GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A popular midvalley barbecue restaurant and a growing regional chain of eateries known for Cajun cuisine are coming to downtown Glenwood Springs.
The one-story brick building at 711 Grand Ave., which was originally built for a bowling alley in the 1950s and has served a variety of uses over the years, was recently acquired by property investors Andy Niemeyer and Mark Licata of Boulder.
The 6,000-square-foot space is being transformed into what will be the second Roaring Fork Valley location for Smoke Modern Barbeque of Basalt, and a third location for Frisco-based The Lost Cajun restaurant.
“We think Glenwood Springs, and particularly the downtown, has a tremendous amount of potential,” said Niemeyer, who has a house up Four Mile Road and spends a lot of time in the area.
“We’re always looking at what comes onto the market and what we might be able to do with it,” he said.
Both he and Licata have a passion for developing commercial properties, and particularly spaces that can accommodate restaurants.
Niemeyer is also partners with local chef and restaurateur Mark Fischer in The Pullman building on Seventh Street.
“I really love the older buildings in historic downtown areas, and it’s fun to do what we can to bring them back into use,” Niemeyer said.
The original bowling alley structure, with its steel truss construction and open expanse inside, is perfect to accommodate what Smoke and The Lost Cajun have in mind, he said.
The Lost Cajun and Smoke have both grown in popularity since opening in their original locations during the last decade.
Smoke was one of the first businesses to open in the Willits Center in Basalt seven years ago, and The Lost Cajun has been in business going on four years since opening on Main Street in Frisco in 2010.
The Lost Cajun (www.thelostcajun.com) is expected to open in the remodeled Glenwood Springs building first sometime in early spring in an 1,800-square-foot space at the northeast corner of the building.
“We’ve known Andy for a couple of years, and have been working with him to find the right spot for a new restaurant,” said John Espey, a partner with primary owners Raymond and Belinda Griffin.
A second Lost Cajun opened in 2012 in Breckenridge, while a third restaurant in Edwards recently closed. But it will soon be replaced by the new Glenwood location.
“Talking to some of the people in our existing restaurants, a lot of them suggested we come to Glenwood Springs,” Espey said. “We looked at the population density and did the market research, and it just makes sense.”
Smoke founding owner Jamie Theriot said he had been looking for an opportunity to expand to a second location when Niemeyer and Licata suggested the 711 Grand space.
“The building has a ton of potential, with its great old brick feel and exposed ceiling trusses,” Theriot said of the 4,200-square-foot space Smoke will occupy in the building.
“I really love what Mark Fischer and Mike Mercatoris have done with their places in downtown Glenwood Springs,” he said of Fischer’s Pullman and Mercatoris’ two downtown eateries, The Grind and the revamped Riviera Supper Club.
“We’re excited to be a part of what’s already an active trade area that has a lot of character,” Theriot said.
He said the new Smoke location, which is slated for a mid-spring opening, will feature a larger version of the same menu as its Basalt restaurant.
Another aspect of the 711 Grand remodel is expected to be an outdoor dining area, both in front of the two restaurants along the pedestrian plaza beneath the Grand Avenue bridge and off the alley.
The Glenwood Springs Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has been working on a plan to renovate the alley in the 700 block between Grand and Colorado Avenue for the past two years.
“We would love to have that outdoor dining area and are working with the DDA and the city in a collaborative effort to bring that to fruition,” Niemeyer said.
The south and east facades of the building are being completely redone to accentuate the outdoor patio areas, he said.
Niemeyer said the plan ties in with the DDA’s broader vision for the lower downtown area, as it works to design outdoor plazas, public gathering spaces and even more outdoor dining on Seventh Street in conjunction with the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement.
“Glenwood Springs is very unique, and does function like a much larger town than the population would indicate,” Niemeyer said of the investment he and Licata have made in the downtown area.
The building remodel is also being done using local companies for each aspect of the project, he said.
“Our general contractor and all of our subs, our architects and engineers, and all of our vendors for goods and services are based between Rifle and Basalt,” Niemeyer said.
“The owners of these businesses will be the customers for our tenants, and it is important to us to make this project as local as possible,” he said.