Rico  coffee shop

Anna Mills, owner of Rico Coffee, is set to open for business Monday. (Photo by Bria Light/Telluride Daily Planet)

Rico is waking up. In this case, it’s in the literal sense of the word, with Rico Coffee set to open its doors Monday, providing a new caffeination station for both residents and passersby. For Anna Mills, the new coffee shop’s owner, it’s a chance to provide much more than a simple cup of joe on the go.

“I love that a good coffee shop provides space for people to be welcomed and seen,” Mills said. “I hope to bring this sort of atmosphere to Rico — craft coffee in a soothing space. I also love providing a place for people to express the parts about them that light them up. Whether it be art, yoga, baking, composting, rock work or music, my passion is to hold space for what brings people to life.”

Rico Coffee, in this sense, is small but mighty. Mills has marshaled the passions of local bakers to provide the baked goods, enlisted a composting expert to help set up a composting system, hired a friend to add his rock work to the front patio, and utilized the shop to double as a retail space for local artisans’ wares. And when it comes to the actual coffee shop itself, Mills aims to offer a welcoming space equally warm for longtime residents and wanderers in need of a pit stop.

“I love that I can provide a space for the wanderers and the lonely out there,” she said. “I've done a lot of roaming myself, so I know what it is to feel lost and alone at times in this life. Coffee shops have often been a spot where I've felt like I'm a part of a community, and I want to give that to others.”

Mills grew up in a small, dairy-farming town in northern Wisconsin, raised by parents who instilled in their four children the confidence to pursue their dreams. For Mills, that meant heading West to live in the mountains, where she also began learning about the art of coffee, first as a student in Bozeman, Montana studying in coffee shops and later, perfecting her pour as a barista, manager and owner of coffee shops in Montana and Wisconsin. Upon moving to Rico in 2019, she began working at Ghost Town in Telluride, a job she credits with providing a “priceless” level of knowledge and support.

Mills first passed through Rico while on a road trip in 2018. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she’d never heard of the tiny town, but followed a friendly recommendation to check out the nearby hot springs. 

“The entire area was incredible to me, as it is to most,” she said, recalling the months following her road trip when she dreamed of returning to make a life in the San Juan Mountains. When the land that now houses Rico Coffee popped onto her radar, she went for it. The moment she arrived, Mills began the process of building a combination business and home: the coffee shop sits in front, large front windows cheerfully facing the main street, while her living quarters occupy the back space of the building.

“I knew nothing about how to build a house, much less a tinier-than-tiny house/business combo, so I'm beyond thankful for this team of Rico locals that were incredibly patient and guided me through the process,” she said of her contractor, Skip Zeller and the team at Rico Boys Construction.

The coffee shop is now complete and set to open its doors on Monday, with winter hours Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Along with baked goods and breakfast burritos, Mills is serious about offering a mean bean, with an emphasis on high-quality craft coffee.

“My favorite thing about a good coffee shop is craft coffee,” she said. “I seek out roasters that work with a smaller scale of beans because to me it means they can put more attention into their craft.”

Residents are looking forward to the new cafe, and the opportunity to head to the local coffee shop for fuel and community a welcome development.

“It means a lot to see a new business opening up here,” said JT Keating, a local resident. “We are very excited to have a new coffee shop open up here.”