welton-street-cafe-prepares-to-reopen-as-denver’s-historically-black-business-corridor-fights-to-retain-its-legacy

Welton Street Cafe Prepares To Reopen As Denver’s Historically Black Business Corridor Fights To Retain Its Legacy

It would be two hours before a cook dropped the first strip of catfish into a fryer boiling hot grease. Two hours before another cook poured sticky honey hot sauce over a pile of chicken wings, or packed steaming collard greens into a small plastic tub for takeout.

But there stood Melody Lynch, waiting patiently outside the door of the building where the owners of the shuttered Welton Street Cafe were holding one of their occasional pop-ups in mid-March, this time in honor of Black Restaurant Week.

Lynch arrived extra early to guarantee herself a box of the cafe’s “honey hots” — juicy chicken wings coated in a sweet, spicy sauce that’s a family secret recipe.

LEFT— Orders hang in the kitchen during a Welton Street Cafe pop-up at Genna Rae’s on Sunday, March 17, 2024, in Denver. RIGHT— Employee Tammy Johnson puts together orders of fried catfish in the kitchen during Welton Street Cafe’s pop-up. (Photos by Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)

“Their food is beyond description, so every minute is worth it,” Lynch said of her wait that Sunday. “If you can catch them when they’re cooking, it’s a hot ticket.”

Welton Street Cafe, one of Denver’s oldest Black-owned restaurants, closed its doors at 2736 Welton St. on March 12, 2022, following a dispute with the business’ landlord. Since then, the Dickerson family — six of them own and work at the cafe — has labored to reopen in a new location one block down the street in the city’s Five Points neighborhood.

The Dickersons have navigated city permitting, negotiated with landlords, filled out loan applications and overcome problems with contractors as they try to get back in business in a historically Black neighborhood that’s seen gentrification accelerate in the past decade.

Their path to reopening reflects the entire Welton Street corridor, a 12-block stretch from Broadway to North Downing Street that was once a bustling strip for Black entrepreneurs and is now still waiting for its comeback.

Black people began moving to the neighborhood in the 1870s when southern railroad workers settled there and, by the 1920s, 90% of Denver’s Black residents lived in Five Points, according to a Denver Public Library history. Up through the 1950s, Five Points was known as a cultural and entertainment destination because of its jazz and blues nightclubs.

Since the arrival of the pandemic in 2020, though, commerce along the corridor has slumped, with multiple businesses closing or relocating. The historic Rossonian hotel is still shuttered even after announcements promising a revival. Old buildings remain boarded up with no assurance that renovations are coming anytime soon.

And tension between a high-profile Black developer and some of his Black tenants has led to bitter feelings and litigation as they debate what it means to hold onto the corridor’s history.

“When you walk down Welton Street during the day there is no heartbeat,” said Fathima Dickerson, one of the Welton Street Cafe’s owners. “There is no pulse. It’s just so hollow.”

In a neighborhood where housing demographics shifted years ago, someone needs to “ring the alarm” that Welton Street is losing the last of its Black culture, she said.

“Preserving Welton Street Cafe is preserving the culture of the neighborhood,” Dickerson said.

“Part of the fabric of Five Points”

The Dickersons opened the Welton Street Cafe in 1999, but the family has operated restaurants in the Five Points neighborhood since 1986.

Flynn Dickerson, the family patriarch, and Amona Dickerson, the matriarch, moved to Colorado from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands as newlyweds with a dream to establish a restaurant.

The couple’s first offering, Caribbean Fast Food, became a hit as people lined up for handmade pates — hand-held pastries stuffed with meat, vegetables or fruit.

“We were doing these turnovers with rolling pins,” Flynn Dickerson said. “That was hard. We were having nightmares about pates.”

From left, Flynn Dickerson and his daughters Cenya and Fathima pose for a portrait in front of the new location of Welton Street Cafe in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. Welton Street Cafe closed its doors two years ago and the Dickerson family has been trying to get their restaurant reopened at the new location, 2883 Welton St. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Over the years, the two have operated eight restaurants in Five Points and Aurora, maintaining a business partnership even after a divorce. They’re self-taught in the restaurant industry. But Welton Street Cafe would become their sole restaurant with the parents and four of their children as part of the ownership and labor force.

