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When the Market opened on Larimer Street in 1978, it was just that: a market for groceries. But with Denver growing and supermarkets sprouting up, the quaint little grocer couldn’t compete, and so its original owner, local developer and preservationist Dana Crawford, sold the space to brothers Mark and Gary Greenberg in 1983. They’re the ones who turned the Market into the coffeehouse/bakery/deli/community gathering space Denver has come to love. But coffee and Spring Fling cake can’t last forever: The news broke today that the Market has closed its doors for good.
“This was not an easy decision,” says Mark Greenberg. “The restaurant business is hard enough without a thing like the coronavirus to throw a wrench into the whole situation. Thirty-seven years is enough for me, and I’m just moving on.”
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In many ways, the Market was ahead of its time. It was the first espresso bar between the country’s two coasts, a cozy coffee shop before corporate cafes sprouted on every corner. It’s been selling natural and specialty foods since before they were cool, and, in fact, those specialty foods are how Greenberg, who sold imported cheeses to the Market in the late ’70s and early ’80s, got involved in the first place.
“She [Crawford] called me and said she’s closing the store, and I said, ‘No, you can’t close the store! It’s the only thing with any feeling and character,’” he says. “So I worked a deal with her. I paid her over seven years, just me and her.”
The truth is, Greenberg wanted to buy the Market before Crawford ever wanted to sell. He took his then-girlfriend (now wife of 41 years) to Larimer Square for their first date and told her if there was any store in Denver he’d want to own, it would be the Market. “Three or four years later, I owned it,” he says. “Ever since the beginning, it was a personal thing.”
Greenberg says that a manager broke the news to staff, many of whom have worked at the Market for decades. He will call each person individually when he’s ready, but for now he’s still in shock and processing the closure of the business that has been a daily part of his life for more than three decades.
It’s not just Greenberg’s life that will be impacted by the closure. So many Denverites grew up with the Market’s cakes and coffee, and everyone from politicians to artists have entered its doors between those iconic blue-and-white striped awnings. You could stay a while and not be bothered. Or, if you wanted to be bothered, Greenberg says you could get that, too. “That’s why people came to the Market—it was that mom-and-pop feeling. Everything was the same for 37 years. The Market was my home away from home; I wanted people to feel like they were in my house.”
Saying goodbye will be tough—especially since we can’t visit for one last cup of coffee. To share favorite Market memories, tag @themarketatlarimer on Instagram and share your story with the hashtag #37YearsAtTheMarket.