by Patrick Bilow
Avery Williamson and Anthony Earl met on the Colorado Trail in Salida about two years before buying the nation’s highest coffee shop in Leadville. Zero Day Coffee, which opened its storefront at 122 E. Seventh St. last month, sells single-origin roasts and will offer mountain equipment in the near future.
“Neither of us knew anything about coffee when we decided to buy the place,” said Earl. “But I think we were mostly excited about being in Leadville and opening a space that’s intended for locals to hang out and talk. And there have definitely been some late nights reading and learning about coffee.”
Zero Day Coffee is named after an important type of day for long distance thru-hikers. After days of trekking, “zero days” are meant as rest days where zero miles are clocked and hikers can relax and stock up on food. With Leadville resting along the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, Williamson and Earl want their business to be a zero day destination for thru-hikers.
Two years ago, Earl was enjoying a zero day in Salida when he met Williamson. The pair met again in Lake City and finished the remaining 200 miles of the Colorado Trail together. After a trip to Oregon to see Earl, Williamson wound up in Leadville, where he parked his truck near the coffee shop he would soon co-own. “I called Anthony and was like, ‘Hey, are you sitting down? Do you want to move to Leadville and run a coffee shop?’” said Williamson.
After a soft opening in early October with hardly any marketing and a chalkboard sign, Zero Day Coffee is now open Wednesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. On any given morning, local patrons caffeinate while talking and basking in the morning sun that fills the shop’s front window. Williamson and Earl call out to locals who pass by on the sidewalk and cheer on the mailman as he makes his rounds.
In terms of coffee, the owners said they did quite a bit of research before landing with Noble Coffee Roasting as the shop’s bean supplier. Noble Coffee Roasting, which is based out of Ashland, Oregon, sources beans from organic farmers around the world. The roastery has earned international recognition for some of its blends, but many of them don’t last long, especially at Zero Day.
Williamson said they order coffee about once a week from Noble Coffee Roasting and that the beans arrive just days after roasting. The shop has sold out of coffee twice since opening. From the Nicaraguan blend Los Monos, which tastes like chocolate and cantaloupe, to more rare Peruvian blends, Zero Day Coffee usually offers four to six different types of coffee at a time. “A bag of beans goes pretty fast here,” said Williamson.
In addition to coffee, Zero Day Coffee offers matcha, chai and vegan pasteries from local bakers like Breadville. Williamson and Earl are also working to get a liquor license for their business so they can sell wine and “the cheapest Pabst Blue Ribbon on earth,” according to Earl.
Williamson and Earl, who run, thru-hike and mountain bike, hope to sell mountain gear out of their coffee shop in the near future. Over the years of exploring, the owners have met several independent gear makers throughout the nation, like ElevenSkys, which designs ultralight backpacking gear and shorts. In the coming months, Earl and Williamson want to grow their gear room as a resource for locals and thru-hikers.
The owners also talk excitedly about the potential for hosting events at Zero Day Coffee. From poetry nights to film screenings and most things in between, Earl and Williamson want their guests to build the space. Photographs and artwork from local creators decorate the coffee shop’s walls, and a “pay it forward” board hangs near the front door. The board, which allows patrons to buy coffee for one another as a token of thanks, reflects the shop’s emphasis on community.
“This space is for the community,” said Williamson. “We are just the engine. We’re really excited to be here.”