Coffee shop blends blue-collar past, worldly java culture

NED B. HUNTER Updated: November 27, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: November 27, 2012

Kelly Bubach has chosen an unlikely setting for his quest to redefine the Colorado Springs coffee scene.

Bubach’s Urban Steam Coffee Bar and Café, which opened Nov. 1, is located in an old warehouse at 1025 S. Sierra Madre St. on the southern fringe of downtown, near the Martin Drake power plant and around the corner from the Colorado Springs Rescue Mission.

Bubach believes the location sends the message that anyone can enjoy a cup of fresh roasted coffee and a touch of “European small cup culture.” The shop touts “unique and exotic coffees from around the world.”

“We are not branding this out that you are going to be a better person, or your brain is going to grow 20 percent by hanging out in our establishment,” Bubach said. “We are providing an experience.”

That experience is a unique one, partly reflecting Bubach’s blue-collar roots: He spent several years as an auto mechanic and parts jobber, fixing air compressors and engines and rebuilding transmissions.

His blue-collar background helped him save an estimated $40,000 in opening costs, as he remodeled the majority of the 950-square-foot building himself.

Urban Steam’s décor fits Bubach’s background and its industrial setting. Welders’ masks line a bookshelf along the south wall. The northern wall is exposed concrete block. A glass, roll-up garage door leads to a small front porch for outdoor eating, and the café’s hanging lights are surrounded by protective steel rings like those in a factory or on a ship. Even the café’s menu echoes Bubach’s working roots with sandwich names like: “The Anvil,” “Pig Iron” and “Grind Stone.”

While the atmosphere mirrors Bubach’s blue-collar working past, the ingredients in his food reveal his hidden travel and culinary experience. He uses goat’s milk in some of his dishes and fresh fruit on his Belgium waffles, sells premium chocolates from San Francisco and serves a Banana Foster flambeau. His sandwiches, salads and other items often imitate the flavors of food in Mexico, Greece and Europe.

“We offer very simple blue collar-type fare with a European flare,” he said.

Bubach believes he can eventually make Urban Steam a competitor in the single-cup coffee sales market because of his experience as a silent partner in the former Acoustic Coffee Lounge. That shop at the corner of 30th Street and Centennial Boulevard closed in 2002.Its failure taught Bubach a myriad of business lessons.

“A young couple had started the business and wanted to make it work through sheer gung ho attitude,” Bubach said, “and my wife and I came in and tried to help, and it was a little too late to save it.”

The experience taught Bubach the standard business lessons of controlling cost and marketing to a specific demographic, as well as other lessons.

“The lease negotiation is key to success,” Bubach said. “Not being aware of the potential pitfalls, and not being able to get out of a lease when things go south, can really hurt you. If you are not prepared in your lease agreement legally for an exit, you are pretty much doomed.”

Bubach also offered this advice:  

• “Don’t make changes just to make changes.”

• “Watch your marketing, make sure you are tuning the vision to the demographic.”

•“Stay on track to your demographic. Don’t have a lot of churn and change with your message and your philosophy.”

Still, even experienced business owners are bound to make mistakes. Bubach’s was in the amount of space he rented. He grinds his own roasted coffee beans, but he has to do it in a different location.

“I ran out of room as we remodeled,” he said “I didn’t leave enough room for physical expansion without a major investment.”

Bubach believes time, temperament and planning can eventually help him franchise his company, perhaps at least citywide.

“I am not saying my way is the only way,” Bubach said, “but this is a place for people to come and learn about and talk about coffee,  and how it is prepared properly.”

Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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URBAN STEAM COFFEE BAR AND CAFE

Address: 1025 S. Sierra Madre St.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Online: www.facebook.com/urbansteam

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