Is Denver feeling a little busy and crowded? You don’t have to go far to find a small-town feel; just off Highway 285 at 6328 South Turkey Creek Road sits Tomari’s coffee shop, only thirty minutes from Denver and ten minutes southwest of downtown Morrison. While Tomari's hasn’t been there nearly as long as historic Tiny Town across the street — which has drawn tourists in some capacity for 102 years — Tomari’s welcomes both visitors and residents of the small community on Turkey Creek.
Owners Tom Miszewski and his wife, Mari Ellis, opened their namesake coffee shop (Tom + Mari = Tomari) in January 2017. Before they bought the building, it had been abandoned for more than seven years. The couple's house is three miles up the road and, as Ellis tells it, “We would drive by the empty building and comment to each other, ‘Somebody ought to do something.’”
A year and a half ago, they decided that they were going to be the ones to buy it and do something — but what that something would be, they didn’t quite know.
The building had once been a convenience store and gas station owned by Evergreen Oil before falling into disrepair. On the night that Miszewski and Ellis took ownership of the property, they had a cocktail there to celebrate. While talking about his renovation ideas, Miszewski fell through the floor and halfway into the basement. That’s when the two realized what bad shape the building was in and just how much work it needed to get up to code.
Both Ellis and Miszewski were in the financial business and quit that life to open the shop.“There’s so much compromise to who you are in order to be a corporate person,” says Ellis. “There’s a lot of money that comes along with it, but you give up a lot, too.” For the couple, time was one thing they didn’t want to give up any longer. They’ve lived in Morrison for thirteen years, and they used to drive an hour each way to Aurora for work. Their commute to work today is just seven minutes. “Life is a lot simpler now,” says Ellis. “We don’t have money to burn, but we work shoulder to shoulder. And we feel like we’re making a difference.”
They had a vision to create a gathering place for their community, and decided that a coffee shop would fill the bill. “We knew nothing about the food-services industry, we knew nothing about running a restaurant, we knew nothing about coffee other than I loved it,” said Ellis. Although it took them longer than expected, with many zoning and building roadblocks along the way, they are starting to see their vision come to fruition. A farmer’s market with locally sourced produce and canned vegetables can be found in the parking lot two days a week, during which Miszewski mans the grill. They have also held events like a dream-catcher workshop, a memorial service, a fundraiser for an author’s new children’s book, and a few band performances. Paintings and photographs by local artists adorn the walls.
In this area, it’s not uncommon to see more wildlife than humans. One bear was chased out of town by the Tiny Town sheriff and not once, but twice, bears have eaten Miszewski’s chickens from his coop. Most human neighbors are friendly, however, and make up the majority of Tomari’s customers.
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Bryce Hiebert grew up on South Turkey Creek Road and, when he was in elementary school, he remembers the school bus stopped outside of what was then called the Little Log Store — which is still represented in miniature in Tiny Town — and going in to get doughnuts. Now, he’s in high school, employed at Tomari’s, and says the cafe is a gathering spot for him and his friends. In fact, it’s one of the only places for miles.
General manager Zach Green applied for the position after seeing it in the newspaper; he was hired sight unseen. Both Green and the shop’s other employee make the commute from Denver each day; they say the drive doesn’t feel very far going against the rush.
In addition to classic coffee drinks with beans sourced from Pablo’s, the shop offers affogatos with Lik's ice cream, pastries and sweets from “Carolyn the baker," burritos from “Kevin the burrito guy” and a selection of grab-and-go items such as sandwiches and salads. “It used to be a convenience store," Miszewski says. "We want it to be a coffee shop with convenience.”