Dynamic Duos

Nine pairs of people who, through their unique partnerships—some romantic, some not—make Denver a more interesting, entertaining and welcoming place to live.

February 2014

Park Hill Proprietors
Denver natives Maryellen and Jerry Spinelli have 27 years of marriage, terrific senses of humor, and a 20-year-old, iconic business between them.

5280: How did you meet—was it love at first sight?

Maryellen: We met on a blind date. My best friend was married to his best friend.

Jerry: We went to the Moulin Rouge room at the Fairmount. That was the end of January in 1986.

Maryellen: Then he asked me to go to lunch at Cliff Young’s—the fine-dining restaurant of the moment—on Valentine’s Day. I was working at a real estate company and my lunch was supposed to be an hour. When I got back to the office two and a half hours later, my co-workers looked at me and said, “Yes!”

5280: Jerry, you were in the nightclub business at the time; what prompted you to open a grocery?

Jerry: We traveled regularly to Manhattan and Brooklyn. While we were there we’d go to every market—Dean & DeLuca, Balducci’s—and we thought, “We could do this.” 

Maryellen: That was our Saturday outing in the city. We would go grocery shopping and then sit in Central Park. We’d eat what we bought and talk about whether we could open our own place in Denver.

Jerry: On August 12, 1994, we signed a lease. The Park Hill space has always been a grocery store. It was a convenience store then.

Maryellen: You had to have vision, though. I didn’t see the space until Labor Day. It was a hot day and the lights were off. There were bars on the windows. It was dirty. The candy was all melted. The food was spoiled. We had to throw everything out.

Jerry: We started with one lonely produce display and some sausages and cheese.

5280: Any words of wisdom about working with your spouse? 

Maryellen: We laugh a lot. There’s a separation of duties: He’s in the back, I’m up front, but we’ve got each other’s backs.

Jerry: You just need two words: “Yes, Dear.”