Not everything in set in stone, as Amethyst Coffee owner Elle Jensen continues to demonstrate. Jensen, who founded the Golden Triangle coffee shop at 1111 Broadway four years ago, recently brought on a business partner to help launch a third location, after adding Amethyst Lakeside last fall at 4999 West 44th Avenue.
Shortly after debuting the second Amethyst, Jensen partnered with Breezy Sanchez, a coffee veteran with twenty years in the industry — ten of those at Crema Coffee House. Now the duo's focus is on yet another project, a cafe inside a new event space called Realm, at 3851 Steele Street, which is set to open early this summer.
Amethyst at Realm will be a concept inside a concept. Currently under construction, with a tentative open date slated for mid-June, Realm is equal parts event space and photo studio, available for partial and full rental for workshops, photo shoots, retreats and parties. "For the founders of Realm, it was never that we wanted to simply toss in a cafe," says project co-founder E.B. Combs. "The three of us [owners] are all within the design and photography industries, so although we love coffee, making it is not our expertise. If we were to add a cafe into the mix, we needed the right partner."
Jensen impressed upon Realm's team her care and attention for each individual who walks through the doors of Amethyst, customer and staffer alike — and a partnership was formed.
According to Jensen, each location has its own vibe. Aesthetically, Broadway and Realm share the most similarities; both are located in renovated buildings that provide modern, minimalist interiors with lots of bright light. The Lakeside space is located in a building from the 1920s that served as offices and a pharmacy before shuttering in the ’60s; high ceilings and honey-hued decor offer a homier feel. "We love being in a neighborhood, with kids and puppies and families," says Jensen about the Lakeside spot. "It's nice to get to meet a whole new crowd of people. We had more regulars out of the gate because we're now somebody's neighborhood coffee shop."
At both current locations, the standard coffee drinks are the same, but specialty drinks vary. Five to ten espressos are available at any given time from house roaster Commonwealth and rotating out-of-state guest roasters. Pastries from Beet Box and Rebel Bread are also served. "We try to rotate our batch brew and keep two very different coffees on to satisfy different ends of the coffee-drinking spectrum," Jensen notes. "Specialty coffee is for all coffee drinkers; it's just a matter of finding what you like, and we're here to help."
Jensen plans to take this philosophy to the next level at the Realm location. "It can be difficult to educate people in your everyday coffee interaction, but [Realm] is a space you inherently interact with because you have to," she explains.
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Jensen plans to take advantage of the experimental space to help educate people about the nuances of coffee through coffee tastings and workshops. "We'll provide education focused on the coffee supply chain," she explains. "There's a whole world of coffee that people in consuming countries don't know about, so we're hoping to kind of break down: Why does your coffee cost three dollars? Why does this process taste different than that one? Why is it hard to replicate when you go home?"
She also plans to host baristas visiting from out of town and others practicing routines for competitions. Overall, coffee options will be more limited than at the other two Amethysts, with a menu of five standard drinks and pay-what-you-can drip coffee available every day.
Jensen herself has ten years of experience in the industry. "I was in college, and I was working in restaurants and bartending and needed a job in the morning, so I got a job as a barista and realized that the coffee world is super-special and attracts some really interesting, caring people," she points out. "Working in hospitality gives you a glimpse into the state of humanity. Coffee seemed like the right fit for me; it's something that I don't mind grinding at and the hustle."
In addition to all of the behind-the-scenes responsibilities she now shares with Sanchez in operating two unique cafes while building a third, Jensen can be still found behind the bar slinging coffee three or four times a week.