Changes are afoot at Larimer Square, bringing a boost of youthful energy to the destination dining zone known more for its upscale eateries and white tablecloths than for hip pop-ups, mashups and collaborations. Josh Sampson, founder of TheBigWonderful, Denver BAZAAR and other multi-vendor events and concepts, is behind much of what's now happening.
Most notable is Sampson's revival of The Market, which closed at 1445 Larimer Street last April. His new vision for the space (unaffiliated with the original Market) is called The Farmers Market LSQ, a collection of food and beverage vendors that combined offer a similar experience to what shoppers enjoyed there for forty years, ever since developer Dana Crawford opened the first incarnation of a market. "There's a lot of nostalgia, and it's great to see neighbors coming back in and enjoying the space," Sampson notes.
Up front, Little Owl Coffee Roasters (which already operates a coffee shop at 1555 Blake Street) is providing the coffee, tea and other drinks, and Farm to Truck, a food truck that Sampson has been working with for the past six years, is providing breakfast sandwiches, burgers and other food. In the back of the market, the deli counters are still in place, only now you'll find artisan bread from Rebel Bread, sweet and savory pies from Hinman's Bakery, plant-based foods from YaYe Organics, and baked goods from Lala's Bakery, run by three former employees of the Market who are now creating classics like the Spring Fling cake alongside their own recipes.
At the back is the Wine Shop LSQ, selling wines and spirits by the bottle; you can also purchase select bottles at the front counter to drink at the cafe or take home. "It's all about convenience, but the quality is there, too," Sampson says. Live music every Wednesday through Sunday and daily wine tastings of several different labels are added draws for downtown residents looking to hang out a little longer.
Across the street at 1460 Larimer Street (the corner spot that's been vacant since Tom's Urban closed more than two years ago, aside from a few pop-ups), Sampson has launched an even more eclectic project called Garage Sale, a combination vintage clothing store, record shop and bar. "It's kind of the back to the future of retail again," he jokes.
Garage Sale also serves bar food, so you might find a deal on margaritas and tacos, for example, perfect for a sunny day on the shop's pergola-covered patio built in one of Larimer Street's closed traffic lanes.
And when it's cold? "If you wear your vintage ski pants and sit on the patio, I'll give you a drink discount," Sampson states, explaining that vintage could be ’80s, ’90s or even 2000s — and he'll even be lax about the discount for folks in newer ski pants.
Also in the works is Fat Baby, a fried chicken and ’60s music pop-up scheduled for December in the alley between Larimer and Market streets, with seating in the parking lot behind TAG. "Everything's an experiment, and it's all fun," Sampson adds.
These new concepts are all part of Sampson's Good Baby MGMT, which he calls a "place-making" real estate development company intended "to bring instant activation to a location to make it feel alive."
Also coming soon is Bao Brewhouse, a Chinese restaurant and brewery from owner Michael Swift that's moving into the former home of Euclid Hall at 1317 14th Street. Swift is already peddling bao and roujiamo (Chinese sandwiches) from a mobile cart on Larimer Street; the restaurant is expected to open on October 30.
Rounding out the upcoming Larimer Square additions are Ghost Coffee Saloon, offering coffee, cocktails and clothing at 1413 Larimer Street, and Hidden Gems, an ice cream shop next door specializing in cereal toppings instead of flavors, both being brought to life by Bellwether founder Josh Schmitz.
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