DENVER — Sometimes the biggest cost of a growing city isn't measured in dollars and cents.
The downside of new development moving in is that smaller businesses are sometimes forced to move out.
City Bakery Cafe, located at 726 Lincoln St. in Denver, has the smallest building on the block... But with the biggest heart.
"I'm here," said Jenival Santos, who owns the small restaurant. "And, I hope for the best."
He's now on the clock to find a new spot before mid-rise apartments and retail are built. It's part of an overhaul for Denver's Golden Triangle neighborhood, where Denver7 is located.
But unlike the developments coming in, City Bakery Cafe is known for its friendly, quaint atmosphere.
"Well, the food here, I would say is like, very warm, family style," Santos said.
Santos carved a niche featuring comfort foods, pastries, and soups for breakfast and lunch.
"The meatloaf that I make here, the fresh hamburger that I make here, the chili," said Santos, highlighting the menu favorites. "This is the tomato soup, one of the best sellers. This week we have a posole."
"People say the same thing all the time," he continued. "Every time they eat it, they go crazy. It's savory and wild, and they go, 'What kind of flavor is that?'"
There was a time before the pandemic when the line of customers was out the door. In fact, it's still popular with employees at Denver7. But, since most of his customers are office workers downtown, only half have returned since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
He's also relied heavily on family to fill a staff shortage.
"It is what it is," Santos said. "You know, it's hard these days to find people who really put their heart in this kind of environment."
Now, City Bakery Cafe has about six months to move before the building is replaced by multi-story construction projects.
"It's been hard because every place that I've been looking for, it's a little bit too expensive for the moment," Santos said.
It represents the hardships of a growing city. And, he said the neighborhood won't feel the same.
"A place where everyone can come sit down, talk to the chef, the employees," Santos said. "You know, sit down and do the meeting or whatever. Come just to have a cup of coffee, just to say hello. It's going to be hard to find a place like that. And, I feel sad for that."
But, he's determined to find a space or start a food truck to continue doing what he loves — inviting you in, and leaving you with a full belly and smile.
"I like to see people happy," he said. "I like to feel like I make my customers, friends, and family feel good when they eat something that I make. It makes me happy."