Before there was a craft coffee shop on nearly every corner of the city, Little Owl Coffee was helping to introduce the people of Denver to high-quality, thoughtfully-sourced brew. Seanna Carrelo opened the original in June 2013 — the downtown location having since become a staple for diverse swathes of the urban caffeine crowd. On January 2, the cafe opened its second location — an ongoing residency at the uber-chic mixed-retail space Free Market. Tucked away behind the shopping area, the elegant marble interior can be directly accessed via the alley in Dairy Block. Aside from a few barstools, there is almost no seating. The counter serves a simple beverage menu, sticking entirely to the classics. A small selection of pastries — courtesy of nearby Reunion Bakery — completes the food options. While the 15th Street location is better equipped for lounging, the new outpost maintains the prototype’s design values while primarily acting as a grab-and-go.
Free Market was opened in May 2019 by Los Angeles-based couple Lindsay and Raan Parton. After the success of their retail brand Alchemy Works — a clothing and industrial design store with two Southern California locations — the two set up shop in Denver in hopes of highlighting some of their favorite brands, most of which had been exclusively represented in New York or LA. The coastal shopping options are joined by locally-owned Rosemont Barbershop and Kelly Whitaker’s counter-service concept Bruto. It was actually Whitaker who originally approached the Little Owl team, figuring the quality-focused coffee shop would neatly match the space’s upscale aesthetic.
A little over a year ago Carrelo partnered with her longtime baristas Corey Wall and Mike Sinon, who together had the vision to expand into production and roasting. All three were passionate about sourcing, each one having traveled extensively in coffee-growing regions. “Once we’ve sourced a really special coffee, our goal is to not fuck it up,” laughed Wall, who acts as the primary roaster. Much of what makes Little Owl so special is the group’s precise and calculated curation. A roasting facility was established on Market Street in October 2019, with a coffee shop to be opened on-site later this year. Not stopping there, the trio aspires to open five cafes in the next five years.
The coffee does a good job of speaking for itself. “We took possession of the cafe and within a half-hour, we had Little Owl’d it,” said Sinon, describing the sparse design elements — including fresh bouquets from Sacred Thistle — that reveal the importance of the beverages’ position center stage. The team hopes to utilize the largely unused countertop to host pop-ups, including a Valentine’s Day chocolate one-off and an ongoing bake-sale showcasing products from Whitaker’s Boulder-based Dry Goods. While the new location is just a few blocks from the original, the group believes Free Market will provide a whole new clientele. “We are excited to spread the vibe we have with the original Little Owl,” smiled Carrelo.
Little Owl Coffee is located in Free Market at 1801 Blake St., Denver. It is open Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.