Glass Arrow Coffee Faces New Hurdles as It Aims to Create a Workers' Cooperative

Two recent incidents damaged Glass Arrow Coffee on Colfax.
Two recent incidents damaged Glass Arrow Coffee on Colfax. Jeff Bebout
When Jeff Bebout (aka Neon Dad) built out his brick-and-mortar coffee shop, Glass Arrow, to house his growing roasting business, he started with just $100 and 700 square feet of space at 8600 East Colfax Avenue. Over the past two years, he’s expanded, in part thanks to a partnership with Nick Lowary, owner of the e-commerce coffee company Ground Shark, which allowed him to secure additional funds to purchase back the majority ownership of Roostercat Coffee House, as well as a new space in Westminster, Subjective Cafe.

However, Subjective’s opening has been continuously pushed back, this time to January, and a new set of difficulties arose over Christmas weekend when Glass Arrow was damaged in two separate incidents.

On the night of Friday, December 23, a car crashed into the outside of the Glass Arrow building. The following Monday afternoon, a man suspected to be in a drug-induced psychosis entered the building after smashing a window. He attacked the manager and broke several other windows before police arrived to subdue him.

"Luckily, the landlord will cover the fix [from the car crash], but I’ll have to close down for a week or so when they do it,” says Bebout. To make matters worse, “I don’t have anyone who feels good working there at the moment, so we will have to put some more safety measures in place and will be closed until [all of the employees] are okay with the precautions we have taken,” he adds.

There isn't a lot of foot traffic driving customers into the cafe as is, and the space primarily operates as a roasting facility. The sale of coffee drinks and cafe fare like Dis Burritos allows the shop to cover its rent. Now, with it closed until further notice, Bebout's partner, Samantha, has started a GoFundMe page to help cover expenses and rebuild.
Glass Arrow doesn't get a lot of foot traffic.
Glass Arrow Coffee/Instagram
The altercation came at a particularly difficult time for Bebout, who's spending all of his time building out Subjective Cafe at 3695 West 72nd Avenue in Westminster, a project that has faced its own share of setbacks.

In mid-November, co-owner Lowary wrote in an Instagram post, “We're slowly chugging along, trying to get open as soon as we can. We've got the plumbing trench filled and the concrete fixed, and the framing is almost done. Drywall should be going up next week after inspection, then the finishing touches and the bar build are all that's left to get us open after Thanksgiving. ... We're on track for a December opening, but since it's the holidays, we'll probably open in January. ... PS I still laugh to myself that I was originally telling people our projected opening was August 1, 2022. Oof."

When Bebout started roasting coffee, he purchased partial bags of green beans from another roaster, which he recognizes isn’t always feasible, possible or cost-effective. Before he had his own space, he rented roasting time from MORU Coffee. Both of these approaches present major obstacles for anyone trying to get into and make a living in the coffee industry. Although Bebout was able to overcome the hurdles, he hopes to use his experience to make things easier for others, which is where the inspiration for Subjective came from.

"I’m buying coffee and willing to sell it to people and split bags at a much lower markup," he explains. "I’m not trying to make a profit on selling it; I just like moving it, and people can come participate in what we’re doing.” Although Subjective won’t offer use of its roasters for liability reasons, a large portion of its 7,000-square-foot space will be climate-controlled green coffee storage for rent. There will also be a cupping room along with the public-facing coffee shop.
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Staff at Roostercat will form a new employee co-op.
Jeff Bebout
Bebout also sees Subjective as a back-door way to create a workers' cooperative. Labor rights have always been at the forefront of his business decisions, but he noticed many challenges restricting workers' ability to access wealth. “Glass Arrow has always been about empowering workers and supporting workers, and the best way to do that is to give them ownership over that which they create,” says Bebout.

The new cafe presented Bebout with an idea and the opportunity to invest in this mission. Since he fully owns Glass Arrow, he is able to bestow that entity onto the employees of Roostercat and rearrange its business assets to redistribute the power structure.

“Glass Arrow doesn’t have a lot of assets; it’s mostly just a brand,” he explains. “My goal is, by the end of 2023, by working with a couple nonprofits that specialize in empowering workers, to create an employee cooperative and turn over the ownership of Glass Arrow to that cooperative."

In turn, the cooperative, operating under the name of Glass Arrow, will sub-contract out labor to run Subjective and Roostercat. Bebout will become one-eighth owner of Glass Arrow, giving himself and the other employees an equal share in the company. “There are eight of us, so everyone is going to own 12.5 percent," he explains. "We will make all of our decisions democratically, and we'll be able to bill Subjective and Roostercat for our work with a small premium and be able to make decisions and grow the collective.”

The employees have been operating with democratic decision-making, but the creation of the collective will make it official. Bebout hopes the new year and new structure will mean stability for the staff and the three cafes, each of which has its own personality. Glass Arrow, given its location on Colfax, features an Americana/Route 66 vibe accented with the neon that Bebout is known for, offering a specialty coffee shop experience at an affordable price point.

Halfway underground and a bit grimier, Roostercat exudes the feeling of a classic coffee shop, reminiscent of old Denver, with more of a focus on the community gathering place than on the coffee itself.

Bebout says Subjective aims to combine the best of these worlds, with a style influenced by the architecture of the Riviera Hotel or Tom's Diner, complete with a conversation "pit" built up and furnished to look like a mid-century living room, with surfboard-shaped coffee tables and guitar pick-shaped two-tops. The space will also have a bar straight from the 1950s, backed with mirrors to look like windows, and lots of plants.

The menu seeks to please both specialty coffee lovers and those who prioritize ambience at an accessible price point. "How can we make specialty coffee more approachable for the everyday person? We're not pricing people out with pourovers for $7 or $8; we're offering a more affordable market price for some of the higher-end coffees," Bebout says.

For more information, updates on Subjective's opening and to shop its online coffee selection, visit
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Danielle Krolewicz likes a good cup of coffee, a good book and a good deal — not necessarily in that order.

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