Echo Architecture Creates Noise in Colorado Springs

Words: Meagan Thomas

Photos: Tanya Martineau

When Ryan Lloyd, founder of Echo Architecture, moved with his wife and son from Portland to Colorado Springs, he wasn’t planning to open his own architecture firm. He just wanted to live in a safe, friendly community with good schools for his son to attend. Luckily for the Colorado Springs community, a series of random events and a lot of what Ryan thinks is fate led him to start Echo Architecture - forever changing the design landscape in Colorado Springs.

Making Colorado Springs Home

Ryan spent most of his childhood growing up in the Rocky Mountains, and he knew he wanted to eventually plant his roots in the state. He moved to Fort Collins when he was nine, went to college in Golden and Boulder and lived in Fort Collins for a few more years before finally heading to Portland. When Ryan and his wife first moved to Portland, they planned to be there for graduate school. What started out as a few years in Oregon turned into 10. There they bought a house, had babies and worked, but when Ryan’s son was getting ready to start kindergarten, the issue of moving back to Colorado came to the forefront. From there, fate took the reins.

“Within a few days, an old professor from (Colorado University) called me and offered me a job,” Ryan said. It sounded like an interesting job, and after mentioning to a neighbor that he might be selling his house, another neighbor came over the following day and made an offer to buy it. With a job offer in Denver and an offer on the house, Ryan knew it was too good to pass up. Soon, he and his wife flew to Denver to begin house hunting. But It didn’t take long for them to realize they didn’t want to move to Denver.

“We wanted to be in the mountains, be in the sun, [be where there’s] better schools, and Denver didn’t have any of those things,” Ryan said. “So through a series of strange events and a lot of prayer - and just rash decisions - we moved to Colorado Springs.” Taking a leap fully on faith, with no job, no house and really no good reason, the Lloyd family just went for it and decided to call Colorado Springs their new home. Little did they know the risk of moving here would work out in their favor - as well as the rest of the city’s - as Ryan began designing many of Colorado Springs’ new and popular establishments.

“We really felt like we were supposed to come to Colorado Springs, and it was just part of that journey,” he said.


Finding Architecture

Ryan’s road to becoming an architect wasn’t a straight one. He’d considered architecture when he was a kid, but as he got older he never thought of it as an actual option for a career path. In high school, he was good at math and science and decided that he’d go to college to become an engineer. He only applied to one school, Colorado School of Mines, and was accepted. “In hindsight, I’m blown away I didn’t have a fallback [school],” Ryan said. Within a few weeks of attending Mines, he realized engineering wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life, and that’s when architecture popped into his mind again. He applied to the University of Colorado and got in. After finishing his freshman year at Mines, he transferred to Boulder. There, he instantly felt he was in the right place.

“The architecture school was super heavy on studio and design studio courses,” Ryan said. “I really applied myself for the first time ever in school and just loved it and did pretty well at it and never looked back.” While living in Portland, Ryan worked for Surround Architecture, Inc. That’s when Ryan said he felt he had his first big architecture victory while helping to design a mortgage lender’s office. The client had access to free wood, so they built the inside out of stacked two-by-fours. The exposed, heavy timber utilized outdoor aspects of the region, and Ryan combined them with the existing building to make everything blend into one beautiful space.

"[Surround Architecture] let me run with it, and it just turned out really great,” he said.


Founding Echo

Ryan’s time at Surround continued to fuel his passion and knowledge of design, which helped him to land a job in Colorado Springs in September 2008 with BVH Architects. Unfortunately, his career with the firm was cut short because of the economic hardship facing many companies that year. In February 2009, just days after Ryan and his wife put an offer in to buy a house, BVH announced that it would be closing its Colorado Springs office, still staying in business in other areas. Thinking on his feet, Ryan found a way to secure his future in architecture in the city. “Being a firm that was staying in business, they couldn’t just shut down and tell all their Colorado clients ‘sorry,’ so I talked them into hiring me as a co-architect to work as a consultant to finish all their projects in Colorado,” he explained.

In April 2009, just a couple of months after the announcement to close the Colorado Springs BVH office was announced, Echo Architecture was born. Being able to start one’s own company and be one’s own boss sounds appealing, but it’s also terrifying. Ryan had only been in Colorado Springs for four months and didn’t have any billed work, didn’t know anybody or have his own clients. He had nothing to put on his website because he hadn’t done anything in Colorado. Add that to the fact that he’d never run a business, and it was a lot to handle. In a smart move by Ryan, he wrote all of the company’s furniture, computers and software codebooks into his severance package.

“I had no startup cost and a solid year of built-in work in Colorado for them under my own name, so that was huge,” Ryan said.”That alleviated a lot of my fears because I basically had a great job for a year.” As Ryan worked on the former BVH projects, he began to build his Colorado Springs portfolio, and soon enough he found more clients. Word spread about his business because of Ryan’s commitment to every single project. “I think the thing that is different about what I do and what Echo Architecture does [is that] we try,” Ryan said. “Every project that comes in we push to produce the best product we can for the budget - to be innovative, be fresh and do something new and exciting.”

