If coffee in mountain communities is something of a religion, then Charlie Chacos is the leader of the Carbondale congregation.
Today, Bonfire Coffee (433 Main St, Carbondale, CO 81623) is a favorite of locals and visitors alike as they start their days in the Roaring Fork Valley. It’s story, however, starts across the street at the Village Smithy, a Carbondale staple Charlie’s parents owned and operated since 1975. In 1998, Charlie bought the restaurant from his parents and brought on Jared Ettelson, another Carbondale local, to help manage and operate the restaurant to help operate the Smithy. Soon after, Charlie began revamping its morning beverage program, and didn’t take long for him to understand that this coffee is just as much a science as it is an art.
Charlie attended a coffee conference (yes, there are conferences dedicated solely to coffee) in Atlanta in 2004, which he explains “started my professional jump into coffee.” Upon returning, he and Ettelson revamped the quality at the Smithy, with new equipment, higher quality beans, and most importantly a greater level of know-how. After a few iterations of small pop-up coffee shop/bakeries in the early 2000s, Charlie was approached by the owner of a coffeeshop in town that was ready to leave the food service industry. And Charlie and Jared saw a gap in the market and jumped at the opportunity.
Bonfire Coffee opened in 2011. “Big City Coffee in a Small Town” was their tagline.
Bonfire started as a café with an intention of taking on a roaster from one of the west-coasts more coffee-ridden cities. Charlie thought of San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, the unofficial hubs of the coffee culture in the early aughts. As luck and locality would have it, they found a fantastic roaster – Defiant Bean – just down the hill in Glenwood Springs. It was a match made in caffeinated heaven, and the two businesses merged their operations shortly after.
“When I was growing up, we always joked that nothing ever happened in Carbondale,” Charlie said when reminiscing about his earlier days in the Roaring Fork Valley. He remembers his peers in high school being part of rancher families, those who still own their farms today.
Now Charlie helps to caffeinate them, as well as visitors from all over the world who visit Carbondale for its full spectrum of outdoor activities during all four seasons.
Charlie and Jared continue to stick to their mountain-rural community roots. Their coffee is sold mainly in the Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen remains one of their largest markets, and their coffee is offered in seven whole foods around Colorado. The Centennial State unfortunately doesn’t have the proper climate for growing coffee beans, so Bonfire instead sources its coffee from small-lot farms around the world, utilizing mostly certified organic beans.
A jolt of caffeine runs parallel with the beginning of any mountain adventure. Charlie may have joked that nothing ever happened in Carbondale when he was a kid, but he is now responsible for kickstarting a lot of happenings every day for locals and visitors alike in the Roaring Fork Valley