When you drive along East Colfax Avenue in Denver, you probably see the large ‘Coffee Shop’ sign on what appears to resemble a blue-and-white, old-fashioned diner. Without the sign, you’d probably expect to order a stack of hearty pancakes at Lula Rose General Store, rather than receive a cup of quality espresso but this café is always surprising us. The owner —Oliver Miller-Finkel — is in his 20s but is inspired by decades past. Lula Rose General Store is named after Miller-Finkel’s great-aunt Lula Rose, former florist and owner at a flower shop in Alabama. Although Miller-Finkel’s café is running smoothly, he has a hard time forgetting the past, so he has learned to embrace it. Denverites are very interested in the coffee at the vintage-inspired café but constantly ask about the flowers since they remember that the location used to be a flower arranging business called Country Club Flowers. So — six months ago Lula Rose’s grand-nephew opened Little Lula Rose, a coffee and flower shop.
Located at 3225 East Colfax Avenue, Little Lula Rose is only down the street from Miller-Finkel’s coffee shop, but the abundance of plants growing on all surfaces inside the space makes it much different than the diner-like café with the same namesake. With only one espresso machine planted on a small countertop amidst an oasis of pots, succulents, vines and blossoms, Little Lula Rose hides its secret that customers can actually order a mean cappuccino — the same one as down the street. But Miller-Finkel said that this new location is more about keeping his family’s history alive although coffee was what he originally took an interest in.
“My mom’s whole side of the family grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and my great-aunt Lula Rose—who is 97 now—is a flower arranger,” said Miller-Finkel. “I just wanted to keep that flower spirit alive in the building with its history and my family. My aunts and a lot of cousins live around the country, and they all continue this green thumb gardening thing, but no one has really done a little store since aunt Lula Rose, so I get to do that. It [the flower business] runs in the family, but coffee was my trade.”
Since locals were so interested in the flowers when they heard about the opening of Lula Rose General Store, Miller-Finkel said his coffee shop began to sell flowers, but he soon realized they needed more room to grow—literally.
“[At Lula Rose General Store], people wanted to start buying flowers and plants from us, and then we started doing flower classes and were running out of space. So this place [Little Lula Rose] opened up so we could expand and get a refrigerator and start having more to do with the flower business,” Miller-Finkel said.
At first, Miller-Finkel said that he just used the space for classes and behind-the-scenes work for his flower business and other businesses around town.
“We opened to the public about six months ago during the weekends, and now we do a lot of workshops and things like bouquet classes, potting classes — things like that,” Miller-Finkel said. “We work with other people from time to time, so we need space to do their flowers. We also do full-service events like weddings. Hudson Hill — we help them with their plants — and we do plants and flowers for Dio Mio and other friends around town—so we just need space. We use off-days to handle those fun things.”
During business hours, Miller-Finkel encourages people passing by to purchase coffee from the small window at the front of the store. The menu is much more limited than at Lula Rose General Store — offering smaller, espresso-based beverages only such as lattés, espresso shots and cappuccinos using beans from the new local coffee company MiddleState Coffee, which just arrived at Santa Fe Drive and 2nd Avenue. Miller-Finkel said he is also working on getting cold brew on tap for the summer, but overall it’s pretty straightforward and he wants to keep it casual.
“It’s a different vibe. There’s nowhere to sit in here, but it is cool, so I offer people cappuccinos to come in and hang out with us,” Miller-Finkel said.
According to Miller-Finkel, the store’s espresso machine wasn’t being used at Lula Rose General Store, so he brought it over to make coffee for flower customers and use for events.
“I just figured why not. That cart is mobile and licensed as a food truck, so we could totally go to an event space and make coffee there as well, but it’s really fun to reach out to people on Colfax and people having an espresso at the window is pretty cool,” he said.
“We like to focus on flowers that are local or come from Colorado — but it’s hard for us to do that because we have a really short growing season in Colorado, so we have to get creative with that,” Miller-Finkel said.
“As we get into the warmer months, a lot more stuff is available — mostly stuff like peonies and crowd-pleasers like lilies and poppies that grow in the summer. Right now we have butterfly ranunculus, anemones and those little pea orchids. We always have tons of roses. We have had tiger lilies in the past few weeks. We try to stick with what people are looking for if it’s around the holidays, but we also add our own little twist — using dry flower arrangements — all types of weird stuff.”
The arrangements change over time and feature branches and other plants that are in season.
“So a good example would be in the fall when we use aspen branches and right now when we use cherry blossoms because those are everywhere. A lot of the wholesalers and greenhouses we work with — every week they have different stuff. There’s a really cool flower industry in and around Denver,” Miller-Finkel said.
No matter what you buy there — flowers or coffee — Little Lula Rose promises the perfect springtime visit. The store also has a lot of plant sales coming up in May with discounted items at pop-up flower and plant shops around Denver. To stay updated on events and sales at Little Lula Rose, follow them on Facebook.
Flowers and coffee are Miller-Finkel’s life — but we have to ask him — what about both—flower-infused coffee — like a rose latté or lavender mocha?
“It’s not out of the question I would say.”
Little Lula Rose is located at 3225 East Colfax Avenue, Denver. It is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and by appointment only on Tuesday and Wednesday. All photography by Brittni Bell Warshaw.
Correction: the article was updated to clarify the ownership of the flower shop before Lula Rose General Store. Country Club Flowers was not owned by Oliver Miller-Finkel or his family.