Feb 042009
Authors: Kelli Pryor

On one particular Friday evening in January, the Catalyst Espresso Bar and Tasting Lounge at the corner of Horsetooth and Shields was experiencing something the modest coffee shop had never seen before.

The building was packed wall-to-wall with patrons eager to sample the fare, from specialty coffee drinks like the Velveteen Rabbit to imported hard-to-find beer. Local folkies Finders and Youngberg were commanding attention on the bar’s stage, while people occupied every couch, table and chair the coffee side had, playing scrabble, or just sipping coffee and chatting.

Though the mood was cheery, the message scrawled across the white board at the front door was a constant reminder to all that this space, this community would be coming to an end in a few short days.

Pressed by hard economic times, Catalyst had announced a week earlier it would have to close its doors for good, leaving many people without their favorite coffee spot or place to listen to live music. But before closing, Fade Wall, the shop’s owner, and all of her employees decided they wanted to make one last go at keeping Catalyst alive.

“I was expecting the sinking ship syndrome where everyone would want to bail,” Wall said, “but instead every single person wanted to see this through.”

One Last Chance

Giving it one last effort, Wall and her employees utilized every resource they had at their disposal by organizing a donation drive via Facebook, hosting live music and putting together a silent auction with all the proceeds going to hopefully save the business or at least pay back the debt to the shop’s local vendors.

Remarkably, all their hard work paid off. In a time when “going out of business” signs litter every street corner, Catalyst announced they had raised enough money, close to $20,000, to keep their doors open for business. Wall gave props to what she calls her employee “family” and her community for keeping her dream alive.

“People used their own talents to help the business,” she said. “I got calls from people saying ‘I don’t have money, but where can I be of service to you?'”

At the silent auction, this mentality was shown by people donating everything from handmade jewelry to laptops to bicycles to art that was created specifically for the auction.

Back Open For Business

Wall decided to close Catalyst for restructuring on the day they would have closed for good so she could create a new business plan to make the shop more successful. But Catalyst is now back open for business and Wall is urging people to come in for daily coffee served with a free side of sass.

“It feels good,” Catalyst barista Tyler Finkle, said about being back open.

“I think the music is a driving force to get people here,” he said, noting that they are trying to book live music for every Friday and Saturday night.

Catalyst customers seem to agree.

“The bands that come here are very talented,” Christy Aspinwall, a regular customer.

Aspinwall also lauded the quality of the coffee and beer as well as the open and inviting atmosphere Catalyst offers.

But for Wall, the success story of her business in such a difficult economy is the most important thing.

“The only reason there is a glimpse of hope [for Catalyst] is the overwhelming support of the community,” Wall said. “This time the good guy actually got the reward.”

Staff writer Kelli Pryor can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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