Road Trip to Cafe Leo: The Pot of Gold at the End of the Mountain Pass

“Its this very funny process, trying to name your coffee shop… So one of us asked the other, what legacy would you want to leave? We decided that we want to create a culture of loving each other, and that is where Cafe Leo was born. Its an acronym for Love Each Other.” – Dennis Fryer Co-Owner of Cafe Leo

By Colorado Coffee Zine

Driving through Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak starts to feel like you can just reach out and touch it. So you figure, what’s a few more miles? That might lead you to Woodland Park, a city that rests at about 8,465ft elevation after a 30 mile mountain pass. That drive earns you a great view of Pikes Peak and thanks to Cafe Leo, fresh made espresso drinks and delicious bites.

Cafe Leo, named by its co-owners Dennis and Emilie Fryer, carries the message “Love Each Other” from its warm and friendly staff to each and every customer.  “Our model is we want to continually grow in getting better at coffee. As a barista I’ve been growing in my skills for the last 5 years, but our primary is that we want to take care of people” said Dennis of the cafe’s mission. Serving as the go-to coffee shop for a tight knit community of fewer than 8,500 residents seems to be working out well.

About 5 years ago, Emilie was a barista at the local coffee shop and roastery Gold Hill Java. They made the decision to buy the shop and learn everything they could about specialty coffee. For about a year, Dennis and Emilie plunged into roasting and making quality beverages. At that point, they realized the place wasn’t its old self anymore but it wasn’t completely new either. “My wife and I were asking, how do we make this more of our own? How do we reflect more of who we are? It had 20 years of heritage and legacy. It wasn’t a complete fit” remembers Dennis about the turning point.

Turning this frustrating realization into a positive thing, the pair changed the name and began to bring more of themselves into the shop. Cafe Leo was starting to shine more and more with its owner team’s unique backgrounds. Emilie is originally from Australia and Dennis grew up all over the world, they met during High School in Nepal and after years of being out of touch they reconnected, got married, and found their way to Woodland Park.

A couple of years after the relaunch of Cafe Leo, it was time for the next move that would solidify its identity as a community hub. “Starbucks was actually here, we could look out our door and we could see Starbucks and about 2 years ago they moved” said Dennis about the current location in the former Starbucks on the main street. The community started pitching in ideas and even their skills. The most pronounced pattern, is the wooden panelling. 80 palettes donated by businesses around town were disassembled and placed along the walls. And the story continues with every piece of furniture and decor, everything holding a little touch of the community.

Today, Cafe Leo offers a menu of creative bagel sandwiches and well crafted espresso drinks made with fresh roasted coffee. The team is proud to be a cafe serving quality food and beverages, but they are even prouder of their unique identity and emphasis on the message of caring. Come to Woodland Park for the view of Pikes Peak, perk up with a stop at Cafe Leo, and wind down with some local craft beer. All in a day’s drive.

Cafe Leo – Facebook Page
Woodland Park