In the wake of another year’s Record Store Day, there has been a collective rejoicing in the Denver community. A taste of normalcy has been brought upon the city as collectors of vinyl, books and comics return back to shop at the stores that they love. One of the local businesses that has seen this the most is Mutiny Information Cafe, which is one of the city’s most dedicated suppliers of everything local. For all the reward Mutiny can reap now, they first had to survive what was one of the most treacherous years the store, and all of humanity, has had to face. At the height of lockdown, this pillar of Denver culture nearly lost it all.
“The first thing that hits you is the cold fear,” remarked Mutiny co-owner Matt Megyesi when describing what it was like to be at the helm of a local business in an impending pandemic. Where other local stores could renegotiate contracts with their landlords or had money saved up from the holidays, Mutiny was not in a financial position at the start of the pandemic to keep running their business as usual. Nor could they have done so, as the reality of life under a global threat was coming to fruition in the minds of all. Then the lockdown started and it was time to sink or swim.
Necessity was the mother of invention for Megyesi and co-owner Jim Norris, who had to figure out how to keep their store of diverse offerings alive in the most trying of times. Their solution came in the form of ingenuity and working with what they had. First, they started by reopening their coffee shop and sold beverages through a small port out of a street-facing window. Sales built up enough to allow them the financial foothold to start thinking about what to do with all their books, vinyl, oddities and newly branded coffee. Then, the idea quickly came along to do what Mutiny does best, which was to combine them all.
“We were like, we have all these books by local authors, records by local musicians, coffee, stickers, zines and patches. So let’s make a booty box,” recalls Megysei. The box was a hit, and sales of it to Denverites picking up their coffee was what kept the store alive. This enabled Mutiny to reach the next stepping stone to stability when the comic book industry started to rev back up. The store opened up a small section for subscribers to come in and pick up their weekly comics and slowly were able to bring their staff back in through a PPP loan. Mutiny Information Cafe was even able to commission new murals to be painted on the sides of the boarded-up storefront and pay the artists who created them.
Through all the hardship, Megyesi and Norris realized that they were sitting on a proverbial gold mine of things that people needed the most during the pandemic. These were the fun breaks from boredom and dread that got people through all those months stuck indoors. Mutiny had all the fixings for lovers of reading, music and culture as everyone suddenly had ample time on their hands to catch up on their reading list and listen to those records that had been collecting dust. The store went from being a supplier of fun pastimes before the pandemic to practically a necessary business supplying the community with entertainment to keep them sane.
In a time where all of humanity was facing the same threat, it is easy to think that people would have looked for comfort in the unifying of the masses across the globe. However, what was observed was a greater desire from folks to seek support from their local communities and scale down their worries and problems. This is what Megysei witnessed firsthand as patrons of Mutiny came in more and more to buy their locally sourced, or locally supporting, products. People wanted a taste of their community more than ever before, as they yearned to feel like they were a part of it once again. Mutiny provided a haven for Denverites to feel like they were connected to their city when people needed it the most.
For all the catastrophe that has been unleashed in the last year and a half on the local arts and culture community of Denver, Megyesi has also optimistically seen what positive change can come from it all. He speaks about how he has seen a lot of artists, owners and professionals in the scene, unfortunately, have to leave it in order to find more stable prospects. This leaves the door open for fresh faces and talent to rise up in the ranks. Nothing will ever replace the loved ones that were lost during this utterly remorseless time in human history. However, there is an opportunity for folks to pick up where others left off and reform this community into something even more spectacular.
Mutiny is no stranger to this opportunity as well. With the store’s resurgence, they have plans to open up a new location in Trinidad, Colorado. This will be their second location, and it will be geared to serve the needs of that local community. They will be using this location to also produce their own line of coffee. The thing Megyesi is most excited to see is what the artist community has done over the course of the pandemic, and how they will unleash that all upon the world. With any hope, this next generation of creatives will pave the way for an even brighter arts community that will undoubtedly have a home at Mutiny Information Cafe.
To learn more about Mutiny Information Cafe, you can visit their website at mutinyinfocafe.com or visit the store at 2 S Broadway, Denver, CO 80209.
All photography in this article was taken by Amanda Peila.