Sometimes the best ideas are hatched while sharing a local beer with friends. A discussion of the amazing work being done by local nonprofits led FoCo Cafe’s cofounder Jeff to mention that he thought nonprofit cafes should exist. Kathleen replied that she had recently seen a news story about one in Denver – SAME Café.

At the time this discussion took place, Jeff was teaching and had a background in medicine and agricultural/food research and a passion for cooking. Kathleen was a director of communications at Colorado State, managing print, web, social media, and outreach efforts for a college. Jeff and Kathleen wanted to combine experiences and passions into a setting that offered amazing food, a commitment to service, and a place where building community for all is at its center.

And so it began…an e-mail to SAME Café led to volunteering at that cafe within a week, which then led both Jeff and Kathleen to begin researching the need in Fort Collins. They began setting meetings with anyone and everyone in town. The overwhelmingly positive response pushed them forward.

Only months later, Jeff and Kathleen found their garage full of donated kitchen equipment and cafe chairs; boxes of dishes would appear on their front porch; e-mails came in from many people eager to volunteer; college students began working on key projects; professionals were offering valuable services at no cost; and this pay-what-you-can cafe became a reality, opening on Thanksgiving Day in 2014.

In 2017, the Baumgardners decided to retire to Hawaii and turned the reins for the Café over to their intern, Mallory Garneau. Mallory had joined FoCo Cafe in August 2016 as an intern and became executive director in June 2017 after graduating with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from CSU. She currently oversees all of the cafe operations.