Ryan has observed a lot of architects or companies who do the bare minimum, get a permit and are done. At Echo, the company uses its design services to go above and beyond for every client. Two big parts of being an exceptional architect is forming a strong relationship with the client and understanding how surroundings can play into the space being designed. “I try very hard to form a relationship with my client and actually listen to them and hear what they’re saying and take their personality and apply that to the design,” Ryan said.

Ryan also allows the building to inform himself or the client. He uses the outdoors - views, where the sun sits, wind and even foot traffic - to build a design based off of the environment. He likes to use raw materials such as wood, concrete and steel rather than paint or distress it. His designs tend to have a “green” component, and while it’s intentional, designing in an eco-friendly manner isn’t something out of the norm for certain projects: It’s an important part of all well-designed buildings. “I try to specialize in good architecture, and [being green] is a huge component of that,” Ryan said. “If it’s not sustainable and it doesn’t take advantage of natural light and wind, and the energy that’s free, or views or space - it’s all tied together.”


Inspiring Change

Echo Architecture’s mission to make every project the best it can be is slowly changing from making every project the best it can be to making Colorado Springs the best it can be. In the beginning, Ryan took 100 percent of the jobs that came to him, but now he’s able to choose and be sure that the client and location are a good fit, which really makes a difference in the effect his projects can make on the community.

Ryan’s recent project for a local nonprofit, The Dream Center of Colorado Springs, turned a former rundown apartment complex into a space for homeless mothers to live. The metaphor of rehabilitating a building that was on its last leg into a beautiful, state of the art building for women who are also trying to turn around their own lives isn’t lost on him. “When you go in, you don’t feel like you’re in subsidized housing. You feel like you’d want to live there,” he said. “We wanted to not only provide them with a place to stay, but we wanted to give them dignity - and we can do that through design.”

The power of design is important to Ryan, and although some of his projects help the needy, he also hopes to use the power of design to change some of the lifestyle in Colorado Springs. A good example of this is with his work on Wild Goose Meeting House. It’s a project he’s proud of - not just because it turned out well for the client - but because it’s providing a place that downtown Colorado Springs didn’t have previously. He hopes to continue to be a part of more projects like this. “Our built environment should match our natural environment,” Ryan said. “We have the best climate ever; We have Garden of the Gods, we have Pikes Peak, we have Red Rock Canyon, and it’s perfect. Geographically, we couldn’t be in a better spot. And then you look at our built environment and it’s the worst … so we should match our natural environment.”

Through design, he’s beginning to inspire change in the Colorado Springs community, and he hopes that the value on design is felt in the city.

However, Ryan believes that changes to the culture of Colorado Springs really comes down to to planning more than architecture. The public will and political will for things like better public transportation, making the town more bicycle and pedestrian friendly and changes in zoning for certain areas is what’s going to make a difference in for many residents of the city. As these changes begin to occur, the city can move forward in other areas. The grassroots movement of craft coffee, craft beer and local food and goods is one of those areas that is growing quickly, and many of Ryan’s clients are a part of it. He is excited about projects like the expansion of Iron Bird Brewing and the rehab of Lincoln Elementary as a concept similar to Ivywild School. He likes that he gets to think of places he likes to go, help recreate them and then visit them again and again.

“So often people say, ‘This doesn’t look like it should be in Colorado Springs, it’s way too cool.’ I totally appreciate that, but I also want people to stop saying that, because we deserve the coolest things ever,” Ryan said.


4 S Wahsatch Ave.,  #120

Colorado Springs, CO 80903


GOCA: Cultivating Colorado Springs’ Diverse Arts & Culture Legacy

Words: Kate Perdoni

Photos: Becca Simonds

Nudging its audience to lead more imaginative lives through sensory experiences, sparking dialogue and affecting positive change in communities through art - here lies the trifecta of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs’ Galleries of Contemporary Art. Commonly referred to as GOCA, the name populates two fully-realized, multi-media gallery spaces within the city: One on the UCCS campus, the other in the heart of downtown.

Leading up to the formation of GOCA in 1981, current GOCA Director and Curator Daisy McGowan stated there were a number of art exhibits on the UCCS campus, mainly housed in the library. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, a group of private citizens rallied around the funding and building of a new contemporary art space - a feat Daisy labels “quite remarkable.” GOCA1420, named for its address on Austin Bluffs Parkway, was then built within the newly constructed UCCS science building. The 2,600 square foot, central campus space includes classrooms and space to accommodate “a wide range of exhibits that could be envisioned in 1981,” Daisy said. Daisy acknowledged that the unexpected location has lent itself to the interdisciplinary slant of GOCA’s exhibitions over the years.

Attracting artists that can fulfill the large scale, Daisy says exhibits in GOCA1420 have ranged from a survey of works to a single project taking over with a massive installation. “You ask artists, ‘What can you do with this?’ and their eyes just light up,” Daisy said.

Shows ultimately take root in bringing artists as a resource for students and faculty. Exhibits frequently connect with a faculty member - such as coursework, or a special program created around a connecting exhibit, or a symposia organized to build off a show. The classroom atmosphere supports UCCS’ interdisciplinary Visual and Performance Arts major, involving theater, dance, music, film, visual art, art history and museum studies.

