Nathan Stern began selling coffee from his Gathering Grounds coffee truck in 2011 with the ultimate goal of opening a brick-and-mortar cafe that would not only sell coffee and snacks but would serve as a community center for fans of strategic board games. After more than three years, he opened Gathering Grounds Cafe & Board Games earlier this month and just held the grand opening this weekend, giving Greenwood Village neighbors a new place to go for Solar Roast coffee, bagels and other kosher treats from business partner Beth Ginsberg's Bagel Store, and a selection of more than 200 games for customers to play, many of which are also for sale in the cafe's retail section.
Stern's first order of business was locking down a coffee vendor when he first opened his mobile coffee business with Chris Bass. Solar Roast, a Pueblo operation that bills itself as the only solar-powered coffee roaster in the country, fit Stern's goals for a green business and a coffee roaster unique to Denver. Licensing the branding so that he could prominently feature the Solar Roast logo on the truck and outfitting it with solar panels to provide additional energy, Stern's Gathering Grounds became a fixture in Denver's food-truck scene.
To make the jump from mobile coffee vendor to a coffeehouse with a physical address, Stern partnered with Ginsberg and the Gathering Grounds Cafe was born. Stern says the neighborhood, within walking distance of Cherry Creek High School, was in need of a kosher cafe due to the large Jewish population in the surrounding subdivisions. Bagels, hamentashen, challah and other kosher baked goods line the shelves at the order counter and an additional list of house-made soups, pizzas, sandwiches and breakfast burritos (all kosher) round out a menu that Stern and Ginsberg have designed to appeal to both Jewish customers and high school students who come for lunch as well as board games.
Board games are Stern's passion and something he says bring people together and build skills like communication, strategic thinking and cooperation. Even the big Gathering Grounds logo that takes up almost an entire wall in the dining room is made up of board pieces from Carcassonne, a strategy game that was his introduction to the genre. Stern has several plans for weekly hosted events, including tournaments, family nights and club events. Ginsberg points out that the Colorado Backgammon Association has already held a monthly event at the cafe. "And nerds rule, so it's a win-win," adds general manager Jennifer Sweet, who has also gotten the gaming bug since coming on board.
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Stern and Ginsberg stress that they want the cafe to be interactive and community-based. While Gathering Grounds offers wi-fi, there are no electronic games available and two hope that guests use the space to make friends and enjoy conversation. The cafe is divided into two sections: the main coffee bar and bakery counter, and a second room with more tables and a wall-mounted monitor that groups can use for meetings and events.
The second Gathering Grounds will open in April on the ground floor of the new Renaissance West End Flats building; Stern and Ginsberg are also planning a third Gathering Grounds which could open before the end of 2015.