Business owner who serves as mayor is opening in Sturm Collaboration Campus this fall
Castle Rock Mayor Jason Gray's coffee shop, a 20-year fixture in the community, is poised to open its second location within the next few weeks. The coffee shop and bar's newest home? Sturm Collaboration Campus.
“All along we've wanted Collaboration Campus to be a community gathering space, and Crowfoot does that really well,” said Arapahoe Community College Associate Vice President Eric Dunker.
Sturm Collaboration Campus is owned and operated by Arapahoe Community College and aims to bring higher education to Castle Rock, although not through the traditional four-year programs offered by many colleges or universities.
Collaboration Campus programs focus on business, technology and health. Students can graduate with an associate degree, transfer to a four-year school, complete a certificate program or an apprenticeship. ACC's main campus is in Littleton, and it has a campus west of Parker next to Chaparral High School.
The Castle Rock school, housed in its new-build site at 4500 Limelight Ave., will hold a grand opening on Aug. 16 with classes beginning later that month. The campus is a partnership of Arapahoe Community College, the Town of Castle Rock, Colorado State University and the Douglas County School District.
Crowfoot entered a one-year contract with the possibility of renewing for a three-year term. The cafe is slated to open on Aug. 15, although that could change.
Gray's campus cafe is located in the heart of Sturm's first building to open, steps from the main entrance. A second campus building is planned in a later phase of the development.
Gray's Sturm location will not sell alcohol, as does his current downtown shop at 734 Wilcox St., and most food will be pre-packaged. Staff do some food preparation at the downtown Crowfoot.
The remainder of the drink menu is nearly identical in both locations, Gray said.
“Both shops will hopefully stand-alone but have the same feel to it at the same time,” he said.
Dunker said they chose Crowfoot Valley Coffee as the vendor to operate the school's cafe following a request for proposals — known as an RFP process. The school received a handful of informal inquiries from local and chain businesses but only two formal applications, he said.
They selected Crowfoot in part because of Gray's lengthy background in the local business community.
“Jason has run a successful coffee business and had a plan for how to run it with us,” Dunker said.
Gray said he had discussed the possibility of opening in Collaboration Campus with Dunker in 2018 before announcing his candidacy for mayor. The school undertook an RFP process, launched after Gray assumed office, to be cognizant of Gray's position as mayor, he said.
“We wanted to make sure everything was above board,” Gray said.
Gray first opened Crowfoot in 1999 after moving in to Castle Rock from Alaska the previous year. The business celebrated its 20-year anniversary on Jan. 22. Gray operated a location in Parker for more than two years and ran a franchised location in Highlands Ranch until it closed during the economic downturn of 2008.
He's operated from his current site for nearly 10 years, moving from a previous location at Fourth and Perry streets.
He said reopening a second location is “something we thought about for a long time.” His family held off while his sons were younger but with one entering his senior year in high school and the other already in college, Gray said he now has the time to focus on expansion.
Gray is a believer in what Sturm hopes to bring to higher education, he said, calling the school a “game-changer” for Castle Rock and education.
Although the shop will be located on school grounds, ACC Foundation Executive Director Courtney Loehfelm said they hope the campus and its cafe will a gathering place for the broader community and a place for local businesses to hold meetings.
“I think what's really great about the campus itself and the cafe,” Gray said, “is they want it to be a community cafe.”