“Academic art museums and galleries have a very interesting role,” Daisy said. “They serve the campus, but they really need to serve the community as well. We started to bring internationally and nationally known professional artists to the campus from day one as a resource for the faculty and students and also for the community.”

As part of a curriculum of immersion, students take classes within GOCA’s walls, learn about gallery management and operations through staffing the space and work alongside global artists to install shows. “We have at our core education,” Daisy said. “Everything we do, whether it’s targeted specifically at UCCS students - such as a students-only exhibit preview - or if it’s lifelong learning outside of the school, is really that core belief that the arts can teach just about anything.”

This philosophy includes experimentation and release from more common forms of academic knowledge, allowing the space to be overtaken by unique experiences. Exercises in analysis and truth-seeking in the college venue encourage dialogue and connect the audience with organic emotion, allowing the community to broach difficult topics with an air of interactivity and introspection. It’s an educational model that has followed GOCA to its downtown location and beyond.

“If you tell people, ‘We want to have a conversation about the nuclear legacy of Japan and we’re going to have a lecture,’ a lot of people will just shut down,” Daisy said, referencing Eiko Otake and William Johnston’s “A Body in Fukushima,” which opened in 2014. Much of the artists’ work centered around the grief of natural disasters and historical legacies, including a post-nuclear world, told through movement and performance as well as elements of video and photography. Otake worked with students for the entirety of the semester. The exhibit itself “engaged with the community in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen,” Daisy described.

Underscoring the importance of a call-and-response from the community to determine gallery trajectory included the acquisition of a secondary gallery space, GOCA121. The downtown gallery, also named for its address (121 S. Tejon Street), began in 2010 as a partnership between Nor’wood (the landlord for Plaza of the Rockies) and UCCS.

Daisy said the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center built out the downtown space now inhabited by GOCA 121 during a campus remodel. When the art center’s renovation completed, the space was offered to UCCS, who seized the opportunity to offer a centrally located, satellite gallery. “The downtown space over the last five years has been incredibly dynamic for us to build audience and connect in different ways,” Daisy said, noting GOCA now runs the majority of its public programs from this metropolitan center.

Creating and cultivating a meaningful visitor experience at either location includes working with artists to decide which physical space their work will inhabit. Dais said by encompassing several separate rooms at GOCA 121 they’ve really pushed the limits of what the space can do. “We’ve had everything from a 500-pound drawing machine suspended from the ceiling, to a ceramic car installation with hundreds of hood ornaments in the front space, cramming it so full,” Daisy said. “We've had a sand installation on the floor. We once collected styrofoam for a year.” Artist Michael Salter’s iconic Styrobot installation, which GOCA literature depicts as a ceiling-grazing robot in lotus position, was one of these.

“It takes hundreds of hours to realize these projects,” Daisy said. “But ultimately with both spaces, the exhibit design is as much an art form as the art itself. We really try to balance the desire to have something that visually just wows you when you walk in with finding a way to engage you and bring you deeper and deeper into the work.” The minds bringing cutting-edge culture to Colorado Springs must draw from some reputable forces themselves. “We’re culture vultures!” Daisy laughed.

Her inspirations come from traveling and casting a wide net to infiltrate and connect with artists’ networks statewide and beyond. “There’s such an attitude of sharing in the arts - of being mutually excited and wanting to help other artists and support them,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to be doing that for a living.”

Asked if there’s a certain feeling she gets with the knowledge that something is going to resound with the community, Daisy answers to the affirmative. “Yes,” she said. “It’s hard to anticipate completely. When I’m researching an artist or a topic, there’s so much delight in me, and I just want to share that.” 

“And that’s really infectious,” added Nicole Anthony, the GOCA Community Cultivation Director. “If you’re genuinely excited about something, and you’re your most authentic self when promoting, designing, curating and presenting it, I feel like that’s very transparent, and people gravitate toward that.”

GOCA’s love of community and connectivity has led to creating space for a number of local emerging artists. Ultimately, the spaces are best activated when programs surrounding other local culture are involved: Dance, poetry, spoken word, performance, food, wine, an array of speakers and lots of music are go-to forces known to grace the halls of both GOCA spaces. Pairing arts programs with local makers and crafters, including food movements, breweries and coffee roasters, enhance the gallery-goer’s experience and leads to what Nicole says is a lot of nerding out. “Take BRILLIANT, for example,” Nicole described. “Light installations by Colorado Springs artists, dance performance by dancers living in Colorado Springs, whiskey and gin tastings by Colorado Springs distilleries - it’s one night that celebrates our local community's exceptional creative capacities. We really strive to connect with as many aspects of our creative community making in Colorado Springs as possible.”

Exhibitor and Gallery Assistant Caitlin Goebel, labeled a “Bright Young Thing” in GOCA121’s 2015 exhibit celebrating homegrown Colorado talent, has been involved with GOCA since 2012. As a student at UCCS, Daisy sought Caitlin out for a student position. “People often speak about how hard it is to get noticed in the Arts or to move into a larger city with a more serious audience,” Caitlin said. “Exhibiting at GOCA has allowed me to meet so many intelligent and well-respected artists and curators in the region … Now I'm looking forward to collaborations and exhibits that I don't know would have happened otherwise, or at least not in the same way.”