Cenya Dickerson, one of the sisters, gave up a teaching job in 2019 to join her family at the restaurant. She wanted to help her aging parents maintain the family legacy.

“This is our lifeblood,” she said. “This is how we live.”

Welton Street Cafe’s presence in Five Points was almost like something out of a movie, a throwback to small-town diners where the waitstaff knew which customer was related to another, how many children they had and when to sing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” on someone’s special day.

The line to get a table on any given day might have included a University of Colorado Buffaloes football player, a funeral home director or a local politician. It was the kind of place where the owners would recognize two ne’er-do-wells in line and tell the server to ask them to pay upfront for an order — and then that same night send home a free plate of food with another customer who was going through hard times.

“The Welton Street Cafe and the Dickerson family are part of the fabric of Five Points,” said Norman T. Harris, executive director of the Five Points Business Improvement District. “You have to experience it to understand it, but it’s a place where you go and it means more than a plate in front of you.”

Fathima Dickerson, the face of the business, often greets customers by calling them family or friend.

Fathima Dickerson, left, speaks with customers waiting in line during a Welton Street Cafe pop-up at Genna Rae’s on Sunday, March 17, 2024, in Denver. (Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)

At the family’s March pop-up, she would be firm one minute, yelling at customers to straighten the line along the sidewalk, then smile and tell two teenage girls, “I might put you to work if you get too close to me. I just want to feed you.”

Before it closed, Welton Street Cafe had become the last soul food restaurant along the corridor. And in the two years since, the Dickersons’ food has been missed.

Joshua Graham works late nights on the security crew at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, a live music venue on Welton Street.

On a cold night in January, Graham called Fathima Dickerson to ask what she was cooking at home. He missed the cafe that much.

Dickerson asked whether he wanted some of her leftovers. He did. So she packed up a steak, baked potato and broccoli and delivered the food to Graham.

“I went to work on the plate right then and there,” he said. “It was sooo good.”

Graham was appreciative of his friend and her food. And, yes, he paid for the meal.

“It just shows her love for her community and how much she loves to feed people and what feeding people does for her body and soul,” he said.

It takes money — a lot of money

But a deep love for food and community can only take a business so far.

The COVID-19 pandemic was rough on Welton Street Cafe and the entire Welton Street corridor.

When most of Denver shut down in March 2020, the Dickerson family immediately switched the cafe to a take-out restaurant. But the number of customers dipped as people stayed home. Some days, employees didn’t want to work out of fear of the coronavirus.

“Welton Street was like a ghost town,” Fathima Dickerson said.

A cyclist rides past a Five Points Historic Cultural District sign in Denver on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Before the cafe could fully recover from the pandemic, the Dickerson family’s relationship with their landlord, the Flyfisher Group, fell apart. The Dickersons were forced to close their restaurant and vacate the building.

Fathima Dickerson is reluctant to talk about how that business relationship collapsed. “I don’t know what to say about it,” she said.

But her father, Flynn Dickerson, said Flyfisher’s chief executive officer, Matthew Burkett, wanted to become an investor in Welton Street Cafe and asked the family to give him a 40% stake in the business.

“Why would I put 40 years into a business and then give you almost half of it for nothing?” Flynn Dickerson said. “We didn’t owe him anything.”

Burkett, in an interview with The Denver Post, declined to discuss his business dealings with the Dickerson family. He said he wishes them well as they work to reestablish the cafe in a new location.

“I hope they’re able to reopen so we can have another outwardly facing business on the corridor,” he said.

Opening a retail business, restaurant or bar comes with enormous upfront expenses.

In the commercial leasing world, a tenant is responsible for any renovations, remodeling or redecorating. If the building needs a new heating and air conditioning system, that’s on the tenant. If tenants want to build walls to create separate rooms, they pay for it. Need a new ventilation hood in the kitchen? It’s on the business, not the landlord.

Burkett said it can cost $500,000 or more to get a building into shape for a new business.

He said he spends money to keep his buildings up-to-date and his 75% occupancy rate shows it. But one of the problems along the Welton Street corridor is that rental spaces are in such disrepair that few people who want to open a clothing store, book shop or other small retail business can afford the startup costs or receive loans to pay for them.

“If you’re going to do it like I’ve done it — that’s equity capital,” Burkett said. “That’s not bank money going in there. That’s your real money that you’ve earned somewhere else and then came back and sunk back into this neighborhood.”

