Four years ago, the storefront between Chili Verde and Piñateria la Fiesta at 2307 Federal Boulevard closed for a remodel and never reopened. This Saturday, December 15, that will change.
Sonia Rosas's mother opened the naturista store Cosmo Vida in 1999. She specialized in herbal remedies and natural ways of healing, but when she became sick eight years ago, Rosas took over the business. After her mother passed away, Rosas says, "It was very hard for me to think of selling the shop when it was the vitamin store." Instead of shuttering the business, Rosas decided to adapt to the changing neighborhood by turning her mother's store into Federal Coffee. "I want[ed] to thrive in this new environment with my mom in my heart," says Rosas.
She designed the coffee shop with her husband, Mark Smith, whom she met over a cup of coffee down the street at the Denny's coffee counter seven years ago. Now, two kids later, the couple hopes to provide the neighborhood where they met with an upscale but inclusive option for coffee.
"This is a black and brown business," says Rosas. "We want to make sure all are welcome. We don't believe in snootiness." Additionally, she says, she wants to hire black and brown people who may not have otherwise have the opportunity to work in a coffee shop, and intends to recruit people from the neighborhood.
Leslie Twarogowski, executive director of the Federal Boulevard Business Improvement District, of which Federal Coffee's location is part, says, "What we want is local owners and people of color, people who've been [in the neighborhood] a long time. We didn't want Sonia's family to leave and [the building owner] didn't, either. … That's not the direction the business improvement district wants to go."
The Federal Boulevard BID consists of commercial property owners in the area, including Gilbert Vasquez, the owner of the building where Federal Coffee is located, who helped Rosas keep the business in the family by allowing extra time for the remodel. Recently the BID received a bond for $2.85 million for pedestrian upgrades to improve the sidewalks and make the streets surrounding Federal more safe and walkable.
Progress was made slowly but surely as Rosas and her family purchased new equipment and remodeled the interior only as they were financially able to do so rather than taking out a loan. The years of anticipation show — over 1,000 people RSVPed as going or interested on the grand-opening event page on Facebook, and Rosas says she's been overwhelmed by the community support.
"We want to say thank you to every single person," says Rosas, who plans to spend Saturday morning with Smith greeting and thanking each individual in attendance.
The pride and joy of the shop is the wooden walk-up bar, designed by an artist friend of the family who goes by the name Out Of Focus Area, and Rosas hopes that in the absence of seating at the bar, people will walk in, order an espresso, and then continue with their day, in similar fashion to coffee shops in Europe. Of course, indoor and outdoor seating are available for those who wish to stay.
"Part of our mission statement is to provide a five-star experience in a coffee shop," says Rosas, "Everyone deserves to be comfortable in a beautiful space."
Coffee comes from Ampersand in Boulder, chosen for its commitment to roasting ethically sourced organic coffee from women farmers. Food options are limited to pastries from Rebel Bread to start with, but eventually will include breakfast burritos from Chili Verde. In four to six months Rosas hopes to have a liquor license, allowing the business to sell coffee by day and cocktails by night. For now, coffee shop hours rule, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.