Emphasizing city-wide collaborations, bringing artists in residence for longer stretches and continuing to welcome artists from around the world to engage meaningfully remain at the forefront of upcoming events.

“It’s about quality, not quantity,” Anthony noted.

Daisy said that there is less of an emphasis on statistics and how many students are involved and instead they focus on a deeper engagement.

“It’s not just about doubling our programs or tripling our numbers,” Daisy said. “Instead, we talk about building our tribe.”

When asked what it is about Colorado Springs’ arts community that makes this approach work, Daisy said it is the diversity.

“I grew up on the west coast, and we all sort of agreed that we thought the same things,” she said. “Our audience here is diverse, and it’s a challenging audience. But there’s a very old history here of arts and culture, and a lot of people don’t know about that history. There is a very strong core community of people who want these experiences, who seek them out.”

Nicole also added that the arts community in Colorado Springs is very open and supportive and wants more from them.

“That’s a wonderful place to be in,” Nicole said, “because it gives us a space to create and explore and see how the community responds.” There are also challenges in a diverse audience, requiring dexterity. Daisy pointed out that for our community specifically, it’s important to try to connect to the community in many different ways. “Ultimately, if they have those great experiences with what you’re bringing to them, they’ll come back and take risks; and that’s what we want to support,” she said.

Daisy also sees an opportunity in inclusiveness - in stripping the elitism from the world of fine art.

“Museums are trying more and more to be public spaces. Audiences don’t want an ivory tower experience, such as, ‘Here’s this knowledge, and we’ll bestow it down to you from up on high,’” she explained. “Audiences want to bring their kids to things. They want experiences they can share with their community and to have that feeling of genuine community.” By giving patrons a chance to sample and survey local offerings through programs including pot politics, fermented foods, pop culture, comic books and even goat cheese, Daisy says the point is to honor knowledge that’s not just coming out of an academic source or coming from a sanctified museum.

In 2016, GOCA will collaborate with eight local organizations for POLLIN8ATE, including Idea Space, Pikes Peak Community College, Manitou Arts Center, Mountain Fold Books, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs Dance Theater and the City of Pueblo. This city-wide arts collaboration will focus on various aspects of the theme “energy”.

“I’m really looking forward to some stellar experiences born from so many creative minds working together,” Nicole said.

Meanwhile, in 2018, GOCA 1421 will relocate to the new Ent Center for the Arts, alongside TheatreWorks. This new center will include a 750-seat performance space, a 225-seat concert recital hall, a large ensemble rehearsal space, educational spaces and an outdoor sculpture garden with grounds meant to be used for events - all tucked into a hillside under Pulpit Rock with stunning visual scenery.



University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy

Colorado Springs, CO 80918


Plaza of the Rockies

121 S. Tejon, Suite 100

Colorado Springs, CO 80903


A Complex Craft: Justice Snow’s of Aspen

Words: Mundi Ross

Photos: Tanya Martineau

Justice Snow’s Restaurant and Bar has become an Aspen staple. It’s both both hip and rooted in history - not to mention the bar has the largest cocktail selection in North America. The restaurant concept is the brainchild of Michele Kiley, and at one point the name was highly controversial.

“I think it wasn’t a popular name at first, primarily because it was hard to understand and say,” Michele said. “But it’s actually a historical reference. We wanted the naming of the space to be historically relevant. I discovered these old headlines, and one read ‘A Bad Day in Justice Snow’s Court.’ I thought, ‘how interesting that we had a Justice of the Peace named Snow,’ and our current economy is predicated on snow. So for me there was no other naming choice.”

Justice Snow’s is part of the Wheeler Opera House building built in 1889, and entering it feels like a classy boudoir of dark woods, leathered upholstery and textured wallpaper.  The local young and hip are seated at the bar where everyone knows everyone, but at further glance around the space, there is a mixed demographic. Michele is aware of the aging population in Aspen and is intentional to be inviting to all by making sure that Justice Snow’s is grounded in community and all things to all people.

One of the ways Michele is creating community is through her version of the turn-of-the-century salon. Three times a week she has carved out time for creative outlets in both performance art and music. Justice Snow’s recently launched a program called writ - largely based on The Moth Radio Hour series on National Public Radio - which gives locals the opportunity to share their story. The programming has been impactful, but Michele doesn’t ever want it to take away from what Justice Snow’s essentially is: A restaurant and bar that values great food and drink.

Really, Justice Snow’s shouldn’t worry about its food and drink being forgotten. The restaurant is known far and wide for its 200 plus cocktail menu. The sizeable number of drinks wasn’t something the restaurant originally set out to do, but its original head bartender, Joshua Smith, was inspired and created them, so the cocktails are now a part of Justice Snow’s legacy. Sam Gemus, the present head bartender extraordinaire, is more than willing to to talk about the hand-crafted cocktails that Joshua created.

