The Five Points staple, which recently celebrated its sixth birthday, boasts a greater mission than simply serving coffee, but strives "to reclaim and sustain the lives of homeless youth and young adults through supportive and meaningful employment," according to the company's website. It's this mission that motivated the Purple Door to close its retail location.
Here's the coffee shop's explanation:
You are invited to join us all day Friday, May 10th - our last day serving customers from our Welton store. This sounds sad — and we will miss our customers — but our decision results from good news for our organization. Our coffee roasting operation has been growing faster than we can handle while maintaining our retail location. So don’t despair, you will still see Purple Door Coffee in Denver. We are continuing our mission of transforming lives from the streets while we roast really good coffee for individuals, churches, businesses and events. Please join us one last time on Friday! And our coffee is available online at purpledoorcoffee.com.
"We have gained more and more traction on the roasting side and feel it's a better context to do training," says co-founder, head roaster and executive director Mark Smesrud.
He acknowledges that there are other Denver coffee shops with similar missions, though the young people he recruits for Purple Door tend to be older than those at the other shops. "They missed out on amazing programs like Prodigy and Girls Inc.," he says. "One of my employees who graduated from our program became homeless at 9 and came to us at 22."
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Because of this, the participants don't always have the foundational skills needed for customer service. "Retail is hard in general, but staffing with folks learning how to work for the first time makes it harder. With the population we serve, their needs tend to be greater," Smesrud adds. Closing the shop will allow staff and program participants to focus time and resources on roasting coffee and eliminate the amount of time it took to manage a shop.
In Purple Door's six years, 22 young participants successfully completed the year-long training program. Currently, three staff members and four program participants operate the business, but Smesrud hopes the shift will allow them to increase the number to the full capacity of ten.
Purple Door also faced the challenges of a changing neighborhood. "It's changed quite a bit, in good ways and not so good ways," the director notes. "[Gentrification] is a challenging conversation to have; some of our customers were longtime residents who can't afford to live there anymore, but at same time there's new culture, business and jobs being created. It's an interesting tension to sit in the middle of, especially with our mission to work with folks in poverty. I'm grateful we got to be there in transition time to humanize conversation."
Talks for a new occupant are in progress, but the space will remain a coffee shop, and Smesrud says whoever moves in will most likely still serve Purple Door's coffee. In the meantime, you can find it at Cafe 180 or at Purple Door's online store. For one last cup in Five Points, join in the celebration today with free drip coffee all day, cake, live music and giveaways.