Burkett, who describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur” with business interests around the world, lives in Five Points and owns multiple buildings on Welton Street, although he would not say how many. He also has stepped into the hospitality sector, opening two restaurants on Welton; his brunch spot, Mimosa’s, has been open since 2021 while his dinner restaurant, Moods Beats Potions, closed in July 2022 after a year because it wasn’t making money.

“It is not easy,” he said of the restaurant business. “You need some luck. You need great staffing. You need a great customer base. Most businesses don’t make it. There’s only a fraction that get to three years and even a smaller few that get to five years. It’s tough.”

Ryan Cobbins, left, owner of Coffee at the Point, and Matthew Burkett, founder of the Flyfisher Group, at Moods Beats Potions on Welton Street in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver on July 23, 2021. (Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)

Souring relationships

When Burkett bought his first building on Welton Street more than five years ago, it was seen as a positive sign for the neighborhood’s legacy — a Black investor was going to reclaim spaces from white owners.

On Welton Street Cafe’s 20th anniversary, Fathima Dickerson told The Post the family felt that having a Black landlord would offer a break from sudden rent hikes.

But in the years since, as Burkett has bought up more buildings, his relationship with others in the neighborhood soured, with some tenants publicly criticizing his business dealings.

Agave Shore, a Black-owned taco restaurant that leases space from Burkett at 2736 Welton St., is one of them. LaTasha Goins, co-owner of the restaurant, said she could not discuss their troubles with Burkett because of ongoing legal challenges.

In 2021, Burkett filed an eviction lawsuit against Agave Shore. That was settled and the restaurant continued operating in that space.

Agave’s owners told BusinessDen in 2022 that Burkett pressures his tenants to give him ownership stakes or tries to drive them away.

But Agave Shore has run into more recent trouble with the city, which has led to additional legal issues between the business owners and Burkett.

In February, a Denver County Court judge declared the restaurant a public nuisance after bartenders sold alcohol to minors during three undercover Denver police stings. The judge ordered Agave Shore to pay a $2,000 fine and closed the building for three years. (The restaurant’s website says Agave Shore is temporarily closed and “opening soon.”)

But that three-year closure also ties up Burkett’s property, according to the judge’s order.

Neither Goins nor Burkett would comment on the ongoing legal problems surrounding the public nuisance order.

Ryan Cobbins, who owned a coffee shop on Welton Street that went out of business in December 2022, said he fell out with Burkett after they became business partners.

Burkett and Cobbins signed a deal that gave Burkett 40% ownership in the business, Coffee at the Point. Cobbins also agreed to help manage other hospitality interests of Burkett’s.

But in March 2022, two entities owned by Burkett — Five Points Coffee LLC and F&B Three LLC — sued Coffee at the Point for breach of contract. The coffee shop was ordered to pay a $45,042 settlement.

Burkett declined to discuss Coffee at the Point, citing ongoing legal issues.

Cobbins said he and Burkett had been friends and he thought they could form a partnership that would lead to a renaissance on Welton Street. Instead, their relationship fractured.

“Long story short, I think my values and Matthew’s values misaligned,” Cobbins said.

Cobbins said the coffee shop business already was struggling before the partnership. Traffic through the corridor had slowed — along with sales — since the pandemic and Denver’s rising minimum wage meant he needed to sell more coffee just to break even. He also said he started experiencing staffing problems.

In the end, it made sense to close shop, he said.

“It’s been an interesting journey,” Cobbins said.

Waiting on the Rossonian

Perhaps the most notable empty building on Welton Street is the iconic Rossonian Hotel — once a crowning jewel of the neighborhood that hosted performances by famous blues and jazz musicians such as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong.

The triangular building sits at the five-way intersection — the convergence of Welton, 27th and North Washington streets — that gives the neighborhood its name.

The Rossonian Hotel in Five Points, Sept. 6, 2017, in Denver. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

The Rossonian is on its third ownership group since 2006. Its newest investor group — Palisade Partners — bought the building in August 2017 for $6 million. Palisade unveiled new plans for the hotel that year, and well-known Black investors were introduced as partners in the project.

In 2018, investors held a news conference at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Five Points to announce that Denver basketball legend Chauncy Billups would add his name and notoriety to the project.