“Joshua was such a brilliant man who was given the permission to make a bar program he always dreamed of making, so we continue on,” Sam said. “I asked him before he moved away to San Francisco why he never wanted to downsize and his response to me was simple: ‘Cause I liked it.’ ”

Sam is a Detroit native who eventually made his way to the Aspen snow and never looked back. He always wanted to get into bartending, and three years ago was given the opportunity. He started out at Hotel Jerome, eventually landing a gig at Justice Snow’s. He and the other bartenders on staff are making a name for themselves in mixology by winning awards and accolades. The bar was voted one of Food & Wine’s Best New Bars in America in 2014.

Justice Snow’s prides itself on doing its best to source what it can locally. All the syrups are made in house, many of the herbs and garnishes are from local farms and gardens and whenever possible, Justice Snow’s uses Colorado spirits.

“Some of the garnishes you see here come from the sweetest man who delivers in return for a [Pabst Blue Ribbon], and if he drives, we give him five bucks,” Sam said.

Jacob Johnson, another bartender who comes from a farming background, talks passionately about using local ingredients.

“The florals and herbs used as muddlers or garnishes take the cocktail to a whole new level,” Jacob said. “The subtle intricacies of the fresh ingredients allow us to explore different ways to use them in a cocktail that are unique and not readily available to everyone.”

For example, Josh said the bitterness of fresh cilantro will add some depth and complexity to a cocktail, whereas mass-produced cilantro will not allow us to achieve this flavor. Even the use of hawthorn berry, which tastes like a combination of passionfruit, peach and lemon flavour creates an intense addition to a drink.

“[There’s] immediate flavor as it hits your tongue, so I don’t have to add lemon to the cocktail, because the berry does it for me,” Josh said.

The aroma and flavor of the cocktails created behind the bar force one to slowly sip and savor it like an elegant dessert. Clearly, spending even a short afternoon in Justice Snow’s reveals it to be one of the best bars in Aspen. If anyone ever walks in overwhelmed by the cocktail menu, they can ask Sam or anyone else behind the bar for the Dealer’s Choice. This allows someone to circle different attributes he or she is looking for in a cocktail and the bartender will create something special. But if you want to skip the menu and drink like a local, a favorite is the PDA. Whatever one ends up ordering - sweet or spicy, bold or bubbly - it will not disappoint.

Contact Info:

Cowboy Star: Old Hollywood Glamour Meets Wild West

Words: Katie Lew

Photos: Abby Mortenson

When Jon Weber decided to expand his successful San Diego steakhouse, Cowboy Star, to a second location in Colorado Springs he hired a local, Bryan Bradigan, as the General Manager. Why? Because he wanted Cowboy Star to feel authentic to its locality here in Southern Colorado.

“We wanted there to be a strong connection [between the San Diego and Colorado Springs locations], but we didn’t want them to be identical, because we want the Colorado team to be able to put their stamp on things,” Jon explained.

As Jon describes his vision for the Colorado Springs location, it does sound like he is creating a new restaurant experience—one that will appeal specifically to the Colorado Springs community. Even the décor reflects his commitment to the local community, from the walls covered in reclaimed wood from the Waldo Canyon fire, to a patio that showcases spectacular views of Pikes Peak.

So why Colorado Springs? The menu is a showcase for locally sourced meat, produce and, most notably, beers from local breweries.

“The amazing local beer culture was a big draw for us in Colorado Springs,” Jon said. “We wanted to make sure to have a larger tap system than we had at the other restaurant because we want to be able to offer a lot of those local options.”

Local brews were also the inspiration behind a popular dinner series offered at Cowboy Star that pairs local beers with specially created dishes.

“We’ve had six dinners in collaboration with local breweries this summer, and this winter we’ll go on to do a series with Brown Spirits,” Jon explained. “They are held in a private dining space: We have the brewers there and the chefs talking about the food. It’s super interactive and fun.”  

Nearly all of the meat served at Cowboy Star is sourced locally, including pork from Mcdonald Family Farms in Brush. The restaurant brings in a whole hog from the farm every few weeks and the on-site butcher utilizes every part of the animal. Jon is committed to using only humanely raised meat and regularly visits the ranches and processing facilities to see how the animals are treated.

“We could serve commodity beef and we’d make a lot more money, but the animal husbandry that is involved with producing our beef is very important to us,” he said. “We’ve gone to the ranches, we’ve seen the process and even gone to the slaughterhouses to see how that is done. It’s a tough trip in some ways. It can be hard to see that. But if you want to do this right, it’s something you need to experience for yourself.”

Having a butcher on-site inspired Jon to open a small butcher shop attached to the restaurant so that patrons can purchase some of the high-quality meats they enjoy while dining. Here, customers can buy the house-made sausage, a locally raised steak or even custom order, hard-to-find cuts of meat.

“People call and make special orders a lot at our other location,” Jon noted. “Especially during the holidays—they’ll want a dry-aged rib roast or something, and it’s not a problem because we already have the resources and connections with ranches and purveyors.”

Despite this focus on quality meats, Jon didn’t originally see his restaurant concept as a steakhouse.

