Castle Rock — also known as the midpoint between Denver and Colorado Springs — has more to offer than meets the eye. The two noticeable features of the town from I-25 are its namesake castle tower-shaped butte and its huge outlet mall, the Outlets at Castle Rock. Other than that, there hasn’t been much calling our names there. Though in the past few years, it has blossomed from cute run of the mill suburbia to more of a destination and even a cool place for young people to live. The downtown now has several breweries, places to shop and a beautiful revitalized green space, Festival Park, along the South Platte River. But most recently, it has adopted the food hall trend with the new Ecclesia Market.
A Church Turned Market
It’s no surprise that the inspiration for Ecclesia comes from the markets in Denver like Central Market and Stanley Marketplace, although it has its own edge. Unlike most food halls that have a one-floor open concept and mostly food vendors, the set-up here is a little different. Housed in an old church, it feels sort of like a maze and an adventure full of natural light and historical touches. It’s also a lot more laid back than places like the Denver Milk Market — and it’s not just food. The building was first established in 1874, burned down and was rebuilt, acting as a church from 1938 up until a few years ago. It then became a wedding event center for a short period of time.
“When this space became available we knew what this place was screaming to be,” said David Schutte, co-owner of Ecclesia Market. “That’s what this town was screaming to have, so we brought it in.”
Schutte along with his wife Michele and two other couples own Ecclesia, while the vendors sublease. The market has an upstairs, a mid-level, lower level and two patios — right in the heart of downtown. Opening just a few months ago, it’s already become an exciting spot for the community and visitors alike. It’s complete with a bar, food hall, arcade, bookstore, a specialty foods store and a record vendor.
The upstairs level is the bar, Sinners & Saints which goes back to the building’s old religious roots. It’s a full bar with a signature cocktail menu with 10 drinks called the Ten Commandments. A huge mural on the center wall done by local artist Tony Achilles is his version of Dante’s Inferno. Other thematic elements include light fixtures from the old church, a bright mosaic behind the bar and a long ‘last supper’ type table acquired from a church in Denver.
It’s a cozy space with several sofas, comfy chairs and high ceilings to enjoy some drinks and grub. The whole building and outside premises allow alcohol throughout, so you can take your drink with you to the game room, patio, food court, etc. The same goes for the food — you can take it up to the bar.
There are several beers on tap that complement the Mexican and German food downstairs. Custom taps are even being made to further the religious theme, which will be wooden figures of angels and devils. The crew is also in talks with the Castle Rock Artist Cooperative to add even more art to the space.
In addition, wine, and most importantly, craft cocktails are available that the bartenders say is based on accentuating the spirit of the drinks. There is also an after-hours dessert and coffee menu featuring several types of cheesecake, espresso and some savory items. Here you can hang out and enjoy a pint of Bitburger or a nice gin gimlet, or take it with you on your travels through the market.
A Bookstore and an Arcade
On the other side of the top floor is a small bookstore in a room to the left called Sudden Fiction Books. It sells new and used books for both kids and adults. Though it’s a small room, it has a huge selection of books with comfortable room for browsing. Whether you’re looking for a current best-seller, an older classic or a book for your young one — this is a great spot to check out. Word is, the owners are hoping to open their own stand-alone brick and mortar in the future.
Soon to open will be the Vinyl Study, a record nook that will be sandwiched between the bar and the bookstore. And down the stairs to the left is the game room, which is pretty impressive.
The arcade is complete with foosball tables, pool tables and several arcade games like Pacman. It also has a touch screen jukebox and a small bar called the Broken Elbow which serves beer and wine on nights and weekends. The name the Broken Elbow comes from a true story of when Schutte and one of his business partners were carrying the church pews which make up the long ‘last supper’ table in the bar off of a moving truck. His friend broke his elbow in the process and behind the bar is a picture of the actual X-ray of his broken elbow.
During the day, the arcade is a great place to bring the kids. As for nights, this is a cool hang out for adults to have a beer and play some games. On Tuesdays, foosball tournaments take place and anyone can join in.
Across the hall from the game room and down a few steps is Farmgirl Foods Market & Cafe. Farmgirl sells all kinds of condiments, bloody mary mix, meats, eggs, produce and more. Some of the purveyors include Front Range Fungi and Corner Post Meats. In addition, you can find cute little home goods like cookbooks, coffee mugs and table cloths. The stock is 80% Colorado made, with the rest sourced from small businesses in the U.S. and Europe.
“Even the stuff I get like marshmallows from upstate New York, [Hudson Valley Marshmallows] they are still small batch and made by hand,” said owner Melissa Clement. “I try to support the little ma and pop shops.”
Formerly housed across the street in the Emporium which is a 50 vendor gift and home goods store, Clement decided to make the move to Ecclesia. Here, Farmgirl is able to be an actual store rather than just another vendor, allowing for more space, products and personal touches. It also serves coffee drinks and pastries.
The Food Hall
Through the door from Farmgirl Foods is the food hall which has four vendors, though just two are open currently. First, is Romo’s Street Tacos run by a father and son duo, George and Austin Romo, serving tacos, burritos, burrito bowls and enchiladas.
“Romo’s is the best Mexican food you’re going to find in Douglas County,” said Schutte. That’s a bold statement, but you might as well try it and find out. They also serve chips and salsa, guacamole, breakfast burritos and bottled drinks. In addition, they use DoorDash delivery for nearby Castle Rock residents.
The second open vendor is Lante Bräu-Casa serving German food and operated by another local family. Here you will find German brats, knackwurst, bierocks (yeast dough pastry sandwich with beef, onion and cabbage filling), pretzels with bier-cheese and lots more. There is even a secret menu item — it involves pickled-tongue and you can get it upon request. We hear the secret dish is worth the effort to order it.
The other two vendors are slated to open sometime this summer — including Moosh Moosh. It will serve desserts such as ‘paletas’ — Mexican popsicles. In addition to those, it will offer ice cream, French pastries, boba teas, milkshakes, horchata and more. Some light food options will add to the menu, such as salads, quiche and soup. And lastly, a seafood stall that will most likely also be a fishmonger on the weekends is slated to join forces.
Whether you’re passing by Castle Rock on a road trip and need a bite, or just want to check out the town — Ecclesia is a must. It’s a great addition to a town that is having a resurgence in younger residents who want more than the typical night out.
Ecclesia Market is located at 221 Perry Street in Castle Rock. It is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., and Monday from 3 to 11 p.m.