Owner sees new Frisco coffee shop as ‘Summit County’s community living room’ | SummitDaily.com

Owner sees new Frisco coffee shop as ‘Summit County’s community living room’

Photos and story by Eli Pace
Marcus Cendejas, one of four full-time employees at Gonzo's Coffee, shows off his work shirt Wednesday at the new eatery and coffee shop in Frisco.
Eli Pace \ Summit Daily News |

A four-month project almost eight months in the making, Gonzo’s Coffee is open for business, but its owner prefers to think of the new shop as “Summit County’s community living room.”

On Wednesday, a day after the first customers were served, soft jazz played in the background with two large leather couches and a mismatch of chairs sitting underneath an abundance of decorative antiques, including a number of vintage cross-country skis.

The coffee house is off Summit Boulevard, where a Starbuck’s used to be, and it stands as the fulfillment of owner Phillip Markis’ lifelong dream.

“A coffee pub was what I was shooting for,” he said, “but somewhere in the building process, a clearer phrase kept popping up in my mind, ‘Summit County’s living room,’ because it’s a really nice community and I thought it’s what they needed. It’s certainly what I want to bring.”

The man who prefers cold winters to hot summers grew up in Steamboat Springs, where he came to love good coffee and high altitudes. Markis later moved to the Denver metropolitan area, where he ran his own business and spent almost a decade working for United Airlines before deciding to return to the mountains.

“I grew up drinking Turkish coffee when I was a kid, and it’s one of those things that sticks with you,” the self-described coffee snob explained after the Wednesday morning rush. “You could call this an extension of that.”

It took Markis nearly twice as long as he thought it would to open Gonzo’s Coffee. The biggest problem, he said, was finding electricians and plumbers in Summit County to do the work.

Not content to open until his full vision was realized, Markis said, he simply had to push the opening back until he could get everything in order.

“I refused to open incomplete from my mind’s eye,” he said. “What I saw in my mind, I far exceeded.”

The coffee shop employs four full-time workers. Markis said he’s looking to add a few more in the coming days for a mix of full-timers and part-time employees.

The coffee shop can seat almost two-dozen people inside. Markis said he felt like they could have included a few more chairs, but he didn’t want to sacrifice comfort for volume.

Additionally, he plans on adding outside seating in the summer, and that should add another layer to his business, he said. Also, locals get a 10 percent discount.

Markis would prefer to live closer to his business in Summit County, but with housing prices the way they are, it didn’t work for him financially to own a home and a business here. He chose the business.

“The numbers don’t line up for having a coffee pub and a house,” he said. “Life is about choices.”

And he hopes his customers will appreciate their choices at Gonzo’s, especially when it comes to the pastries, which Markis described in three groups — low, mid and high level.

At the low end are the muffins and scones; mid-level items include cakes, pies and cookies; and at the high end are delicacies like tiramisu and cheesecake.

As for the name “Gonzo’s,” it’s in honor of Markis’ daughter, Nijda, who loved “The Muppets” when she was little, ran around imitating one of its characters and earned herself the nickname “Gonzo” for it.

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