A town full of small businesses, it’s only natural that Telluride has become the home of many locals’ first ventures. For Roxann “Roxy” Vistocci, owner High Alpine Coffee located in Between the Covers Bookstore, Telluride was the perfect opportunity to pursue life as a business owner. Brooklyn-born, trained in wildlife science, it’s only natural that she chases something else entirely in a small mountain town in southwest Colorado.
“I just love coffee,” Vistocci said jokingly. “Honestly though, it was an intriguing opportunity and one that I felt success would be in reach. High Alpine is a small enough space and I knew the industry well enough, but was willing and eager to learn a lot more.”
Vistocci gained an interest in coffee while pursuing a graduate degree in education through the University of Washington’s IslandWood program. Working long hours as a server while in school and teaching children’s outdoor education classes, caffeine dependency turned into an appreciation.
Ultimately, Vistocci abandoned her pursuit of an education degree and found her way to Telluride, where she worked as a nanny and server first at The Village Table then at Smuggler’s Brewpub, before finding her way to the Butcher and the Baker. While she had some experience working with coffee and espresso, Vistocci admitted that much of her expertise was derivative of Ember Edwards and Kimmy Nelson’s teachings, two employees she inherited after purchasing the coffee shop from Hilary Douglass and taking over operations in April 2018.
High Alpine Coffee opened in 1991, thanks to Stuart and Joanna Brown who transitioned the shop’s back offices into a space to fuel your day. Originally, the children’s section was located within the shop, but several sources said, the chatter was too much for coffee drinkers so it was ultimately transitioned into the hobby and travel section.
“We feel so lucky to have Roxann and we couldn’t be more proud of how she has grown into her role as the owner of High Alpine,” said Bobbi Smith, co-owner of Between the Covers, when discussing her and Daiva Chesonis’s opinions of their new partner. “Her focus on sourcing locally and sourcing brands she cares deeply for is something that so beautifully represents the town and the shop.”
Having seen High Alpine grow from the early days, Smith explained that the shop is a safe place for any person to come, and she is delighted to see the sense of community that has been fostered amongst baristas of past and present.
“Coffee was the only business opportunity to tempt me while living here. I was looking to invest in something in Telluride, and real estate was never something I'd be able to afford, so I jumped on the opportunity to own a small coffee shop in a bookstore,” Vistocci said.
High Alpine Coffee exclusively brews Lone Cone Coffee, owned and operated by Steve Zahniser of Montrose. Zahniser approached Vistocci in the early days of her ownership and committed several hours to teaching the new owner about his coffee, how to properly pour it, and why its sourcing and roasting procedures are critical to taste. Sourcing from South America and Africa, certified organic with single origin roasts and a few blended offerings, Vistocci was immediately impressed with Lone Cone Coffee and Zahniser’s commitment to education and quality. The coffee aficionado even installed a custom nitrogen tap to enable High Alpine to pour Lone Cone’s cold brew.
“I’ve had customers, locals and tourists, tell me that it’s the best drip coffee they’ve ever had. I even had an Italian couple, who know coffee, tell me that their espresso was one of the best ever pulled,” Vistocci said. “And you know locals, they don’t hold back with anything whether it’s good or bad. There’s no filter really.”
High Alpine also sells a variety of delicious baked goods from Norwood’s Thorneycroft Kitchen, owned by Julie Thorneycroft who purchased Indian Ridge Bakery last year. The longtime baker and purveyor of delicious treats sources locally as frequently as possible using pigs from her own farm for sausage and even makes salsa fresh for High Alpine’s breakfast burritos. The apple coffee cake is incontrovertibly the most popular item, but the carrot cake is a close second and is dusted with nutmeg by hand on-site by many of the baristas, including Damon Nilsson, owner of Lonescone Baking.
When it came to choosing to purchase the business, Vistocci consulted Syracuse friend Marty Butts, owner of Small Potatoes, a boutique marketing, advocacy and consulting firm. The network available to entrepreneurs and first-time business owners enabled Vistocci’s purchase and pursuits in 2018.
Vistocci is making strides in the industry and establishing roots as a business owner in the region, much of which she attributes to some help along the way. The Small Business Development Center’s Western Slope chapter continues to be another of Roxann’s greatest aids. The center works with new and seasoned business owners to introduce them to integral business practices like accounting and marketing.
In her first year, Vistocci is most excited about the autonomy gained over her business decisions; her successes can be celebrated, her failures are learning experiences. Choosing Telluride was an easy decision in her mind, and High Alpine Coffee has given her the means to further integrate into the community.
“I've met a lot of great people with incredible stories and hearts. I've also partnered and learned from other great business owners and business-minded individuals,” she said.
High Alpine Coffee is one of the first shops in town to add social media to the mix of caffeinated activities. You can follow the shop on Instagram (@highalpinecoffee) to find out about specials like Vistocci’s new shrub drinks, girl scout cookie lattes, Italian sodas and more.