Damn the Torpedoes...Full Speed Ahead!

Kyle Wells’ wife is a risk-taker. He is less so. When the idea of opening a coffee shop persevered in Kyle’s mind, Fallene Wells, who has a hair salon business, said, “Why wouldn’t you do this?!” To which Kyle would respond with a litany of the practical things that came with his corporate IT job such as a steady paycheck and insurance. “But at the same time, I just felt the pull. It kept coming back to me that I needed to go for it,” he says. For gumption, he drew on his old naval days and the Civil War quote “Damn the Torpedoes…Full Speed Ahead!” That became the inspiration for the name of the coffee shop he opened mid-September, “Torpedo Coffee.”

Located in the recently renovated Oneida Park development at 23rd and Oneida in Park Hill, Torpedo Coffee offers drinks, baked goods, breakfast burritos, sandwiches and salads to eat there or grab and go. A perky torpedo guy graces the sign outside and merchandise in the “industrial-nautical-themed” space.

Corvus Coffee is the primary roaster for Torpedo, but they also have a guest roaster program to highlight a local Denver roaster on a quarterly basis. “I’m trying to show our customers other types of coffee that are out there and other roaster profiles,” says Wells. A Colorado native, he wants to highlight Denver while simultaneously being different from other coffee shops. “We try to not have it feel like a hipster coffee shop where it’s intimidating when you go in,” he says. “It’s right here in our neighborhood so we want it to be approachable, but still somewhat refined in the sense that people can come in and know they’re going to get a really good cup of coffee.”

Attaining that really good cup of coffee is what got Wells started on the path of his coffee shop. He had always had an affinity for coffee but became more interested in it in recent years. He began thinking of coffee as something more than just a hot drink in the morning. “I was still working my day job and found myself being more passionate about taking coffee to work and not just having whatever swill they had there,” Wells says. That expanded to taking an electric kettle, a French press, and other coffee-making methods into the office. In his off hours he did research and took classes about coffee. When traveling for work, he’d go to coffee shops and imagine how he’d do things differently. “I had this idea that I would have a coffee shop where it was all about the coffee and have all these different brewing methods,”
he says.

A serendipitous, voluntary severance package from his corporate job came along as Torpedo Coffee was getting ready to open, taking Wells headlong into his new venture. He says he’s working harder and longer than he ever did in his corporate job, which is fine with him. And talking with his wife about work doesn’t end just because their shops have closed for the day. “All of our conversations are about either coffee or hair, and I’m bald!” he says, laughing. “If you start reading the stats about businesses failing, you’ll go crazy,” says Wells. “So we’re going to do it right and go full speed ahead.”