Openings and Closings

Welton Street Cafe to Close March 12, Needs Community Support to Reopen in New Location

Members of the Dickerson family in front of the location that will close March 12.
Members of the Dickerson family in front of the location that will close March 12. Kristin Pazulski
On March 12, longtime Five Points staple Welton Street Cafe will close its doors at 2736 Welton Street. But members of the Dickerson family, who opened the soul food restaurant in 1986, hope to bring it back in a new location by summer.

The space that they've leased a block away at 2883 Welton Street will require major renovations, however, so the Dickersons launched a GoFundMe campaign on January 7 with the goal of raising $250,000 toward the looming costs. So far, over $64,000 has been donated.

Welton Street almost didn’t make it to this point. Although it offered takeout through the COVID closures in 2020, that wasn’t enough to keep ahead. Fathima Dickerson, one of the daughters of founders Flynn and Mona Dickerson, says they didn't have time to apply for funding from the city. “We were in a whole different storm. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. I still feel like I’m running,” she explains, adding that she was wrapping up graduate school at the same time; she recently earned her master's degree in social sciences.

Fathima did, however, do interviews with anyone — the library, podcasts, local media — who would listen to the family's story. Donations came in and sustained the restaurant through 2020. But last summer, HVAC issues led to the loss of staff and customers when temperatures reached over 100 degrees in the kitchen and dining area, and the family had to ask the community for support again.

Now the Dickersons are facing a new challenge: The lease is up at their current location, and a move is necessary to keep the business afloat.
click to enlarge Fathima Dickerson is leading the charge to raise funds to open a new location. - KRISTIN PAZULSKI
Fathima Dickerson is leading the charge to raise funds to open a new location.
Kristin Pazulski
“This is like moving out of my house,” Fathima notes. The restaurant has been in the heart of Five Points since it opened; it operated in two different neighborhood spots before settling into its current location, where it has served the community for 22 years. The new space will allow the Dickersons to double the capacity, build a larger kitchen and add a bar. The family also hopes to expand into nonprofit work, but  future plans depend on the ability to open the new restaurant in a timely manner.

The total cost for the full renovation and development of the new location is $1 million, and the family is still unsure of how it will raise the entire amount. "We have exhausted our efforts in securing funding from government grants, government loans, business loans, and corporate grants," reads the GoFundMe page. "None of these efforts have been successful, so we are reaching out to our community for support.”

The goal of the campaign is not only to raise money, but to spread the word that small businesses — even ones like Welton Street Cafe that serve as a community pillar — are struggling. “It is important to tell the story as much as fundraise,” Fathima says.

Over the years, the whole family has worked in the restaurant. Although she denies any leadership role, Fathima is currently the eatery's spokesperson and is assisting her sister Chereka with the social media and fundraising efforts, posting regular updates on Welton Street's Instagram and Facebook pages. She’s well known to customers as the face behind the register and the voice on the phone, though she wears all the hats at the restaurant. “Titles don’t mean anything when you do everything,” she notes.

There is already a lot of positive energy behind the new space. Funding and words of encouragement have streamed in from the community near and far, according to Fathima, who says they’ve received cards in the mail and calls from people who are homebound and out-of-state — and even one from a former customer who is currently in a correctional facility but wanted the family to know he was rooting for them.
click to enlarge Welton Street Cafe serves some of the best fried chicken in Denver. - MOLLY MARTIN
Welton Street Cafe serves some of the best fried chicken in Denver.
Molly Martin
Black-owned architecture firm Desibl is working on plans for the new location, and the Dickersons have hired a company to help rebrand the restaurant. They also plan to host a few fundraising events in the upcoming months, including a brunch on January 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. “My job is to stay encouraged,” Fathima says. “We have a space we need to build out, and it’s going to take a lot.”

Fathima, who is now 34, remembers a quieter Welton Street with little foot traffic when she was young. Back then, one person could run the whole restaurant. On the busiest days now, ten people are needed to manage the place, and the family expects to double the staff in the new location.

During the months that the brick-and-mortar is closed, Welton Street Cafe hopes to keep its current staff employed through catering gigs and pop-ups, and the Dickersons are looking at commissary kitchens that they can use temporarily.

“I feel good about the move," says employee Mamie Henry. "It’s going to be more exciting, more business, a lot more people and a lot more faces. We’re just making a bigger family.”
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Kristin Pazulski has been a renaissance faire wench, a reporter, an espresso-shot slinger, an editor of a newspaper for the homeless and a grant writer. She's now a freelance writer covering Denver's restaurant scene.
Contact: Kristin Pazulski