Black-owned Glenwood Springs business creates a community so strong, the governor noticed |

Black-owned Glenwood Springs business creates a community so strong, the governor noticed

Gov. Jared Polis talking to Mayor Jonathan Godes while visiting the Bluebird Cafe to meet with the owner, Justin Bishop.
Post Independent/ Cassandra Ballard

Gov. Jared Polis visited Glenwood Springs’ Bluebird Cafe Friday morning to celebrate a Black-owned local business for Black History Month. 

Justin Bishop has owned the Bluebird Cafe in Glenwood Springs for less than a year, but he has already made himself at home in the community.

“I wanted to have a sense of family here, and I can build that within the community,” he said.

His upbringing and family were always very community driven, and he said he wanted to bring that with him to the Bluebird to share with others. Polis was happy to come in and recognize the strides Bishop has made and the community he has grown.

“It’s really wonderful to see the Bluebird Cafe and get to know Bishop,” Polis said during his visit. “The way they’ve become a community for different folks that need support.”

Bishop started as kitchen manager for the Bluebird but quickly jumped at the opportunity to buy the business, keeping it the same in many ways while also making a few changes.

After years of his culinary experience as the prior corporate chef for Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille in Texas, he used his training to add more flare to the food and his work ethic to have a respectful and productive work environment. 

“I started at a mom-and-pop shop,” he said. “We had two locations at the time when I started there as a dishwasher and worked my way up to corporate chef, and then (Perry) ended up with 16 locations in five states. I’m gonna see if I can follow his footsteps and still keep it local and still keep it family and community driven.”

His biggest changes to the Bluebird were making sure to include himself and the Bluebird in as many community-driven endeavors as he could. 

“The atmosphere and the whole setup of the coffee shop inspired me,” he said. “I have found that the coffee shop, it’s honestly where I feel like I can have the most impact. It’s more of a connection.”

Although he loved his time in restaurants, this environment allows him to be more personable and get to know the people coming in. Through his vision, the Bluebird Cafe has become a space for learning, a safespace and a place for personal expression and compassion. 

While talking to the governor and hosting all of the other attendees at the Bluebird, Bishop didn’t just sit idly while his employees worked hard. He got up and assisted them and his customers wherever he was needed. 

Justin Bishop, the owner of Bluebird Cafe poses with Mayor Jonathan Godes
Post Independent/ Cassandra Ballard

In the culinary world, Bishop earned his way up the tough and demanding ladder from dishwasher to chef, and he understands that being a team member is what garners respect and a healthy work environment with his employees. 

Creating community and a sense of equality is clearly shown through each of his actions. When he stands behind the register at the Bluebird, he treats his guests as though they are guests in his own home. 

Shortly after the governor left the cafe, Bishop was discreetly offering to buy gloves for one of his regulars who has been struggling with getting stable housing.

Once he was able to convince the man to let him buy the gloves, he held up his own hand to the man’s to get an idea of his glove size. 

Bishop later said that he wants the cafe to be a place where people are comfortable gaining shelter from the cold.

He, along with Vanessa Lane, a peer-recovery coach from Mind Springs, came up with a solution to helping people. 

This project is just in its infancy, but she and Bishop have been offering resources to people in the city who are greatly struggling with housing. Lane has been offering rides to the local laundromat and public-bathroom facilities in West Glenwood, while Bishop helps to fund some of the expenses and any other necessities. 

They are also working with a nonprofit ministry called God’s Beloved. 

Both God’s Beloved and the Bluebird Cafe take donations of clothing, sleeping bags, toiletries, blankets, food and anything else people might need, especially in the dead cold of winter. 

The Bluebird Cafe is surely becoming a nexus for the community, hosting American Sign Language classes on Wednesdays, Queers and Coffee on Saturday mornings, occasional drag shows, open mic nights and more. 

“I am always looking for any and more opportunities to get out into the community,” Bishop said. “If anybody knows anything, they can always come my way, and they can see what we can do.”

He added that he can’t always help financially, but they can set up events and do fundraisers or bring awareness to situations — whatever the community might need. 

“This is our area, and we have to take care of ourselves here in order to provide for our tourists and for whatever else because, if we’re not okay, then we can’t help anyone else out,” he said. 

On Sunday, the Bluebird closed early to support Caleb Cook from Cook Inclusive Company with the Friendship Circle event at the Art Base in Basalt. 

The event groups volunteers one-on-one with a child living with a disability to participate in a variety of inclusive art activities, Cook wrote in an email. 

“This will allow our amazing parents the opportunity to rest, relax, and connect with fellow parents to ensure our families are well supported,” Cook wrote. “No experience necessary, we are here to teach you.”

To learn more about the Blue Bird cafe go to

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at or 970-384-9131.

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