People have been looking for the printed word to disappear for a more than a decade now, but for Denda and Jack Graves, the vibe of a downtown sidewalk cafe combined with a newsstand still has the force to support a vibrant downtown Durango business.
“We are aware print is somewhat of a declining industry, but like a pendulum, things can swing too far,” Jack said. “Vinyl records are making a comeback. I feel the same thing can happen with paper. I think there’s a good portion of the population that still likes to hold a paper, a magazine in their hands.”
The Graveses also had another strong motive to purchase the longstanding newsstand and cafe at Seventh Street and Main Avenue – their daughter, Lexi, is an incoming freshman business major at Fort Lewis College and the couple wanted to support her.
The couple moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma, after purchasing the business on June 10 from Tom and Geri Mulligan, who had operated it for more than 20 years.
Jack said talks began to purchase Magpies in March just as the COVID-19 pandemic was causing concern, but like the declining reliance on newspapers, the novel coronavirus didn’t stop the couple from going ahead with the purchase.
“COVID didn’t dissuade us. We have a long-term vision of business, and this too will pass,” Jack said.
Denda added that Magpies is a staple in town, and the couple felt comfortable that its loyal customers and its local tradition offered a solid base to build on.
Earlier this summer, when the business was closed for remodeling, Denda said regulars would frequently navigate around paint barrels and power equipment on the patio to peek in windows to check on progress.
“People were interested in the progress we were making,” she said. “They missed their morning coffee on the patio.”
The Graveses discovered Durango more than 30 years ago – coming out to the region with friends who frequented the Lake City area, from there they stumbled on Ouray, Silverton and eventually Durango.
They have been visiting annually ever since.
“We’ve been trying to get down here for 30 years, and it happened to be purchasing Magpies and Lexi graduating that brought us here,” Denda said.
A rolling soft opening has been ongoing since Aug. 18, after a remodel put in new hard-surface flooring, LED lighting, new fixtures, paint and new espresso and coffee equipment.
The enclosed patio will be remodeled in the winter with the addition of French doors that will allow the narrow space to open into the patio. The Graveses are considering selling vinyl records in the space.
New awnings with mood LED lights and have been installed covering patio seats and new patio furniture is coming.
Magpies is offering coffees, smoothies and gelatos made in-house currently, with more food options to come.
A remodel of the kitchen is ongoing with all new stainless steel counters and sinks installed and new equipment, including stoves and refrigeration, expected to be installed soon.
A $60,000 investment has already been made in the remodel with a total budget of about $100,000, Jack said.
Food services offering breakfast burritos, paninis, baked goods and salads is expected to return when the kitchen reopens in six to eight weeks.
“We really wanted to get the coffee and the newsstand going as quickly as we could” he said.
Desert Sun and Black Rifle Coffee will be featured.
The newsstand is slowly restocking its selection of magazines. The number of titles are expected to increase from 800 titles carried at the end of the Mulligans’ tenure to about 1,100 titles. Magazines should be fully restocked in 1½ months.
A grand reopening is planned when the newsstand is fully restocked with magazines, but the rolling soft opening will continue until then.
A Durango Room will feature locally made products including products from Honeyville, Animas Chocolate Co., Bear Balm and Colorado Sticker Art. The Durango Room will also display and offer jewelery and items such as dog bandannas made by Lexi and her sister, Savannah, who lives in Tulsa. The sisters sell their work as S&L Creations.
One clincher for the sale, Jack said, was that the Mulligans’ longtime employees Casey Murrow, who makes the gelatos, and Ruby DeKay have agreed to stay on to help the Graveses get their feet underneath them running the shop.
“We knew nothing about running a newsstand and a cafe,” Jack said.
The shop has hired two more employees, and it currently has five employees plus the Graves, including Lexi, working the shop.
Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District, said Magpies is a unique downtown business with print publications unavailable elsewhere in town.
“BID is happy and excited to see the face-lift the Graveses are bringing to this business,” he said.
He also noted Lexi’s involvement in a downtown business is not an isolated case.
“Fort Lewis College and local high school students power many retail and dining businesses in downtown,” he said. “Working downtown provides these students real world sales and customer service experience, which is invaluable for any kind of work they take on in their future careers.”