Will knew the owner. Visiting her shop inspired him to consider a shared retail space for Cured.
Back in Boulder and armed with a long list of contacts for sourcing salumi, cheese, wine and chocolate, the couple found the space they wanted. While working on getting the place open, Will enrolled in the pastry program at Culinary School of the Rockies — mostly out of curiosity, but also to improve his bread-baking skills. (He’s always been into cooking, and remembers making hand-rolled pasta at age ten for Christmas gifts for his teachers, but he knew he had more to learn.) Within a few months, they opened Cured.
The original store makes the most of its tight quarters, with shelves of olive oil, preserves, crackers and other dry goods in the front, along with a small cooler of fresh eggs, bacon and other perishables. The showstopper is the cheese-and-meat counter, where wedges of aged cheeses in temperature-controlled cases await curious customers. (Soft and hard cheeses have their own cases.)
“There’s nothing worse than staring at a pile of wrapped cheeses in a cooler island,” Will explains, because there’s no way to use all of your senses to appreciate the product. So at Cured, sampling is encouraged and education is part of the process. Labels give the basics on each item (type, origin, flavor profile), and the exceptionally knowledgeable staff helps customers find exactly what they’re looking for. “People are hungry and thirsty for knowledge,” Will says. “Things taste better when you know more about them.”
At the back of Cured is a full-sized commercial kitchen, helmed by culinary director Rebecca Sosvielle. In addition to preparing to-go foods for the market and weekly dinner specials (Wednesdays feature fresh pastas and Thursdays are roasted-chicken nights), the kitchen at Cured is used to prep for small catered events and farm dinners.
One of the initial challenges of opening a high-end market was offering small-producer foods without scaring customers away with big price tags. “Artisan products are perceived to be expensive and pretentious,” Will notes. “One of our big goals was to not be that.”
So, yes, there’s a $22 bag of chocolate chips on the shelf, but you’re not just paying a higher price for something that’s normally $5 at the grocery store. “It shouldn’t be a rip-off,” Will points out. Instead, Cured works with small companies where labor-intensive practices and specialized equipment mean foods with a distinct identity, but also with an accompanying cost. And while certain traditional foods from Europe can actually be cheaper than their American counterparts, Will notes that many European producers have been around for generations, have very low overhead and may receive government subsidies to continue producing heritage foods. In America, most craft producers are new and have high start-up costs — everything from purchasing land on which to start a dairy farm to investing in technology in order to accurately measure things such as acidity levels, fermenting temperatures and moisture content.
“They’re all super-passionate, and they’re smart people,” he says of his purveyors. “They’ve purchased land and set up beautiful, pristine, hygienic facilities — but you’re going to pay for that.”
That bag of chocolate chips aside, a deli-counter sandwich made with high-end ingredients and fresh products from Cure’s kitchen still comes in at under $10 — which puts it in the same range as a Chipotle burrito or fast-casual noodle bowl. For outings with a sweetheart or family, Cured also offers a range of pre-assembled picnic baskets because, Will recalls, “Coral and I truly fell in love over picnics. Simple meals can still be amazing. In ten minutes, with the right ingredients...it’s creating balance with the right cheese, the right meat, to preserve harmony.”
Bringing in the right meats and cheeses requires keeping in direct contact with the producers rather than working with distributors. Most of the items are delivered to Cured by FedEx — which may sound expensive but actually cuts out the costs of dealing with one or two layers of middlemen. Plus, Will says, he can talk to a cheese maker, for example, and find out what’s at its best or what special products might be available.
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At the tiny liquor store wedged between the meat counter and the back kitchen, Will focuses on Colorado beers and spirits, with a more international selection of wines divided into non-traditional categories like “guilty,” “quirky” and “zippy.” Space is so tight that “there’s not enough room for filler,” Will says. As a result, editing his selection means carrying only what he thinks will pair perfectly with the foods he sells, whether it’s wine, beer or spirits. “The coolest thing to watch was the development of spirits here,” he adds. “I love tasting one and saying, ‘It’s that good…and it’s Colorado.’”
At Cured West, takeout lunches will be a big focus, since there are more offices on that side of Boulder; a new building a block away will hold 800 workers when completed. While the sandwich volume may increase, though, Will says he won’t forget the goals he and Coral set for that first location. “One of the things we wanted to be from day one,” he says, “is a connector between the producer and the people at home.”
And Cured has definitely connected with Boulder.
Cured, 1825 B Pearl Street, Boulder, 720-389-8096. Find more information at curedboulder.com.