“We very hesitantly went with the name ‘steakhouse’,” he explained. “When we first opened, we had the title ‘contemporary American cuisine’, because the front of the menu - with salads and other mains - is very important to us.” As the quality steaks started to garner attention, the restaurant won several awards for best steakhouse in San Diego, and Jon realized it would be confusing to resist the title any longer.

Still, Jon insists that where his culinary team really shines is in the creation of new salads, fish dishes and other entrees.  Some of the best dishes at Cowboy Star are menu items like Goat Cheese Ravioli, made in-house and drizzled with spinach garlic puree, or a Pan-Roasted Trout, caught right here in Colorado.

“That’s what separates us from other steakhouses: Our focus on modern, innovative dishes,” he said. “We are committed to using fresh ingredients. Our freezer is basically just used for ice cream. It’s the size of a regular kitchen freezer, because all our ingredients are fresh.”

This decision to use only the freshest ingredients extends to the use of herbs grown right on the restaurant’s patio.

The concept behind Cowboy Star is a new experience for Southern Colorado. Jon’s vision for the decor of the restaurant is rooted in his love for vintage Hollywood and old Western movies.

“I was inspired by figures like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and Tom Mix,” Jon said. “These were people who, during the day, were out on a shoot and in the rough and tumble, six-shooter, good guy vs. bad buy [Westerns]—but as soon as the day was over, they’re back in Hollywood, having a steak dinner, going to the cabaret and drinking champagne. That is the epitome of what I was looking for.”

When describing Cowboy Star, Jon often uses the term “escape”, and entering the restaurant does indeed feel like entering another era. Large, comfortable booths invite diners to relax and settle in for a leisurely meal, while the lack of TV screens (even in the bar) adds to the feeling of timeless glamour.

General Manager Bryan Bradigan has worked in the Colorado Springs restaurant industry for over 20 years, but he agrees that Cowboy Star is a unique dining experience in our area.

“You know, it’s different.,” Bryan said. “It’s not a corporate restaurant, not a chain restaurant. It’s got it’s own local kind of feel.”

Bryan cites the cocktail program as another unique aspect that sets the restaurant apart. In keeping with the vintage Hollywood theme, Cowboy Star is reviving some old-time cocktails made with simple, quality ingredients.

“Our Old Fashioned is a good example”, said Jon. “Originally the Old Fashioned was bitters, a little bit of sugar and bourbon or rye. Then, at some point, they started muddling oranges or cherries in there, maybe a splash of soda water, and it became something totally different. What we’ve done is to take it back to the original recipe and keep it really simple.”

While the jump from San Diego to Colorado Springs might not seem like an obvious choice, Jon says that the two cities have a lot in common.

“The main economic drivers in this town are tourism, tech, and military, similar to San Diego,” he said.

But for Jon, the deciding factor was the mountain views.

“We fell in love with this space, we fell in love with the location and the view of the mountains. It was a done deal after we saw that view; we knew that this was the right spot,” Jon remembered. “In order to do something like this, you really have to fall in love, and we were in love with this location.”

This love for Colorado is embedded in every detail of Cowboy Star, making it a valuable and unique addition to the community.

Contact Info:  

5198 North Nevade Avenue, Suite 150

Colorado Springs, CO 80918



Juniper Valley Ranch: The Legacy of Family and Home Cooked Meals

Words: Heidi White

Photos: Karen Scheffe

Are you looking for a impersonal, brand-oriented restaurant with an extensive menu of hard-to-pronounce exotic foods? Then Juniper Valley Ranch Dining Room does not fit that criteria. Situated 15 miles south of Colorado Springs on highway 115, Juniper Valley Ranch Dining Room lies serenely nestled amidst the dappled, rolling mountains of the picturesque stretch between Colorado Springs and Penrose. It’s a the perfect spot to crown a day’s visit to Happy Apple Farm or even Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. In addition to its scenic location, many features make Juniper Valley Ranch a unique and satisfying dining experience - from the family history to the homemade food.

One of the primary attractions of Juniper Valley Ranch is its rich family history. The restaurant began serving food in the summer of 1951. The founders were two sisters, Ethel Shirola and Evelyn Ellis, daughters of homesteaders Guy and Bessie Parker. On a warm summer night in 1951, Juniper Valley Ranch Dining Room opened its doors, and the sisters served their patrons dishes made with exactly the same scrumptious recipes that are served today. This remarkable family legacy serves more than a consistent menu - it anchors us in a time when tradition and relationship were the core tenants of life, contrasting today’s transient culture.

When the restaurant was firmly established in the community, the time came for Ethel and Evelyn to retire. The sisters looked no further than their own close family to keep the legacy of this home-grown restaurant alive. Today, Juniper Valley Ranch is owned by Greg and Tami Dickey. Greg - a soft-spoken, energetic man whose eyes light up when he speaks of the dining room’s history - is Ethel’s grandson. He inherited Juniper Valley Ranch Dining Room in 1983 when he was 18 years old.

“We still use my Great Aunt Evelyn’s original recipes,” he said. “My mom showed me how to make desserts. I’m not a cook.”

