On paper, Steve Fenberg, Rob DuRay, Casey Berry and Sam Alviani look like an unlikely coalition of bar owners. Fenberg and DuRay are nonprofit and politics guys. Boulderite Fenberg is currently running for state Senate; a decade ago he launched progressive political organization New Era Colorado, where he met DuRay, who ran the Denver office. Partners Alviani and Berry work with the restaurant industry, but not in operations: Berry is a co-owner of Two Parts, the company behind events like Collaboration Fest and the Denver Flea, and Alviani is a writer and does PR for Sprocket, a public-relations firm. (I do some work for Sprocket, too, though nothing involving restaurants.)
The quartet came together in Silver Plume via disparate and winding routes and, after a quick series of odd coincidences, partnered together to purchase a bar. In late July, the establishment formerly known as Dram reopened as Bread Bar, a laid-back cocktail joint that channels the building’s bakery roots and features a beverage menu designed by Chad Michael George and Kate Gianinetti of the Way Back. I recently chatted with the owners about Silver Plume’s legacy, how a sense of place affects the restaurant industry, and what’s coming to Bread Bar this ski season.
Westword: You guys come from disparate industries, not all of which are related to restaurants or bars. How is it that you ended up joining forces to buy and operate a bar in Silver Plume?
Sam Alviani: I’ve loved Silver Plume for a long time, ever since I took a class up there with Dram owner Shae Whitney. Casey and I toyed with buying a house there.
Rob DuRay: I hadn’t been to Silver Plume much, but I’d gotten dragged into a lot of crazy ideas by Steve.
Steve Fenberg: I’d always wanted to open a bar — I don’t know why. I also wanted a boat, even though I don’t know how to sail.
DuRay: That was one of Steve’s ideas I said no to.
Fenberg: Yeah, otherwise we’d be living on a boat on the Mediterranean right now. Anyway, I literally saw this on Facebook. And I thought, if I’m ever going to own a bar, it’s not going to be in Denver. If this is going to happen, this would be the weird town and the time. So I forwarded the post to Rob and said, “Wouldn’t this be weird?” I thought he’d say, “You’re an idiot,” but he said we should check it out. We met Shae a few days later and had some tea and thought, whoa, this could actually happen.
Alviani: And then Shae texted me and said, “Your best friend’s boyfriend just came to look at the bar.”
Casey Berry: Sam and I had already gone out to dinner with Shae to talk about it, and Sam and I were like, “Let’s fuckin’ buy this thing.” When we got that text, we thought, we can make this work. So we all met up for a beer and said, “Let’s really go for it.”
When you’re going into a defunct mining community like Silver Plume, how do you honor the legacy of the place even as you invite out-of-towners in to share in the magic?
Fenberg: One of the things we thought was important was to be a bit of a local community hub in the way that the bakery was, in addition to the destination attraction that Dram was. We wanted it to be a place that the community felt was their place, even as it was a place for people who went up for a trip or a night. So we kept a little bit of both of those histories.
Alviani: It was important to us that we weren’t negatively impactful on the town; we wanted to blend in nicely with what was already there. We have locals in there every night, and we learn things about the history of the building from them, even more than our research. Silver Plume is a feeling; it’s magnetic. When we go up, we’re there for five hours — or three days — longer than we think we’re going to be. When people come up, it’s a place they want to stay and learn about. We wanted to share that in the best way possible.
Is that why you channeled the building’s baking roots, as opposed to continuing to operate something exactly like Dram?
Berry: We knew we wanted to put our own identity to it, to change some of the aesthetics and hospitality pieces, but we understood that people were going to come in because they loved Dram and Silver Plume. We wanted to do our own drinks and menu without taking the allure out of the place.
Fenberg: When you’re there, digging in, remodeling, peeling off layers of stuff — physically and historically — you realize that the magnetic draw predates Dram. So we want to carry out a lot of what they did, but recognize that they were carrying out a certain history, too.
You guys enlisted the crew from the Way Back here in Denver to create cocktails and help you run the ship. Talk to me about your vision for beverages there, and how the Way Back team fits into that.
Berry: The Way Back’s mentality is community. We liked that, but we very much wanted our own identity. We wanted approachable but high-quality cocktails made with thoughtful ingredients. We wanted options for people coming in used to the extreme echelon of craft cocktail bars, but we didn’t want to isolate people by serving only highbrow options. The Way Back’s extremely talented bar staff was able to do Way Back-ish cocktails that align with that vision.
DuRay: So we have a Manhattan that we’ve doctored up a little bit, a Paloma that’s our style — classics that you’d see at older bars. Our drinks tag to the landscape, reference history and channel our vibe.
Alviani: And the drinks are named for local historical figures, which felt kitschy at first but now makes sense and feels right. It’s a way to dig up different histories and learn stuff about Colorado.
How have your perspectives on the restaurant industry changed now that you’re owners?
Fenberg: In the line of work that I’ve been in, I’ve always thought that stories and communications are incredibly powerful. The reason Barack Obama is who he is is because of the story. It’s been interesting to realize that it’s the same thing with this project. You really get a sense of place in Silver Plume; you can’t be there without wondering what happened here back in the day. So there’s a strong sense of story, in the location, in the building, in us. Understanding that history has been really powerful.
That sense of place seems palpable in a town like Silver Plume, so it’s no wonder that you’ve attempted to harness that and respect that in your bar. How does sense of place play out in a bigger city like Denver, and what implications does that have for the city’s restaurant industry?
Berry: In Denver, I wish everyone would take a breath before jumping into every new project. I have no problem with people coming from the outside and launching new things. But are you doing that because you want to or because it’s a land grab? Do it the right way. It’s tough to see a landscape change overnight when it really doesn’t need to.
Fenberg: It’s a real-estate problem — Denver got too expensive too quickly, so people say, “Fuck, if I don’t do it now, I’ll be kicking myself in twenty years.” Maybe that’s why things don’t feel that authentic.
DuRay: But on the flip side, there’s a lot of good craft going on in the Denver scene. We’re able to tap into the community here because there’s a lot of flexibility and openness.
Berry: Yeah, it’s almost challenging to figure out who to reach out to; there are too many people doing awesome things to begin to choose. And people see right through you in this scene: You lie, you die. Breweries and distilleries that don’t come with their A-game get weeded out. That’s accelerated our craft scene way faster than a bunch of other cities.
What’s on the horizon for Bread Bar?
Alviani: We’d like to do more events, both public and private. And food. Hopefully for ski season. I want to do something with our brick oven.
DuRay: I would love to stop in Silver Plume for a beer and a bite after a day of skiing. Bread Bar is ideal for that.
Bread Bar is located at 1010 Main Street in Silver Plume, and open Friday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 10 p.m. Find out more at 720-722-7323 or breadbarsp.com.