the road to discovery
Ever since owners Obe and Whitney met each other, in the year 2000, they always shared a similar dream of owning their own business. Obe used to picture himself running a smokey dive bar with live music and Whitney imagined a tiny bistro and bakery to call her own.
Years went by and school priorities took over, which then shifted into career priorities and the dream faded into the background. They got married in 2003 and Obe worked his way through graduate school to earn his doctor of music. Whitney left college just before finishing her degree in music performance so she could do what she had always wanted and pursue cooking. Obe went on to a career in nonprofit development at The Colorado Symphony while Whitney worked through every food job she could get.
After living in the beautiful, food-centered, farm-surrounded city of Boulder for a decade, they decided to shift gears and move to the burgeoning city of Denver in 2010. They were thrilled to immerse themselves in all the big-city arts and culture and the thriving food scene in Denver. It was also around this time when their thinking started to shift and they began to question the direction in which they were headed. They both had really good jobs at places that kept them interested, full benefits and good salaries, but what was next? They wanted to contribute their knowledge and talents and passion to the causes that really got them excited. They wanted to help create positive change in the community and get more people supporting local food and music. Perhaps most of all, they wanted to be able to work together to build something greater than they could ever accomplish alone.
Food, music and a trip to New Orleans.
There came a turning point early in December of 2013 when Obe & Whitney were nearing their tenth wedding anniversary, which was New Year's Eve (fun, right?). They had decided to write out their goals for the next year and then compare their two lists together. It proved to be a powerful exercise when they compared lists and realized they both still had that same dream to start a business together. They weren't sure what to do next but they knew they had discovered something important. And since they had also written down that they wanted to travel together more, Obe came up with the idea of road-tripping to New Orleans to celebrate their anniversary. It was to be a long drive all the way from Denver to NOLA but road trips are pretty much their favorite thing and New Orleans is a city they had both always wanted to visit. So, it was decided.
When they arrived in the birthplace of gumbo and jazz, they found inspiration at every corner. It wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but it felt like an epiphany! They had found, for the first time, a place where their mutual passions seemed completely inextricable from the culture and had shaped countless traditions and formed many unique and wonderful community-minded businesses. In New Orleans, there is great food everywhere. There is great music everywhere. All you have to do is wander through the city for a spell and both will find you. They walked the streets, guided by their senses (and a bit of research) and fell in love with all the sights, smells, sounds and people who create that almost indescribable spirit and haunting allure for which New Orleans is so well known.
back to colorado
Obe and Whitney returned to Denver with a real sense of purpose. Their idea for a social enterprise involving food and music was finally taking shape and they finally felt ready to embark on their wild adventure of entrepreneurship.
Of course, there was a lot they didn't know! Once they started to put the pieces together they realized that seeking guidance and mentoring was key to driving the project forward and they were lucky enough to meet some incredible people and organizations along the way. They were steered toward the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center Leading Edge course, which guided them through solidifying their concept and completing their business plan for The Preservery. With the help of the folks at Broad Street Brokers, they searched the Denver market for what felt like forever (though it was, in fact, only seven months or so) and finally found the perfect restaurant space at Backyard on Blake. They were inspired by the property owner, Fiona Arnold, and her vision to create a collective of local small businesses in a community-building space in Denver’s burgeoning RiNo district. Not to mention the gorgeous, high ceilings with skylights, raw exposed brick, and two giant rooftop garden beds which all made it pretty easy to fall in love with the space. They talked to chefs, restaurateurs, picklers, jam-makers, marketing experts, music industry experts and so many other mentors who kindly took the time to listen to their story and share whatever wisdom they could offer. Obe and Whitney even went back to New Orleans and met with business owners and friends who lived there. They met with the managing director of the famed Preservation Hall, the cornerstone for traditional jazz, who talked at length about keeping music traditions alive and the importance of having a business that gives back. They also met with the extremely dedicated folks at Cafe Reconcile which is a non-profit restaurant that provides meaningful jobs and training to severely at-risk young people living in the distressed Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, to talk about creating a business that can be a vehicle for positive social change.
The couple is working hard to build a business that will not only be meaningful to them but also to the community. Though they are the owners, the business has already grown into something much bigger than just the two people who started it and their hope is that it will become the kind of place that truly belongs to the people of Denver.
Stay tuned as the story of The Preservery slowly unfolds!