Plans called for a 41-room boutique hotel with a basement jazz club and a ground-floor restaurant and lounge called Chauncey’s.

At the same time, the group also announced that Busboy’s and Poets, a well-known Washington, D.C.-based bookstore and restaurant celebrated for its activism and promotion of Black art and literature, would open its first location outside of D.C. on the same block as the Rossonian.

That plan never materialized, in part because of the pandemic, said Haroun Cowans, president of the Five Points Business Improvement District.

Then Billups accepted a job as the head coach of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and withdrew from the project.

“There’s been a lot of great announcements over the years that even I’ve been a part of,” Cowans said. “People have been excited, but there’s a lack of completion.”

The owners of Palisade Partners would not elaborate on their latest plans for the hotel, only telling The Post that they were in the planning and design phases of the project. Those plans still include a hotel, restaurant, multipurpose event space and a “music component, all while preserving the rich history of the neighborhood,” Krystal Shores, executive assistant to Palisade’s president, said in an emailed statement.

Burkett also is a partner in the Rossonian development but would not provide an update on the hotel’s future.

A closed room where entertainers used to perform is seen at the Rossonian Hotel in the Five Points area of Denver, on June 27, 1973. (Photo by Dave Buresh/The Denver Post)

“We are the 14th group that has attempted to resurrect the Rossonian,” Burkett said. “It hasn’t operated as a hotel since like 1927 or something crazy like that, 1930. It’s been 100 years. It’s very, very, very, very difficult.”

The Rossonian hosted a popular jazz club until the 1950s and operated as a hotel into the early 1970s, according to History Colorado.

Dan and Michelle Sawyer opened Duke’s Good Sandwiches and Scratch Family Bakery at 2748 Welton St. in June 2022.

Scratch fronts Welton Street, where customers can walk in and buy Michelle Sawyer’s cannolis, cupcakes, cookies and other treats, while the sandwich shop sells its six offerings, modeled after sandwiches sold in New York bodegas, from a window around the back.

The Sawyers considered a location on Larimer Street but ultimately chose Welton because they live in the neighborhood and were excited about announced development plans for the Rossonian, Dan Sawyer said.

“Everything else on Welton Street was going to come after that,” he said.

Some days when business is slow, he wonders what things would have been like had they chosen Larimer Street. Would more people be buying their chopped cheese sandwiches?

“We need these empty buildings to fill up,” Dan Sawyer said.

The building across the street is dilapidated with no development plans in the works, he said. Owners refuse to sell or renovate, he said.

Michelle Sawyer pitched the idea of hosting a St. Patrick’s Day pet parade to draw people to the corridor. Plenty of people came to the event last month and it was fun, the couple said.

But “there’s no businesses down here to visit. That’s what we need,” Dan Sawyer said. “It’s kind of disheartening to see RiNo developing so much and here we are stuck.”

Members of Mile High Brass play as they walk down Welton Street during the St. Patrick’s Day pet parade and bar crawl in Five Points on Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Denver. Curtis Park Neighbors event organizer John Hayden, at left, says they wanted to have a jazz band perform to honor the rich history of jazz in the neighborhood. (Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)

Revitalizing a slumping corridor

Multiple people interviewed for this story told The Post that there needs to be more retail on the strip so people can shop and then stay for lunch or happy hour. They envision a corridor similar to Washington Park’s South Gaylord Street or South Pearl Street near the University of Denver.

But few, including Burkett, have answers as to how to make that happen.

One idea discussed by Burkett and other business owners was changing Welton Street’s traffic pattern so that cars run in two directions. As a one-way street, people drive faster through the neighborhood, never slowing down to see what businesses are there, he said.

Multiple business owners also complained about the light rail line that runs on the east side of Welton, often blocking pedestrians from storefronts. The light rail ends just a few blocks away at 30th and Downing streets, so it doesn’t carry a lot of passengers who might stop on Welton Street before traveling farther on the line.

“It’s a big train and it’s moving pretty fast,” Burkett said. “It doesn’t feel super safe. If you’re walking with your pets or walking with your kids, it’s a big train coming through there.”

Kwon Atlas, a Five Points resident and business owner who wrote a thesis for his master’s degree on the neighborhood, said Five Points has seen its ups and downs over the years, whether it was gang violence in the 1990s, the light rail line, the Great Recession or the pandemic.

