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Entrepreneur finds growth opportunity during pandemic

Posted at 8:59 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 22:59:36-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The pandemic has been a challenging time for many businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industry, but one local entrepreneur saw an opportunity to grow his company.

Mitchell Yellen celebrated the opening Friday of the new Garden of the Gods Cafe in downtown Colorado Springs. His timing couldn't have been better. All capacity restrictions on indoor dining in El Paso County were lifted that day.

"I get up this morning and I find out, we're at 100 percent capacity," Yellen said. "So, somebody's looking out after us."

Yellen started the Garden of the Gods Gourmet Market and Cafe 20 years ago. While the cafe has moved to the new Tejon Street location, the market and bakery will remain at the legacy location on West 26th Street along with the catering business.

Yellen knew it was a risk to expand with so much uncertainty surrounding virus precautions that impacted restaurants.

"Like anybody, I was gripped with fear. But fortunately, I'm a man of faith and I prayed and I felt God's peace to go forward, that it was going to be okay," he said.

Yellen is no stranger to growing a business. The success of Garden of the Gods Gourmet led to his opening of the Pinery special events venue.

Since then, he's launched Northside Social, Sprig, and Altitude Floral all under the umbrella of his Altitude Hospitality Group.

Construction is currently underway at the South Tejon location to add a second kitchen for the launch of his fine dining restaurant Till.

Executive Chef Phil Griffin and Assistant Chef Devin Spear will lead the kitchen staff at Till in the evenings, while Chef Ariel Bilyeu will run Garden of the Gods Cafe for the mornings and afternoons.

Yellen points out that Griffin brings experience from more than a half dozen Michelin one-star restaurants in Europe while Spear was trained at New York's two-star Italian restaurant Marea.

"So, I think that we're going to rock this town a little in the food scene," Yellen said.

The dual kitchen concept isn't the only way that Yellen plans to use the new building. He's also planning to open a wine bar here called Vine and Wheel, and later, a Speakeasy in the basement he plans to call the Blind Lark.

"It's quite deceiving from the street because the building is much bigger than you know. It's 17,000 square feet.

Yellen hopes to have Till ready to open by late May. He's also working on plans for a Southside social at a location right next door to the new Weidner Field.