Scott Mowrey and Kenneth Ruterbories have a lot in common: They're both Colorado natives and neighbors who found themselves unhappy with their executive-level corporate jobs. Mostly, though, they both loved coffee, which led them to become business partners and co-founders of MORU Specialty Coffee Roasters, which they run from a warehouse space at 1900 South Quince Street in an innocuous corner of southeast Denver.
Soon, though, MORU will welcome customers into a coffee bar located inside their roasting facility, giving Denver coffee lovers a chance to try the duo's coffee from bean to roaster to cup, as well as coffees from MORU's partners.
The duo came up with the idea for MORU (named for the first two letters of their last names) three years ago over bourbon and smoked ribs. "Ken and I both had executive positions," Mowrey recalls. "He was a VP in the aerospace industry; I was in finance in the public sector. We both got sick of our jobs and wanted something to do on our own. He has a history of specialty coffee and proposed we start a coffee company."
A year after founding MORU, Mowrey and Ruterbories expanded by adding a co-op, RoasterShare Denver, to their business model. Members of the co-op range from home roasters to those with startup roasting businesses who all receive training on how to use MORU's equipment and roasting software, access to the roasters and coffee cupping lab, and the option to purchase MORU's green-coffee inventory.
"Out of that spun the idea for a coffee bar," says Ruterbories. "We wanted to have an environment to allow our RoasterShare members to sell their coffee in a collaborative space, to have a bar take over where they have their coffee featured on drip or pour-over or espresso."
He describes the retail side as more of a coffee bar than a cafe, one that will also house an events space complete with a projector for presentations.
Ruterbories's interest in specialty coffee started in the 1990s, when he worked for national chain Diedrich Roasters. He's also a judge for the Rocky Mountain Specialty Coffee Association and hosts various regional coffee cuppings and tastings. He also recently created Collaborative Origins, a green-coffee share. "My forte is the sensory side and sourcing coffee, so we are launching [Collaborative Origins], which is relationship coffee-based, focused on the farmer and sustainability. It pays the producer first so that they get a fair price for the coffee," he explains.
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"We're kind of in an industrial place. We're just north of Denver Dumb Friends League on Quebec and close to a recycling transfer center, so depending on what way the wind blows..." Mowrey points out, though he and Rutebories feel that adding the scent of roasting coffee is just one way they've helped improve the area they call home.
"We picked the space because it's a half a mile from our houses — I've never had such a good commute in my life." Mowrey adds. "We want to bring more retail into the neighborhood. There seems to be a shift in southeast Denver; it's finally starting to modernize a little bit. There's a lot of new building and renovation, and we want to help enliven this corner of Denver."
He also points out that the installation of a new footbridge over Cherry Creek, currently under construction, will connect other neighbors by making the area safer and easier for pedestrians.
With paint drying on newly constructed walls, Mowrey hopes MORU's coffee bar will be ready to open by early October. Until then, their small-batch coffee can be found at nearby restaurants and cafes, including Esters and Sojourners Coffee & Tea, or for purchase online. The tasting room will offer a full-service coffee bar, light snacks like scones and muffins, and nitro cold-brew coffee. Ruterbories says they plan to be open Monday through Friday, with the potential for seven days a week. "We're here every day anyway," he points out optimistically.