Cafe Society

Community Uplift Partnership Opens Nonprofit Coffeehouse in Commerce City

Reunion Coffee House's unusual location is one of its main draws.
Reunion Coffee House's unusual location is one of its main draws. Courtesy Reunion Coffeehouse
Craft coffee and the suburbs don't typically go together, but in the Commerce City housing development of Reunion, Reunion Coffee House is trying to change that, by offering an alternative to the chains that have proliferated in the area while giving at-risk youth important job training.

When the coffeehouse opened its doors in August, it was much sooner than originally planned — a rare accomplishment in the current market, where delays are the norm. More than just a cafe, Reunion Coffee House is a joint venture between Oakwood Homes, Boyer's Coffee and Community Uplift Partnership (CUP), a nonprofit that runs the coffee shop while providing job training for Commerce City kids. CUP development director Lori Young credits the quick progress — a year from initial conception to opening — largely to Oakwood and Boyer's.

click to enlarge
CUP runs the cafe and trains youth at risk in food-service skills.
Courtesy Reunion Coffeehouse
Just ten minutes from Denver International Airport, the Reunion subdivision was founded in 2002, but Oakwood just recently took over as master developer. The company financed and designed Reunion Coffee House, leaving CUP with the tasks of staffing and running the business side of things. In addition to serving Boyer's coffee, Reunion serves burritos from Burrito Kitchen, grab-and-go items like sandwiches and salads from Share Good Foods, and pastries from Handcraft and Bluepoint Bakery.

Young says that because the bulk of the work and expense of opening a coffee shop were handled by Oakwood, CUP was able to do what it does best: focus on the people. Currently four young adults, ranging from 17 to 25 years old, are participating in the training program, mostly through referrals from Commerce City's Lester Arnold High School. After the students complete classroom coursework, they begin hands-on training as baristas behind the counter with guidance from a one-on-one mentor. The hope is that the individualized training will provide them with job skills to better help them find stable employment in the future. Young says that the new coffee shop comes with extra space to grow the program even more.
click to enlarge
Inside Reunion Coffee House.
Courtesy Reunion Coffeehouse

Young lives in the community and says word of mouth has contributed to the success the coffee shop has seen so far. "I think [the results] are grander than what we originally thought they could be," says Young. "Oakwood has provided us with exposure, and [we've been] promoted by Oakwood as a community gathering space."

Because of that, Young says, they see a lot of moms with kids and other people who live in Reunion. But, she adds, "We also get a fair amount of people coming from the airport who have business meetings and layovers."

Another big draw is the unusual setting: A wraparound porch that seats up to 120 customers overlooks a small pond and the Rocky Mountains to the west. And the building itself is larger than most coffee shops, so there's plenty of room for private parties.

Reunion Coffee House is located at 10601 Reunion Parkway. Baristas and baristas-in-training serve coffee and treats from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Monday through Friday. Call 720-389-7586 or visit the cafe's website for more information.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Danielle Krolewicz likes a good cup of coffee, a good book and a good deal — not necessarily in that order.