People celebrating St. Patrick’s Day walk along Welton Street near the light-rail tracks in Five Points on Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Denver. (Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)

Atlas believes the city of Denver needs to put more resources into the neighborhood. For example, the Downtown Denver Partnership and Denver Economic Development & Opportunity office created a program to help offset rent along the 16th Street Mall after the pandemic decimated businesses, Atlas said.

He suggested a similar program be instituted along the Welton Street corridor to entice entrepreneurs to move there.

“I look at downtown and the 16th Street Mall, and Welton Street isn’t getting a fraction of that,” he said. “And it’s languishing.”

Efforts to reach the city’s Economic Development & Opportunity office for comment were unsuccessful.

Atlas called on property owners — including Burkett’s Flyfisher Group — to take the lead on retaining the corridor’s soul.

“I think we can do it, but it’s up to the property owners to get off their butts and make the deals happen,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. Why do you want your building to sit empty and not collect rent? And then it also hurts all the other businesses.”

Denver City Councilman Darrell Watson, who represents Five Points, said he is creating a list of idle properties so he can have discussions about what it would take to get owners to fix up the buildings. He wants to explore grants and other funds that would incentivize owners to bring those properties back to life.

He said he also has heard the complaints about the light rail and the one-way traffic on Welton Street and believes changes to both need to be explored.

“It’s set up for people to go through Five Points, not stay,” Watson said.

Watson said he continuously searches for ways to boost the neighborhood and bring more city resources to the corridor. Denver and its marketing partners promote Five Points as the “Harlem of the West,” so the city needs to invest in the neighborhood, he said.

“You can’t have a vibrant Denver without a vibrant Five Points,” Watson said.

Norman Harris III lifts his daughter, Emory Harris, 4, onto his shoulders as he and others walk down Welton Street, past the new location of Welton Street Cafe, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a pet parade and bar crawl in Five Points on Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Denver. Harris, who helped organize the event and has deep roots in the neighborhood, is the executive director of the Five Points Business Improvement District and part-owner of the nearby Spangalang Brewery. (Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)

“A very unique legacy and a delicate one”

One group that is doing its part is the AYA Foundation — Colorado’s first Black-serving community foundation.

The foundation applied for a Colorado Community Business Preservation Program grant on behalf of a cohort of six Black-owned businesses in Five Points, including Welton Street Cafe and Agave Shore. The cohort was awarded $190,000 in March, and each business will receive $30,000.

The grants are awarded to businesses that represent culturally significant areas where business owners are at a high risk for displacement.

And Black-owned businesses in Five Points certainly fit those criteria, said Benilda Samuels, executive director of the AYA Foundation.

“This grant is about avoiding displacement. It’s hard for these businesses. The corridor is not what it was,” Samuels said. “They all share this desire to not only create wealth for themselves through business ownership, but to do it in Five Points. They could have chosen to go anywhere else, but they all chose to do it there. They want to be there so we are not erased completely and our culture stays.”

Samuels said the Five Points Business Improvement District should have been the sponsoring organization on the grant. But the state’s criteria for applying for the grant required the sponsoring organization to have a full-time employee, something the district did not have when the application was due, she said.

Now, though, the business district has a full-time executive director. Harris, who founded the Juneteenth Music Festival and is a fifth-generation Coloradan with deep family ties to Five Points, was hired in January. He said he accepted the job because he has a “really deep passion” for Five Points and wants to see an equitable renaissance.

Norman Harris III, organizer of the Juneteenth Music Festival, poses for a portrait in front of a photo of his grandfather Norman Harris Sr., at Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center in Five Points in Denver on June 4, 2021. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

“The Welton corridor and Five Points has a very unique legacy and a delicate one,” he said. “We need to curate a healthy amount of businesses that reflects its cultural heritage.”

Harris has created various committees to address issues on the street, including safety, events and corridor development. He hopes to engage with the owners of empty buildings to figure out what it would take to get them renovated and occupied.

While Five Points is a much bigger geographic area than Welton Street, Harris said the business corridor is his priority.

“Where most of us associate the words ‘Five Points’ it’s being identified as Welton Street,” he said. “That’s where we have a lot of work to do to reprioritize the Welton corridor as the core of where our efforts need to be focused. It needs to be at the top of everyone’s minds to do what we can as a community to support our city’s only cultural historic district.”

