Cafe Society

Torpedo Coffee Owners Take Over White Whale Room

Kyle Wells
Kyle and Fallene Wells in their newly acquired space.
Less than a year ago, Kyle Wells and his wife, Fallene, opened Torpedo Coffee in the Oneida Park shopping center in Park Hill. For their second endeavor, they're jumping further into the deep end with Close Quarters at 415 South Cherokee Street, in the space formerly occupied by the White Whale Room.

Wells recalls that Brad Arguello, one of the White Whale Room's owners and a Park Hill resident, contacted him via LinkedIn as a potential buyer, sending him the message "When we first envisioned opening [White Whale] we wanted something similar to what you're doing at Torpedo." 

"We always thought maybe down the road, 'Can we expand?'" says Wells. "But we felt good about where things were moving with Torpedo. One of the big things about it is we felt really good about our team. I've been able to step away from being behind the bar every day. If we waited for every single thing to be exactly perfect, we might never do it. It made sense for us to take the plunge."

click to enlarge The new logo for Close Quarters - KYLE WELLS
The new logo for Close Quarters
Kyle Wells
Although the timing wasn't what the couple originally had in mind, the opportunity was too good to pass up. So in August, they took Arguello up on his offer and took possession of the building and the assets, which included taking over the lease and the liquor license. The couple decided not to purchase the White Whale Room name (despite the coincidentally nautical theme) and to instead start fresh, naming the new business Close Quarters, a nod to a ship's tight quarters and the smaller square footage at the new location.

"It's different than Torpedo; the space has two roller garage doors that are windows, and there's not a lot of wall space for artwork," Wells points out. "We're taking advantage of the light and including more plants in the space. It was pretty industrial, so we are trying to soften some industrial edges of the space by keeping it bright and airy while still having a little bit of an edge to it."

So far, they've stained the concrete floors bright blue and painted over the massive whale mural, with plans to add intimate seating.

Torpedo, which celebrates its one-year anniversary at the end of September, won Westword's Readers' Choice award for Best New Coffeehouse in 2019. Wells doesn't want to reinvent a wheel that works, so there will be plenty of similarities between the original cafe and Close Quarters. Corvus Coffee Roasters will remain the house coffee, with a guest roaster changing quarterly. Food options like breakfast burritos and sandwiches made in-house will be offered at both, but because of the liquor license, Close Quarters will have an appetizer menu to go with the drinks. "We'll have small plates with a somewhat Mediterranean focus: warm bread, hummus, olives, cheeses and those types of things," the owner adds.

click to enlarge Kyle and Fallene Wells opened Torpedo Coffee in Park Hill in September 2018. - KYLE WELLS
Kyle and Fallene Wells opened Torpedo Coffee in Park Hill in September 2018.
Kyle Wells
The bar will hold six taps pouring Colorado beers and nitro cold brew, and, Wells adds, "We're going to do a highly curated, select number of wines that are at a medium price point, stuff that's unique and different, exposing people to smaller runs on wines but still at a reasonable price point."

Although Torpedo's primary customers are students from nearby schools and their parents, Wells predicts the clientele at Close Quarters will be commuters and residents from the apartments above the space and from the new development of 500 condos going into the former Kmart across the parking lot.

Early risers commuting through the Alameda light-rail station are looking for early-hours coffee and quick bites, so Close Quarters will open at 6 a.m. and close by 7 p.m. on weekdays, with a later start on the weekends and closing at 2 or 3 p.m. Wells hopes to have everything in shipshape for an early-November opening.