Reed Sparks spent part of his childhood in Littleton and remembers driving with his parents to Blue Bonnet for Mexican food. Across the street, kids would also often hit LeGrue's, a flower shop and year-round Christmas store at 476 South Broadway. For parents, it was a place to shop, but for many Denver kids, Sparks recalls, it was a three-story wonderland of surprises and hiding places. LeGrue's closed last winter after the building sold — and the Sparks family is the new owner.
Sparks says his family is now in the process of turning the building, built in 1947, into a three-story restaurant and bar called Down South Broadway, with a portion of the space allocated for offices that will be leased out. But the family will run the restaurant themselves; Sparks says his parents met while working in the hospitality industry, and he just recently moved back to Denver from Jackson, Wyoming, where he's been specializing in front-of-house operations for the past six years.
LeGrue's operated for about fifty years in the building; before that, it was a furniture showroom. At some point during the building's history, a fire damaged the ceiling on the first floor, Sparks points out, so the space was opened up all the way to a skylight on the roof, with railings around a central opening on each floor. The main-floor bar, one of several planned, will be placed beneath the skylight, and the kitchen and dining room will take up the remainder of the first floor, while a coffee bar will take up about half of the second floor.
On the third floor, a portion of the roof will be removed, creating a west-facing deck looking down onto Broadway, and stairs will be added to a rooftop bar, effectively creating a fourth floor with views of the entire Front Range.
Plans have been drawn up and submitted to the city, but construction has not yet begun in earnest, so Sparks says he doesn't expect Down South Broadway to be open for more than a year, with early 2021 as a likely target. "We're going to try to keep as much intact as possible," he says of the renovation plan. One Line Studio is handling the design, while Jordy Construction is doing the build-out.
While the restaurant opening is still more than a year away, Sparks says he and his family just launched a search for an executive chef so that the food and beverage program can begin to take shape. The goal is to attract customers from the surrounding neighborhoods as an alternative to the more nightlife-oriented stretch of Broadway that cuts through the Baker neighborhood just north of Alameda Avenue.
For many years, the blocks south of Alameda have been home to little other than the Blue Bonnet and the Imperial Chinese Restaurant, but Sparks says things are beginning to change, pointing out the Broadway Roxy and the soon-to-open Bruno's Italian Bistro as new draws, as well as apartments going up across the street that will add to the customer base. He hopes Down South Broadway will be the first of many new restaurants and bars that will draw people from all over Denver — just like LeGrue's once did.