But Burkett challenges the notion of the Welton Street corridor’s legacy as a stronghold of Black-owned businesses.

“That’s part of, I think, the issue with Five Points is that people remember a legacy that is nearly a century old,” he said. “If the goal is to try to re-establish a century-old paradigm, we have to be aware of the reasons why the corridor hasn’t thrived for nearly a century.”

When asked if he thinks people should move on from the dream that Welton Street could see a revival of Black commerce, he said, “I think what is most important for Welton is it becomes a viable commercial corridor that can service the neighborhood that is around it.”

In the 1920s, 90% of Denver’s Black residents lived in Five Points because of racial segregation.

“Are you defining it as a Black business corridor because of what it was in the 1920s?” Burkett said.

And who lives in that neighborhood now? Mostly white people, who bought up historic homes and flocked to new, multi-story housing complexes on the corridor.

Five Points is now 73% white and 13% Black, according to the city’s neighborhood fact sheet. Citywide, 8.9% of Denver’s 713,252 residents are Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Look around the restaurant right now,” Burkett said while sitting in Mimosa’s on Wednesday morning. “Look who’s in here? Who are the people that are in here?”

At that moment, diners occupied three tables. All were white.

Welton Street Cafe’s reopening is in sight

On a sunny February day, Fathima Dickerson stood in the middle of her family’s unfinished restaurant staring at a mess. The new restaurant, at 2883 Welton St.,  will be a block farther north from its old location, near the red brick Five Points Media Center building.

A new ventilation hood for the kitchen had been delivered the day before after the family was forced to return the first, which had been damaged during shipping. The bartop was wrapped in paper on the floor, waiting for someone to install it. A saw appeared to be leaking grease onto the floor, which was covered in thick brown paper. Construction material was stacked in a corner.

The only thing missing? Workers.

The new Welton Street Cafe is under construction on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, for its reopening in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

“Where is everybody?” she said. “Why isn’t anyone here?”

Within weeks the family would part ways with their original contractor during what Fathima Dickerson described as a “period of uncertainty.” But work on the new restaurant resumed in late March.

The family is excited about their new location.

For the first time, Welton Street Cafe will serve beer, wine and liquor. They are considering a focus on Caribbean cocktails to honor their parents’ heritage, Fathima Dickerson said.

The family also has been intentional in the restaurant’s new design, with the goal of creating a welcoming space for everyone. There will be spaces at the bar for wheelchairs. The chairs at tables will be wide and comfortable.

“We’re a big family,” she said with a laugh.

The kitchen has more room so the cooks aren’t standing shoulder to shoulder. The cafe will have a separate door for take-out and an entryway for people waiting for tables.

Fathima Dickerson declined to say how much the family is spending to remodel the building. A GoFundMe campaign started by the family has raised $112,470 toward its $250,000 goal. And they received a loan from the Colorado Enterprise Fund so they would have capital, she said.

There will be other challenges, too, once the kitchen’s ovens fire up:

  • The cafe must replace long-time employees, including Rhonda Abdullah, a server who died of cancer
  • Denver’s minimum wage is now $18.29/hour, a $2.42-per-hour increase since the cafe closed
  • The city is eliminating foam take-out packaging, the cheapest option, on July 1
  • Food prices fluctuate and are hard to budget around
  • Fixins Soul Kitchen, a national chain owned by former NBA all-star Kevin Johnson, is scheduled to open on Welton Street by the end of the year

But Fathima Dickerson said her family has been in the restaurant business for 40 years and knows what to do to succeed.

“I hear the community but I just say, ‘Go sit down somewhere,’” she said.

On Monday, Welton Street Cafe announced on Facebook that the restaurant was now hiring servers, cooks and bartenders for the new location.

The opening date remains a closely guarded family secret, but Fathima Dickerson said the finish line is in sight.

“We are super excited and kind of nervous,” she said. “We are ready to serve some families that we have missed and have missed us.”

From left, employees Cenya Dickerson, Tammy Johnson and Fathim Dickerson work to complete orders in the kitchen during a Welton Street Cafe pop-up at Genna Rae’s on Sunday, March 17, 2024, in Denver. (Eli Imadali/Special to The Denver Post)

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