The Smiley Cafe has been purchased by Grant Andrew, who will keep and enhance its commitment to gluten-free baked goods, sandwiches and salads.
“The owner before us, Carrie (Hladik), did a great job of building a business identified with gluten-free baked goods, great quiche, and we want to continue that and build on that,” Andrews said in an interview at the Smiley Cafe on Feb. 6.
Everything baked from scratch at the cafe will be gluten-free, and Andrew said only a few sandwiches and wraps made with bread and tortillas made elsewhere will contain gluten.
Andrews purchased the cafe on Sept. 30, and since then, kitchen supervisor Heather Hinsley – known in Durango for operating the Cake Cafe and Celebration Cakes Catering and serving as culinary manager at Manna soup kitchen – have added an almond cake and a chocolate cake to the carrot cake Hladik featured. The cafe also serves gluten-free baked doughnuts.
“We want people to take a bite of our baked goods and not realize they are eating something that’s gluten-free. We’ve all had that experience when we bite into something and realize: Oh, it’s gluten-free – we don’t want people to have that here.”
Andrew, who has a background with online businesses, said Hinsley has been integral to ensure the quality of the baked goods, sandwiches, salads and coming up with ideas that can be executed for new menu items.
“I’ve gained a great respect for people in the food service industry since September,” Andrew said. “It’s easy for a customer to say, ‘They make great food here.’ What you don’t realize is the work that went into it from the sourcing, the baking, the presentation. It’s been an in-depth education for me.
“Heather is in here constantly tweaking. I’ve learned the difference between ‘meh’ and ‘amazing’ is the little things.”
Also, since September, the cafe has introduced boba teas, sweet iced teas with tapioca balls that float in the drink.
Andrew said the growing popularity of boba tea, along with a scarcity of places in Durango that serve it, made it an attractive new menu item.
Besides the food, Andrew said, he would like to use the cafe to serve as a community space.
“We have a couple of groups that meet here. We have a Bible study, Local First holds a networking event here and the high school student government has had a few events here, and we want to offer our space as a meeting place to the community,” he said.
Ideas for gatherings at the cafe include curated art shows, workshops and even as a locale for business meetings.
Andrew noted sometimes business meetings are more productive when they occur outside the office environment.
The cafe is offering its space rent-free to businesses, individuals and nonprofits looking for a venue for parties, workshops, performances, networking events or other gatherings.
One of the main reasons Andrew said he was attracted to the business was the community now found in the Smiley Building.
“People walk in here and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I went to middle school here. Now, you have young mothers coming here for yoga.’ It’s a really functional place for community in the heart of Durango. The space is really a draw and we want to help the building thrive. As the health of the building goes, so goes our business,” he said.
The Smiley Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The cafe is closed on Sundays.