Construction Watch

Habit/Carbon Heads Across Town for New Five Points Cafe

The Habit/Carbon space looks out onto the intersection of 22nd and California streets.
The Habit/Carbon space looks out onto the intersection of 22nd and California streets. Mark Antonation
One of the coolest recent building redevelopments is the inauspiciously named 2200 California building, a squat rectangle of red brick storefronts that currently houses Woods Boss Brewing, Solutions Lounge & Restaurant (with its Escapology puzzle rooms) and Tealee's Tea House & Bookstore, among other businesses. In fact, the renovated building was one of only eighteen projects to win a Mayor's Design Award this year. And coming soon to the block: a second location of the Habit/Carbon duo, which currently peddles doughnuts, coffee, booze and food at 1553 Platte Street.

Founder Lisa Ruskaup launched Habit Doughnut Dispensary and Carbon Cafe & Bar in the former home of Paris on the Platte in August 2015 as two separate entities with a pass-through window and a shared kitchen. Soon thereafter, a doorway was added inside, creating one space where guests could grab their doughnuts, espresso drinks, cold-brew coffee, kombucha, chai, beer, wine or cider (you get the idea: lots of beverage choices) all at once. A fun, stoner-friendly menu of housemade tots and other bites designed by chef Scott Parker filled out the lunch and dinner side of the equation. Even at the time, though, Ruskaup hinted that she wasn't done after one.

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The space was most recently a high-end sports car showroom.
Mark Antonation
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The building dates back more than 100 years.
Mark Antonation
It took a couple of years of scouting to find a second spot, but construction is now well under way, in what was once a showroom for high-end sports cars, for what Ruskaup is calling Habit Carbon Five Points, since the sibling establishments will share space just around the corner from the neighborhood's main drag, Welton Street. While the new configuration will be more integrated than the original, a distinct left and right side will be evident in the design aesthetic, with the funky, urban Habit side on the right and the more subdued, loungy Carbon side on the left. But in the middle will be an open kitchen where customers will be able to take a seat at a five-person chef's counter or watch doughnuts being made and fried.

Graffiti continues to be a big theme, with street art, reproductions of Paris on the Platte's original graffiti walls (which still hang in the first Carbon) and a chalkboard panel that will wrap around the entire space, which Ruskaup says will allow guests to participate in the creative experience.

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A painted sign on the wall indicating the former owner's parking spot will remain as part of the decor.
Mark Antonation
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Interior windows look from Habit/Carbon into Woods Boss Brewing next door.
Mark Antonation
The whole design is "meant to be a prototype going forward," the owner adds, indicating that there's more growth planned for Habit and Carbon. Part of the streamlining is the addition of a Belshaw robotic doughnut machine, a smaller version of the kind that can be seen at Krispy Kreme shops. Ruskaup says the machine adds visual interest for customers and also allows production to ramp up to as many as 38 dozen doughnuts per hour. The recipe and handmade dough will stay the same, but the Belshaw takes care of frying, flipping and removing the pastries from the hot oil via conveyor belt.

Another change is the funding method for the coffee house/doughnut shop. While Ruskaup is relying on traditional methods (loans and business partners), she's also turning to modern means of raising cash — through, a platform that's a step above sites such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Unlike donations made to those sites, payments made through Wefunder are actual investments, complete with the potential risks and rewards of small-business investing, since you're actually purchasing a small part of the business (a minimum of $1,000 in this case).

As part of the growth plans, Ruskaup has brought on industry veteran Don Hart as her new director of operations to oversee Habit Carbon Hospitality Collection, which also includes Dead Battery Club at 2420 17th Street. Hart and Ruskaup have been driving the construction project to stay on track (an increasingly difficult task with so many restaurants in the works in Denver) and hope to open in December. Plans for the opening menu include CBD cold brew and other CBD products, more emphasis on lighter fare (though the tots aren't going anywhere), and food service for customers at Woods Boss next door. Right now there's a large window between the brewery and Carbon, but part of the plan is to create a doorway to open up the space, though alcoholic beverages served on each side will have to stay within their own boundaries.

Habit and Carbon are located on the edge of Five Points and the newly created Arapahoe Square (bounded by 20th, 23rd, Lawrence and Welton streets), which will soon be teeming with new residents at the many apartments springing up in the area.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation