A former geologist finds a solid place to turn a coffee cart into a cafe

Dnvr Coffee Co. owner Blake Eatherton has gone from cart to cafe. (Pictures of Lily O’Neill)

Blake Eatherton has found a place to park his coffee cart business.

The former geologist, who launched a mobile coffee cart called The Dnvr Coffee Co. in 2019, opened a coffee shop within the University of Colorado Denver’s Lawrence Street Center at 1380 Lawrence St. in late January.

Eatherton said the center’s facilities manager, as well as the Anschutz Medical Campus, was driving through Wash Park with his wife one weekend and stopped at The Dnvr Coffee Co’s cart.

“A light bulb went on in his head because there was a vacancy for a café on the Anschutz campus and he needed a replacement fast,” Eatherton said. “So he turned around and gave my employee his card and then we did some magic.”

Eatherton moved one of its carts from Wash Park to Anschutz Medical Campus in July and decided to dedicate the other, which it launched in 2020, to events only, including apartment buildings and offices.

“On an average good weekend in Wash Park, we were making $600 a day with two carts, but in Anschutz we rarely make less than $600 with one cart, and we were able to lower the prices as well,” said Eatherton said.

DNVR Coffee UC Denver Scaled

Eatherton opened its first cafe at the Lawrence Street Center at the University of Colorado in Denver in January.

After seeing the trolley’s success, the facilities manager offered Eatherton space in the Lawrence Street Center, which houses the Chancellor’s office. He signed a one-year lease for the 400-square-foot cafe in October with the option to renew if the concept proves successful, and he’s been dipping into his savings to keep it running.

The cafe at Dnvr Coffee Co. serves bagels from Leroy’s Bagels in the Highlands, coffee from Glass Arrow and baked goods and sandwiches from Etai’s Bakery & Cafe.

Eatherton dropped the price of lattes from $5 to $4.25, cappuccinos from $5.50 to $3.75 and drip coffee from 25 cents.

“I want to be accessible to as many people as possible,” Eatherton said. “As well as paying people a living wage, I also want the working class to be able to come here and have a coffee. Otherwise, you only support the working class by accusing the bourgeoisie.

The 33-year-old Aurora native launched The Dnvr Coffee Co. as a side gig. But when the pandemic hit, he lost his job as a geologist and took it full-time.

DNVR Coffee Cart

Eatherton founded The Dnvr Coffee Co. with a cart. (BusinessDen File)

Since he had previously worked in the hospitality industry and felt taken advantage of, he said his goal was to always offer wages that he “believes fair and necessary for living in Denver.” When he first launched the cart, his employees were paid a starting wage of $16 an hour plus tips, and he has since increased that amount to $17.50 plus tips.

“Every time we start making more money, I try to raise salaries,” Eatherton said.

He has three employees and is hiring two more. He said he doesn’t pay himself more than his highest paid employees.

In September, he received an offer for another job in geology. But he refused after seeing the pay scale.

“They offered me a salary similar to what I can earn running my cafe. So I just said no thanks – which comes down to the idea of ​​exploitation because I had eight years of experience in oil and gas and I was making six figures before,” Eatherton said.

And while margins are tight, Eatherton said it “inspires me to drive this business to grow revenue and get back to my usual revenue level, and bring other people to that level who deserve to be, not just because they’re working in oil and gas,” he said.