COLORADO SPRINGS — School will be back in session next week for Ivywild School in Colorado Springs on the city's west side. Customers will have now have some new food options to enjoy from new food vendors beginning this weekend.
The school used to be an old elementary school that shut down in 2009 but re-opened as a community food market in 2013. During the pandemic, as business owners were coming up with new ideas and pivoting, the owners of the school decided to close part of the building in November, renovate it and open four new food vendors.
"That was pivotal in re-inventing -- allowing us to shutdown Ivywild and go into somewhat of a hibernation, allowing us to re-group and put our thinking caps on," said William Merwin, a chef at Decent Pizza Company. "We think people are going to come back out, and we know for a fact people are going to start going out and enjoy eating food together again. We're excited."
Merwin is also the director of cuisine for the Blue Star Group, which owns the school.
"What's different about Decent Pizza Company, is we sell Detroit Style Pizza. The pizza is a little different than Chicago or Sicilian deep dish. It mainly comes from the pan that it's cooked in. The cheese melts a little easier than mozzarella or cheddar," said Merwin.
Decent Pizza Company is among the four new vendors to have their grand opening next Friday, April 2. The others include American burgers at Ivywild Kitchen, Lazo Empanadas which is a Denver-based business, and Salad or Bust.
"It's huge. it's so exciting for us. we always wanted to make it here. but it all happened too fast," said Robert Curtis, the owner of Salad or Bust, which began as a food truck three years ago.
Curtis bought an old bus and renovated that into a self-serve salad food truck. It sat outside of Ivywild school during the pandemic, which he says was the silver lining for his business.
"Over the last year, I quit my job as a substitute teacher so I could focus solely on the food truck. It's given us the opportunity to have the business and grow our base of customers, and then also discover this space and to move into this permanent area," said Curtis. "The overall poor situation has turned into an overall great situation."
Sarah Mishler is the chief strategy officer for the Blue Star Group. She told News5, the owners of the school had always had the vision to put different vendors inside but, "we've always been so popular, it was hard to decide on a time to close, so we took the pandemic as an opportunity."
She also points out that food halls are becoming more popular in the area.
"I also think guests want variety. They don't just want one option, so if we can give that to them through multiple food options, multiple drink options, then we can bring in more people," said Mishler.
There are several other vendors in Ivywild school, including a bar, a brewery, and a coffee shop. The grand opening for the expanded community marketplace will be next Friday, April 2 at 11 a.m.
However, customers are welcome to attend a soft opening this weekend.