Owning a business is nothing new for Kyle and Fallene Wells. The two have operated Uptown salon Let Em Have It, where Fallene is a stylist, since 2013. Their newest venture is Torpedo Coffee, at 2231 Oneida Street in their home neighborhood of Park Hill.
Although passionate about coffee, Kyle had no prior experience in the industry. In fact, his job was completely unrelated to the hospitality industry: He worked in corporate IT for twenty years, most recently with DirecTV. But, says Kyle, "I was feeling like no real purpose. The money was fine and it was stable, but I thought, 'What am I really doing?'" With Fallene's support, the two began looking for a location to establish their own coffee shop.
The Wellses originally looked at the location in 2015, but weren't able to negotiate a deal with the landlord, and the storefront sat vacant for the next three years. Then, when a new landlord purchased the building earlier this year, they saw an opportunity for a second chance to fulfill their dream.
"People said, 'You're crazy, why would you do this? You've never done coffee before,'" recalls Kyle. Even the owners of the building expressed doubts. "So we kind of had our 'Damn the torpedoes' moment and said we're gonna go for it, full speed ahead."
"Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" was attributed to Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, during which the Union Navy led by Farragut was attempting to take over the last Confederate stronghold in the Gulf of Mexico. Farragut, whose fleet was outnumbered, issued the command after learning that one of his ships was lost to a torpedo. Kyle remembered the quote from his days in the Navy and felt it suited his situation so well that he chose to name the shop after it.
With the help of Matter Design, the Wellses made their vision of an "industrial nautical"-themed shop come to life. Torpedo Coffee opened its doors on September 19 and celebrated its grand opening ten days later. More than 200 people attended, a success that Kyle attributes largely to support from neighbors. "A lot of people have said, 'We really needed this in the neighborhood; it's so great you're here,'" says Kyle.
Businesses in the Oneida Park shopping center include a liquor store, Famous Philly Cheese Steaks & Beer Garden, Spicy Thai II restaurant, a beauty parlor and an auto body shop. Soon, the newest Little Man Ice Cream outpost will join and share a patio with Torpedo. During the week, students from the nearby Denver School of the Arts get their caffeine fix before and after school. On the weekends, Kyle has observed more families with children frequenting the shop.
As a Denver native, Kyle prioritized showcasing Denver local businesses as much as possible. Torpedo always serves Corvus for espresso and drip coffee, in addition to a rotating guest roaster (currently Copper Door). Pastries come from Revolution Bakeshop, bagels from Rosenberg's, chai from Sanctuary, and burritos from Burrito Del Mar. Catch Kyle and his crew from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week at Torpedo.