MOUTHING OFF

On the market: After nearly nine years of purveying fresh, organic produce and superior gourmet deli items, Michael and Clare Nolting are washing their hands of Greens, at 1312 East Sixth Avenue--their grocery, folks, not their excellent restaurant at 1469 South Pearl Street. The market's salad days have long since passed, the Noltings say; business has not been good despite the pair's adaptability, evident in their quick changes earlier this year to meet the trendy demands of gourmet takeout and grocery eat-in. "The bottom line is that people don't have time anymore to go to different stores and pick up one or two things," Clare says. "They want one big store that gives them everything." And they want those stores to stand out, Michael adds, which is often difficult for small-time operations.

Right now, Greens is having a huge sale to get rid of as much inventory as possible, so the market's closing date will depend on how long it takes to clear the place out. "I'm selling it for dirt cheap," Michael says. "The fixtures and the equipment, everything. But it's breaking my heart. We really held on to it for longer than we should have, and it's going to be hard to let it go. But we had to face the fact that the big stores are going to mean the end of the little guy."

The "big stores" Michael is referring to, of course, are Wild Oats and Alfalfa's. And those outfits are currently providing plenty of grist for the rumor mill. Word is that Wild Oats is trying to buy Alfalfa's. No one at either company will talk; "I really can't tell you anything about that," a spokeswoman at Wild Oats told me. But if the deal were to come through, I can't say I'd be disappointed, since recent visits to Alfalfa's left a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyone in the market for a market who still thinks small is beautiful should give the Noltings a call--but don't think you'll also be taking on Oliver's Meat Market, the butcher shop that shares space next door. Oliver's, which occupied the storefront decades before Greens took up residence, is staying put.

Coffee broke: A sad farewell to The Art of Coffee, the neat coffee shop tucked into the basement of 1836 Blake Street, where the old-fashioned flavored sodas were exemplary and the coffee drinks just as good. Alas, this now-closed artists' hangout may go down as one of the first major casualties of the heated restaurant competition in LoDo (see also: Cocoloco), although owner Gary Gilliard says it wasn't really a lack of business that pushed him to sell but more that there was "not as much business as I had expected by this point." Gilliard's not allowed to reveal the parties buying the space--they're established business owners in the Denver area--but he says they intend to stick with a coffee theme. "They'll remodel a bit," Gilliard adds, "but there's no opening date scheduled yet." Meanwhile, Art of Coffee frequent-drink cards and gift certificates will be honored at my other favorite LoDo coffeehouse, Jitters, at 1523 18th Street. Jitters does a cafe au lait that doesn't taste like a big glass of hot milk, and the place stocks some killer pastries. How Starbucks in nearby Larimer Square manages to stay so popular, I do not know. I stopped by the other day for a Christmas-shopping pick-me-up and wound up with a cup of coffee that tasted watered down and three hours old. When I complained, the woman at the counter told me she had just made it and wouldn't make it again. 'Tis the season to be crabby, I guess.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner