Dining

Mr. Coffee

Why Mark Overly left the high-paying world of corporate coffee.

By
May 2008

When Mark Overly came to Denver from Anchorage, Alaska, eight years ago, he left behind a thriving coffee business that had brought him fame, fortune—and discontent. As one of the founders of Alaska-based Kaladi Brothers Coffee, Overly had earned a place on Anchorage's A-list. He drove around the snow-covered city with "Kaladi" license plates on his car, regularly saw his mug plastered in the Anchorage Daily News, and was named small-businessperson of the year. But for Overly, Kaladi Brothers' success was bittersweet. As the company grew, he found himself ever further from the passion that had inspired the business in the first place—good coffee.

"Kaladi was everything that a successful business could be," says Overly, swirling a small cup of steaming dark coffee in his south Denver shop. "But for me, it wasn't about coffee anymore. It was a living hell."

Tired of the increasingly corporate atmosphere of the Alaska coffee chain, Overly and his wife moved to Denver to take over Kaladi's first store in the Lower 48—a struggling operation that the company was ready to shut down. "That store represented everything that I hated about what Kaladi had become," recalls Overly. "It was another one of these nameless, soulless, faceless, corporate coffee chain stores."

Seeing a chance to start over, Overly and his wife closed the Colorado-run shop, sold their 88 percent interest in the Alaska company, bought the rights to Kaladi's name in Colorado, and opened up a smaller store near DU. There, Overly now roasts, brews, and serves more than 20 varieties of coffee, from carefully selected varietals to coffee and espresso blends that suit his taste.

In his Denver shop, Overly is involved in every step of the coffee-making process, from looking for high-quality coffee from organic, fair-trade growers to roasting his own beans at a carefully established temperature, and ensuring that every cup is brewed artfully by well-trained baristas.

Overly's reworked Kaladi Brothers is a coffee lover's paradise. And though some might consider the small shop a step down from his days as Alaska's coffee baron, he's a satisfied man. He smiles and says, "As long as the coffee is good, I'm happy."

1730 E. Evans Ave., 720-570-2166, www.kaladicoffee.com

Mark Overly's Tips

Best afternoon iced coffee
Ethiopia Sidamo Yirgacheffe. Brew it in a press pot in the morning; place it in your refrigerator until the afternoon.

Best coffee for a cold day
A velvet-foam caffé latte prepared by a professional barista.

Best brew before a big meeting
Something deep and earthy, like Dominican Republic Barahona.

Best cup of joe with friends
Peru Andes Gold made in a Chemex [coffeemaker] has the ideal coffee flavor: chocolaty and sweet.

Favorite coffee-paired treat
Double espresso with an assortment of truffles from Dietrich's Chocolates.