By Catherine Henderson, The Denver Post | As restaurants across the city carefully reopen, Mark Whistler, owner of the Route 40 Cafe, decided to take a risk. He’s completely reinvented his restaurant by connecting with the history of Colfax Avenue.
The Route 40 Cafe, in the space that used to be The Goods Restaurant, has fostered a unique partnership with the Colfax Museum, the brainchild of Elvis impersonator Jonny Barber. After shutting down because of the coronavirus, the restaurant hosted friends and community members on June 26 and 27 for its reopening. The remodeled location features memorabilia from Barber’s collection for customers to take in while they eat.
The partnership began when Barber and Whistler met through Charles Woolley II, who owns the Lowenstein Theater complex where Route 40 lives alongside the Sie Film Center and the Tattered Cover Bookstore. The three men envisioned turning the restaurant into a “cultural hub” on Colfax, paying homage to the history of hotels, bars, restaurants, theaters and shops that gave the street its fame. The new name also recognizes Colfax’s history as part of the historic, cross-country interstate, Whistler said.
“To me, I’m a Colorado kid, and this is my community,” Whistler said in an interview with The Denver Post. “To be able to provide something of value that helps enrich the city and this street is amazing.”
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It’s been a long road for the Colfax Museum too, even before the pandemic. In 2004, Barber started gathering photos, footage, artifacts and oral histories out of his own interest, but by 2017, his collection grew too large for his home. He started envisioning a museum space and moved into a friend’s flower shop. . . .
On June 29, History Colorado will open “Forty Years on the ‘Fax,” exploring famous shops on Colfax from 1926 to 1966. Barber has also put his passion into a book, “Colfax: The Longest, Wickedest Street in America,” which comes out in October.