‘Not for the lighthearted’: Intrepid entrepreneurs open up shop during the pandemic


Before the pandemic hit, Kim Mangle’s nonprofit consultancy business was booming. Then, COVID-19 arrived and her income dried up almost overnight.

“I had this 48-hour period where I went from super busy to having no clients whatsoever,” said Mangle, a Golden resident. “I started to panic.”

When a friend working as a nurse asked her if she could help out by sewing some masks, Mangle used her newfound free time to start making the sought-after product.

Before long, Mangle realized she enjoyed the work and began getting compliments on the masks, which she also made for friends and family. In August, she decided to launch her own business: 5280Masks, LLC.

With the help of her grandmother’s vintage sewing machine, Mangle has now made and sold more than 800 masks.

“It’s been a lot of work, but for me it’s been a really positive outlet,” Mangle said.

Across the metro area, businesses have shuttered left and right since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But not all doors are closing. Some businesses, like Mangles, have actually been sprouting up during this financially tumultuous time.

Grocery opens doors

While Mangle is capitalizing on demand of a new product, other businesses opening up are seeking customers looking for more traditional goods.

The Gold Line Grab and Go, for example, is a new convenience and grocery store that opened in Olde Town Arvada.

When the owners of the shop bought their storefront in February, not a single confirmed case of COVID-19 had entered the state yet. 

A month later, owners had to make an impossible choice: to open their doors in the middle of a pandemic or give up on their vision of bringing this type of store to Olde Town, said Josh Schwartz, co-owner and manager.

“We had to have a big decision to see if we even wanted to open it,” Schwartz said. “Then we recognized that there was a need for basic essentials that you couldn’t get from stores at that time.”

The store is also owned by Sheena and Drew Gordon, who also own and operate the two Bluegrass Lounge locations in Arvada. Because of the Bluegrass Lounge, the owners were able to secure products like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, rice and other high-demand items through distribution chains separate from other grocery and convenience stores.

Still, the pandemic has dragged on and business has been hard to come by. 

“Things have been tough, to be honest,” Schwartz said. “The amount of people working in the area has diminished quite significantly.”

Eatery sees up and downs

Alfred Wilson, manager at the new Cuca’s Eatery in Highlands Ranch, has felt hard-core ups and downs while opening a business during this time, he said. The American restaurant, with a bit of Latin influence, serves breakfast and dinner.

“If you’re not a seasoned person … I could see how it would really bring you down and make you want to close your shop up,” he said. “This unique scenario is not made for the lighthearted.”

Wilson said while it’s difficult to see negative numbers coming in, he and the owners of the store have had a bullish attitude about their venture since they first decided to take the plunge. Originally, they were set to begin serving customers a month before the pandemic began, but the opening got pushed back and then the pandemic set them even further back. They finally opened in late September.

“It would have been dumb not to open,” Wilson said. “We’d be giving up and all three of us aren’t the kind to give up, so we took it as a challenge, and our mentality was if we can survive through this, we can survive through anything.”

Pair stayed positive

RPO Framing in Denver is another example of a business that opened in the midst of the pandemic. Owners Bob Platz and his wife Julie Lizak had their eye on the Platt Park location for about 25 years before they were able to move in. 

The couple started talking to the previous owner — who also had a frame shop and gallery — about a year ago about buying the shop. The deal was moving forward until the pandemic hit.

“And then the city shut down and we had to put it on the backburner for a couple months,” Platz said. 

By Sept. 1, the couple had finalized the deal and opened their store, focusing on handmade, custom framing made from scratch. The store also serves as a gallery space for Platz’ paintings and Lizak’s photographs.

“It’s been amazing,” Platz said.

Both Platz and Lizak were somewhat hesitant about getting started on this project in the middle of a pandemic, he said.

“When the opportunity presented itself, we just stayed positive and kept moving forward believing that this is our time to make this happen and opportunities like this don’t come along very often,” he said. “We were hesitant … but this may not happen again, this opportunity. So we had to take it. And we’re really excited that we did.”

Platz, who is thrilled to be working in a field where he can be creative all day, feels optimistic about the future of his business, he said.

“I know these are tough times,” he said. “Take the chances when they’re given to you. We feel really positive and excited about the future and are excited to be here finally”


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