On a recent weekday morning, Andrew Bird’s voice croons through Salto’s open service bar while co-owner Karina Luscher runs from the espresso machine to the roaster, cowboy boots with turquoise stitching, turquoise jewelry and a red poppy tattoo helping float her along.
If you’ve ever sipped a beverage — a cortado, CBD apple cider, beer — on Salto’s airy covered patio at 112 E. 2nd Street in Nederland, you’ve felt its mountain community and clean vibe.
Salto, which Karina and her husband Marcus launched in 2012 along with attached mountain bike shop Tin Shed, roasts all its coffee on site, has a craft kitchen with the best breakfast burritos this side of the divide, serves beer and wine, and, like its cozy homegrown mountain townie cousin down the street, Crosscut Pizzeria & Taphouse, exemplifies the best of Ned.
Karina and her husband Marcus opened the coffee bar in May 2012 as part of a bigger dream to create a community hub that combined a specialty cafe with a ski and bike shop. The patio borders sister company Tin Shed Sports at the corner of 2nd Street and Snyder Street.
In the wake of Covid-19, the couple refined and focused their operation at Salto with a focus on expanding its roasting operation and distribution, including a rebrand with the help of Boulder’s Walden Hyde. The new logo exemplifies the roaster’s message as the elevated alpine experience and draws from mid century modern Swiss and Italian typography.
Salto refined and sharpened its brand (new brand on the right) with the help of Boulder’s Walden Hyde in preparation for expanding its coffee distribution footprint.
Salto’s shift to packaging coincided with a Covid-19-spurred pivot. The bar kept its doors open thanks to its community, but Karina realized that to truly grow in the direction she wants — the coffee business — it would need to refocus.
The bar’s rebrand tunes its operation to a vision of distributing its in-house blends to a wider audience and packaging the unique alpine roasting experience. (Not many roasters at 8,200 feet!)
The cafe also simplified its food service and hours, moving away from dinner service and instead remaining open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.
“Trim all the fat,” says Karina, “then you get to go in and rebuild it in the places you want.”
Salto’s spacious, open plan and high ceilings. Due to Covid-19, people can only sit outside. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.
Mountain roots, flying by bike + coffee
Salto’s and Tin Shed’s mission of creating an elevated alpine experience and bringing people together has made the space a staple in the community, exemplified by its family atmosphere which keeps employees for years at a time.
Karina runs the cafe, born of her life-long passion for coffee, while Marcus operates Tin Shed Sports, which focuses on servicing bikes and skis, as well as rentals on a demo-to-buy model.
Marcus has spent nearly 30 years in Nederland, while Karina came to Boulder in 1991 and, through satisfying a healthy addiction to playing in the Indian Peaks, she moved to town in 2007.
She met Marcus through a friend, who nannied for his kids. Karina would visit her friend at Marcus’s house while she watched kids. One day, she waltzed into the house singing “I’m home!” as if she lived there, and to her surprise, ran into Marcus.
As a homegrown business with community on the mind, Salto has helped spur other local businesses. The coffee bar helped incubate Crosscut Pizzeria & Taphouse on its turf — Crosscut co-owner Dawn Dennison planted her mobile pizza oven on Salto’s patio and spun out pies on summer evenings before launching up the street in 2015.
Salto’s flexible, indoor-outdoor space has hosted successful events from private small groups to ticketed wine dinners, wedding receptions and birthday parties. Events comprise a huge part of its revenue model, and it has all the tools to transform the clean, modern space into something more formal.
The sports shop’s colorful retail space wraps around a central service station behind the counter, and in the back of the shop where a door connects the space to Salto, a large coffee roaster sits. Salto purchased the roaster, Karina’s baby, in 2014 and got it fired up and vented with the help of a community-funded Kickstarter.
Like Salto’s simplified mode, Tin Shed chooses to remain a demo-to-sell or service bike and ski shop versus going full-out adventure store.
The Lucshers saw Boulder’s plethora of adventure stores, like Neptune Mountaineering, and with the internet taking business direct-to-consumer, they decided to lean into what they do best: service the town as its local knowledge.
“You can’t get your chain fixed online!” Karina laughs.
And you can’t get higher coffee.
Header image: Salto’s floral oasis. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.