Celebrating the side hustle
Durango locals known for growing passions into big ideas

Celebrating the side hustle

Mountain Monk Coffee's new digs in the old Starbucks location in the 500 block of Main Ave. after beginning as a small trailer./ Courtesy photo

Sinjin Eberle - 12/02/2021

I’ve always been fascinated, and quite frankly a bit envious, of people who create things. And by create things, I mean physical, tangible, artistic and yes, delicious, things. I have friends who are writers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, poets and, of course, chefs and bartenders. And I have always been a bit intimidated by these folks who can sit down, take a breath and create. Believe me, I am not minimizing the grind and commitment that it takes to get to the final, creative outcome. It takes a lot of intention and dedication, practice and failure, to start from a shopping bag full of ingredients and end with that stunning, Instagram-ready wedding cake for someone’s most important day.

Yet as author Seth Godin would say – shipping the work is the hardest part of the creative process, but it must be done. He declares that, “owning the joy and impact of that work is part of the generous act of being creative.” Generous indeed.

In this time of year, as we start reconnecting with those we love, I want to take a moment and celebrate a few of the people in our community who are creating, at an intimate, micro-scale, interesting foods that we can all enjoy or give or share. I also want to give a vigorous high-five to those who have grown their passion from a tiny side hustle into something more expansive, through hard work and creative thinking.

Take Cream Bean Berry – owner Katie Burford started making ice cream and selling it out of a bicycle cart on the Animas River Trail and then at the farmer’s market. In 2013, she opened a production room and retail space in the Smiley Building, and then her current storefront on Main Ave. in 2015. During the pandemic, she opened a tiny, stainless steel bubble of a trailer at Birds and expanded baking capabilities.

Fast forward to today, Burford and Lacy Archer are collaborating in Mountain Monk Coffee, which was previously a humble coffee trailer at Durango Hot Springs and now is in the old Starbucks location at Main & College. Archer’s vision is for a community-gathering place, bringing together coffee and gluten-free, vegan pastries with other healthy teas and herbal drinks. There’s also space for local artists to display and sell their creations, as well as evening yoga and live music. She envisions it as a place where artists who would struggle to afford a Main Ave. storefront can have that kind of exposure – especially so close to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and across from the General Palmer Hotel.

And on the topic of new storefronts, I was sipping Manhattans with a friend last week, and she nudged a tiny flyer my way and asked if I had tried a particular new place at College and 4th. Tortilleria la Flor just opened a few weeks ago, so I popped in to grab some fresh tortillas. Flor Rodriguez is the driving force there, and she told me about her time working at restaurants all over Durango, such as CJ’s Diner, Denny’s, Burger King and numerous Mexican restaurants. But she always has made her own tortillas at home. She learned the craft as a young girl growing up in Mexico, and since she arrived in Durango, her mission has been simple: to create a better tortilla. Before I could even introduce myself, she handed me a piping hot, fresh tortilla that as I stood chatting with her, was literally melting in my mouth with a sweet, rich, floury flavor that I have never found in store-bought tortillas. She also told me that they will be taking orders for handmade tamales around Christmas – my mouth is watering already.

On the baking side of things, Rachel Curran’s Odd Bird Baking was born out of a deep passion for pastry, yet after years of slinging dough at Lucky’s Bakehouse in Boulder, she decided to hang it up to stay home with her two young children. Curran told me that after moving to Durango she was searching for a way to stay relevant and fuel her passion, while still being able to raise her children. Now, with the success of her “side hustle,” the business has turned into a “main hustle” with a wide variety of cakes and pastries and her awesome Pajama Boxes full of fresh pastries, delivered to your door (within a reasonable distance from Durango) every Saturday morning. I bought one of these last week and was super impressed with the entire selection in my box. And, Odd Bird Bakery will also be partnering in a coffee and plant shop called Still Life slated to open near J-Bo’s in January.

I know there are others out there doing fun, creative things at a small scale with dreams of evolving into something bigger. It’s thrilling to see people following their crafts, nurturing them into something more substantial and ideally getting to a point where they can commit to making what fuels their fire into something fully sustainable and profitable. Great ideas, with a little effort and foresight, can turn something small and personal into something that can be shared with all of us – that is the real joy in their generous creativity.


Celebrating the side hustle

Cream Bean Berry owner Katie Burford seen here along her cart in 2013./ Durango Telegraph file

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