Other than a few additions and repairs, the restaurant looks the same today as it did in 1951. A white kiln-shaped fireplace graces the entryway. Guy Parker’s own oil paintings cover the place: some are straight-backed cowboys and fields of wildflowers, others are wild horses and the crags of the Rocky Mountains. The walls are a warm stucco and the ceiling is low, ribbed with rustic wooden beams. The dining space is divided into rooms, so guests settle into the nooks and crannies of a home. The salt and pepper shakers on the wooden tables are original; they have been seasoning folk’s food for more than 60 years. The family’s legacy indeed envelops every corner of Juniper Valley Ranch.

In addition to the warm and hospitable feel of a family home, guests to Juniper Valley Ranch will soon discover the second reason that the dining room has been a Colorado tradition for 64 years: The delicious food. Diners choose between either baked ham or fried chicken - or chicken fried steak on Friday nights. Dinner begins with a choice between curry consomme and cherry cider. The meat bursts with home-cooked flavor, like Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house. The cooks rice the potatoes instead of mashing them, making them almost impossibly fluffy, and the potatoes are served with rich gravy made every night from pan drippings. Okra casserole and creamy cole are a dining room staple. Don’t miss the homemade biscuits: Guests can enjoy them on their own or smothered in Greg’s famous homemade apple butter. The cook, Florence Straight, who is 87-years-old, has been baking these biscuits every day in the kitchen at Juniper Valley Ranch Dining Room for 15 years.

Afterward, dinner guests might feel they can’t eat another bite, but the desserts are worth sampling. The dining room purchases its ice cream, but makes everything else from scratch.  The chocolate brownie sundae is an obvious choice - but don’t overlook the butterscotch sundae, which tastes rich and sweet. Peppermint ice cream and homemade peach or cherry cobblers round out the dessert menu.

If you’re eager to join the diners who’ve embraced Juniper Valley Ranch’s warm hospitality, rich history and home-cooked flavors, keep in mind its exclusive schedule. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The dining room opens its doors from April through November, and typically closes them right before Thanksgiving, so it’s always a good idea to check their website for availability. Also, be sure to stop by the ATM on your way to the historic eatery, because Juniper Valley Ranch is a cash only establishment.  

In order to accommodate its loyal clientele, Juniper Valley Ranch hosts private parties during the months when it’s closed, especially over the holidays. Those who are looking for a memorable holiday event will find the cozy atmosphere, specialized customer service and comfort food an appealing option.  

While the dining room will accommodate walk-ins, Greg encourages reservations.

“Most nights we’re full,” he said. “Some have asked why we don’t just expand, but…”

The four generations that still live on the homestead and work at the dining room want it to remain what it has always been: A family business.

Contact Info:

Juniper Valley Ranch

South Hwy 115

Colorado Springs, CO 80926


Wooed By Pueblo

Words: Darcie Nolan

Photos: Teryn O'Brien

Inspired by a box full of fragrance samples and scraps from the vintage botanical wallpaper hanging in her office, Cordelia Smith established her handmade soap and body product business in Seattle 20 years ago. Her small batch Etsy store quickly took off, and she found herself in a tiny brick-and-mortar retail space on the trendy Ravenna Boulevard in Seattle.

The Formulary 55 storefront on Ravenna was at the heart of the University District of Seattle. It was surrounded by swank boutiques, up and coming restaurants, chic coffee shops and had close proximity to the University of Washington - which has more than 44,000 students. From the outside, it appeared to be prime real estate and great access for a business offering a gorgeous handmade product. However, the combination of a small and expensive space, a drop in the nation’s economy and competition from similar nearby shops affected the boutique’s stability and stalled its growth.

When Cordelia met Anthony Hill, Formulary 55 was running into a brick wall. The soaps and lotions were well received, but the limited space wasn’t able to accommodate larger wholesale orders. Cordelia was turning away interested clients. Business hours in the Ravenna shop weren’t lucrative, and Cordelia was spending multiple days a week competing for attention and waiting for customers instead of making her product.

As Cordelia and Anthony’s relationship grew, Anthony was able to look at Formulary 55 from the business perspective - bringing his analytical skills from a previous tech position with Microsoft. What he saw was a fantastic product that wasn’t fully reaching market saturation.

“She is very much the creative mind and driver behind this; doesn’t so much care for the business side of things,” Anthony said. “I’m great at the business side of things and not so much the creative.”

Anthony’s business expertise freed Cordelia up to explore the creative side of the business more fully. Both agree, it was a great match.

Their dedication to each other and the success of Formulary 55 spurred the conversation of moving elsewhere, together. They began researching cities across the United States where they could live and work side-by-side. Surprisingly to some, they ended up choosing Pueblo.

Redefining Pueblo

Most people don’t think of Pueblo as a particularly inspiring town. At one time, the “Steel City” may have been one of the largest steel producing towns in all of the United States - but the smog, mills and industrial plants stifled it from being a destination of culture or creativity. After the steel crash in 1982, Pueblo’s economy repeatedly dropped into trouble. Workers went on strike for years at a time, while mills were closed or sold to out-of-state companies, only to be closed or sold again. In 2003, the Bessemer Historical Society purchased many of the steel industry’s important buildings to convert them into museums. Pueblo was on its way to being another ghost town - a remnant of a bygone era and dying industry like the mining towns that dot the Rockies.

