These days, people don’t have much use for the phrase "home away from home." Those words have been packed away alongside memories of large concert crowds pressed together singing along to their favorite songs. But for the owners of Blue Note Catering Company, creating a home away from home backstage at concert venues was a livelihood. And while we hope for the return of such events, the catering company's owners are sharing that comfort, along with stories of rock stars and big events, at their new shop, Frank’s Food & Bodega in Edgewater.
Frank’s, located at 5700 West 25th Avenue, is run by Irene Hessner-Taras and her son and daughter-in-law, Blake and Jen Elwell. For 25 years, Blue Note has served musical acts and their crews as the exclusive backstage caterer for Denver’s large music venues and festivals. But with those festivals and concerts on hold for the past seven months, the family is using its skill set to serve those same meals and requested items in a neighborhood mini-mart fully stocked with prepared food, last-minute ingredients, snacks and household items.
“Feeding people is what we do,” Hessner-Taras says.
The bodega is stocked with fresh vegetables and fruit in addition to pantry items and specialty beverages like VYBES, coconut water and kombucha. Those with a sweet tooth can find numerous containers of Sweet Action Ice Cream, several varieties of Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, and house-baked goods. There are entire shelves dedicated to condiments such as Suckerpunch pickles and Blonde Beard’s Buffalo sauce. Chicken noodle and butternut squash soups fill another section, and the deli case is loaded with meats and cheeses.
Frank's was inspired by East Coast and Mexican bodegas that provide easy-access staples to residential areas, explains manager Katie Scotten, who’s worked with the catering team for seven years: “Bodegas are somewhere you go to pick up a few small ingredients to finish off your meal or [for] household items.” It’s a quick trip for those who don’t want to get in their car and go to the supermarket, she adds.
The switch to selling groceries wasn’t that drastic for a catering company that was used to sourcing quality food. Hessner-Taras bought ingredients for cooking meals, but her company also stocked dressing rooms with artists’ favorite foods.
“Another aspect of catering for backstage is called a rider,” Scotten says. “It’s something that every artist has, and it’s a list of what they need in their dressing room — everything from specific beverages to certain types of tea. Just little things that make each artist feel comfortable when they go from city to city. They’re in a different place every night.”
Scotten believes that food provides a source of familiarity and comfort, something that anyone can appreciate, even when they’re not living on the road. Still, Frank’s has a healthy taste of voyeurism mixed in with its dedication to fulfilling common needs. Every day, in addition to a full deli case of prepared sides, the bodega cooks up a different take-home meal package; on Wednesdays, the theme is Favorite Band Menus, highlighting dinners served to famous performing artists.
For example, the October 7 menu was inspired by Ariana Grande’s backstage meal at the Pepsi Center on April 3, 2017: Thai coconut red curry shrimp with pineapple, fried rice with basil, and sweet and sour tofu with peppers. Scotten says that presenting those menus gives fans a little insight into the lives of their favorite performers.
Plus, the Frank’s crew has become good friends with many musical acts. Scotten cites Umphrey’s McGee and Greensky Bluegrass as groups that plan to support their new business through social media. “When you feed people and you’re in their dressing rooms year after year, you become pretty close with them,” she explains.
And although the crew at Frank’s looks forward to the day when they can return to catering, the bodega is there to stay. “People [in the neighborhood] have been asking for a little grocery store,” Scotten says. “And we have so many recipes.”
Frank’s Food & Bodega may have been created in a moment of hardship, but the owners saw it as an opportunity to cater to a different crowd, sharing simple joys found in the comforts of home. The shop is open from 8 am. to 8 p.m. daily; call 303-484-1109 or visit the Frank's Food & Bodega Facebook page for details and daily specials.