Drink Coffee For a Cause

BY Linnea Covington

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It’s not everywhere you can get a cup of coffee that satisfies both on the palate as well as altruistically. But at Purple Door Coffee’s new brick-and-mortar shop in Capitol Hill, this is exactly what can happen. 

The goal of the company, said Matt Wallace, executive director and founder of Purple Door Coffee, is to help bring young adults out of poverty, especially the unhoused population. This happens through job training, emotional support, logistics aid, and good old fashioned community. According to the State of Homelessness Summary in 2021-2 , over 2,000 youths under the age of 24 have reported they’re experiencing homelessness in the Denver metro area. 

Purple Door aims to ease this. So, once again it brings a bright and friendly coffee shop serving great coffee, tea, and sweets from local makers. 

How Purple Door Coffee Started

white man in blue shirt standing in light room
Matt Wallace started Dry Bones Denver and its off shoot, Purple Door Coffee. | Photo by Purple Door Coffee

Purple Door Coffee is an off shoot of Dry Bones Denver, an outreach organization also founded by Wallace. It aims to support youth that have been neglected, despondent, traumatized, or dealing with mental health issues. The non-profit started in 2001 with the mantra, “companionship itself can be profoundly transformative.”

Like most altruistic endeavors, Dry Bones started with the idea to humanize and help an underserved population, namely through giving them pride in hard work. Hence the first iteration of Purple Door Coffee launched in 2012. Its objective focused on creating a self-sustaining social enterprise to provide training in foundational job and life skills. All with the support of the community. In 2016 the team decided to start roasting its own coffee. Three years later the first Purple Door closed in order to concentrate on the roaster. 

“We made the decision to close our cafe in order to put all of our effort into building the roaster as a business and become revenue positive,” said Wallace, adding today all the coffee gets roasted in house. “[Then we wanted] to reopen our coffee shop in this exact location, which is actually much better.”

In fact, the spot next to the Central Presbyterian Church, who owns it, was secured pre-pandemic. After a major overhaul the second Purple Door finally opened in March, 2024. 

Who the Non-Profit Helps 

baristas making coffee in front of orange wall
Friendly service and really good coffee is the crux of the cafe. | Photo by Purple Door Coffee

Coffee fit in with the mission of Dry Bones. Not only are coffee shops successful in Denver, but they symbolize a place where humans come together.

“You leave the world outside the door and you come in here and you sit across the table from each other and you share your life with each other,” said Wallace, mentioning through his life he has been to people over a simple hot beverage. “We love that idea, so we started to dream about opening a coffee shop where we’ll hire young people from the streets, and there it’ll be their first job.”

Today the selected youths, around ages 18 to 27, start work at the Englewood plant with master roaster Houston Shearon. By doing this they are able to learn the tools needed to hold a job. For example, coming to work on time, the importance of personal hygiene, and just showing up. The lack of these basic skills has made it almost impossible for many of these people hold a job. Some, added Wallace, have lived on the streets since they were kids. 

In essence, Purple Door Coffee has a hand in helping a lot of people, from the youths involved in the program to the farmers growing coffee to customers in need of a safe and comfortable space. 

coffee shop with blue ceiling
The ceiling in the cafe mirrors the packaging of the bulk coffee. | Photo by Linnea Covington

“It’s also important to us that people know that, as much as we’re trying to help lift people out of poverty and out of homelessness and living on the street, we want our coffee to be ethically sourced too,” said Wallace. “So we spend a lot of time and effort making sure that we’re giving fair wages to farmers, and that the farmers are paying their pickers and the people working in their fields fair wages as well.”

It’s basic humanity, he said, to treat everyone like they have worth and making sure they can thrive in it. Overall, the idea is to get these young people ready for the work force, even if they don’t have an interest in coffee. And for those that do, they get to do some training sessions at Purple Door’s cafe with skilled baristas. 

The program serves about four to six people at a time, and they work and learn for about 12 months. The goal is to expand operations so more young adults can join.

What to Order at Purple Door Coffee

pastries and orange wall
Local restaurants and bakers provide the food options. | Photo by Purple Door Coffee

“This shop has a different vision than our original one as we’ve really put a lot of focus into consistency of quality of beverage,” added Wallace. “We’ve hired a bunch of professional baristas to come in behind the counter, so they’re going to meet the expectations of Denver coffee drinkers, and that’s that’s a really important goal.” 

It shows too, and customers can smell the quality just by walking in. Order a double macchiato ($4), cortado ($4.25), mocha ($5.75), or pour over ($4.50), to name a few options. Each uses Purple Door Coffee, which also gets sold by the pound. Choose from the four inspirational blends such as the dark-roasted Motivate or light South American blend dubbed Thrive. Seasonally special roasts become available too, and be bought at the shop and online through a subscription. 

The coffee shop also sells grab-and-go food by Olive & Finch, and pastries from local spots including cupcakes from Steuben’s, hand pies by Hinman Pie, and Guard & Grace’s beloved chocolate chip cookies. The cookies, added Wallace, are only available at the downtown steakhouse and now, Purple Door thanks to the connection between Dry Bones and a baker who went through the program. 

Now she helps Purple Door, and Purple Door helps others, and everyone gets a good cup of coffee. 

Visit Purple Door Coffee Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s closed on Saturdays. 1640 Sherman St., Denver, purpledoorcoffee.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linnea Covington

Linnea Covington is the managing editor of DiningOut. She comes to us with a long background in food, restaurant and drinks journalism. Over the last two decades she’s written for tons of publications including Denver Post, Washington Post, Forbes Travel Guide, 5280 Magazine, New York Magazine, New York Times, Time Out New York and more.

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