The Historic Arkansas Riverwalk was one the first major indications of the Pueblo’s effort to change its verve. Bike lanes, coffee shops and kayak rentals soon followed,  filling the newly redeveloped area. Industry diversified as small businesses were attracted to what was once a completely unusable section of town - a section that now has sidewalks lined with café tables, twinkling white lights and open-air orchestras. The Riverwalk spurred the dusty old economy, and the city began to rebuild with newness and creativity.

In recent years, The City of Pueblo has intentionally welcomed small businesses and innovative technology like wind and solar energy through incentives and tax breaks. This once dying industrial center in Southern Colorado has caught the attention of small business owners from cities across the country. Newcomers enjoy the friendly small-town community that is welcoming the diversity with open arms and partnering to lay the framework for an artistic rebirth.

Wooed by Pueblo

With Anthony and Cordelia committed to each other and the growth of the company, they began researching the places where they could build the life they wanted: A walkable city with a high quality of life and low cost of living. One that had a business-supporting community and the shipping infrastructure they needed to get their products out. One that offered them a political environment in line with their liberal values. They narrowed down their list of cities to just a handful, Pueblo being among that list.

The sun and dry air that Pueblo offers and the amount of real estate available for great prices are just part of what wooed them (The average home price in Seattle is more than $500,000, while the average in Pueblo is closer to $120,000).  The couple was able to purchase their first building to operate as an occasional retail shop, a manufacturing hub and an eventual live-in loft. They remodeled it - exposing the brick walls and arranging their manufacturing center to accommodate a varying number of workers as needed.

The move has paid off. Formulary 55 has been in Pueblo for barely a year, and they’ve been able to lease a nearby building for added workspace and are looking at purchasing another in the near future to accommodate wholesale orders. Recently, they’ve been busily preparing an order that will place Formulary 55 products in all of Anthropologie’s 208 stores—an order that they would’ve had to turn down back in Seattle for lack of space.

Investing in Community

Growing into a larger space and the friendliness of Puebloans haven’t been the only good things to come out of the Formulary 55 move. Along with being able to fulfill orders they used to turn down, Anthony and Cordelia have embraced an opportunity to invest in their community in ways that weren’t readily available in Seattle - a city with six times the number of people.  They’ve become involved in everything from organizing an upcoming handmade holiday market to serving on local boards. They’ve recently helped influenced the city towards the city council approval of “art crosswalks” which is an opportunity for local artists to bring both creativity and safety to 30 designated streets throughout town.

Comparing Pueblo to Seattle to Anthony and Cordelia  is apples and oranges. Instead of the stiff competition they battled in Seattle, Formulary 55’s monthly retail events immediately attracted self-appointed brand ambassadors who spread the word about the company, bought their products and encouraged other community members to support them. The entire community of artists and creative people in Pueblo across industries has been embracing and open about sharing ideas, space and events - all collaborating to support each other’s success instead competing to win out over one another. The couple has not only built their business, they have built deep and important friendships and partnerships that will continue to help them grow.

Anthony and Cordelia see Pueblo as a land of opportunity, small yet developing.

“We think Pueblo has tremendous potential, and we moved here exactly for that reason,” Cordelia said. “Anytime . . . someone is trying to do something good and be positive, we definitely want to support that. We are advocates for the city on a regular basis, talking about everything it has to offer, not its shortcomings.”

Handmade Goods

Formulary 55 specializes in handmade bath and body products that are scented with sophisticated medleys attractive to both men and women. With their new manufacturing capabilities, they’re looking at some of the largest orders they’ve ever fulfilled and entering an international market, all while upholding their dedication to offering a handmade product.

“It is really important to us that we maintain that we are a handmade company,” Cordelia explained. “We want to keep these small makers helping us.”

Cordelia also shared her thoughts on why people are drawn to handmade products, which includes how community and lifestyles used to be.

“People are getting back to old fashioned ways and values,” she said. “I feel like it is something people need … it is necessary for people to have that human connection with what they are buying, they are eating, they are using to decorate their homes. There is so much moving away from human connection with everything else in the world.”

Anthony agrees and said that people are finding more value in experiences versus just consumption.

Formulary 55 produces more than 2,000 bars of soap each week. They hand weigh and wrap their products to ship to wholesalers and fulfill online orders. They also host events once a month at their storefront in Pueblo. At these events,  people can buy their products and see some of the other makers that Formulary 55 supports.

Anthony and Cordelia have found that the fulfilling life they were looking for - one of experience, community and connection - wasn’t on main street in a popular town in the Pacific Northwest. Rather, it was in the heart of a small town working to redefine itself and grow in Southern Colorado. Here, on the cusp of transformation, they are able to more fully realize the potential of their own business while helping a town embrace it’s own creativity and vibrancy.


423 West 4th St.,

Pueblo, CO 81003

Glen Eyrie: A Community Treasure

General Palmer would spent many days developing his home nestled in the valley near Garden of the Gods. His estate grew into a property that includes a castle, carriage house and beautiful gardens. Today, Glen Eyrie is a reminder of the rich heritage of the Colorado Springs region and the generous legacy of our city’s founder.

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