Hospitality & Tourism  January 2, 2024

Denver’s Bigsby’s Folly Winery & Restaurant plans Superior expansion

SUPERIOR — First it was COVID-19 in 2020. Then, in 2021, it was the Marshall Fire.

Some business operators would have abandoned expansion plans, but not Marla Yetka and Chad Yetka, the couple who co-founded Bigsby’s Folly Winery & Restaurant in Denver’s River North neighborhood in 2017.

“About a year or two after we opened, we knew the concept was viable and we wanted to reproduce it in other areas,” Marla Yetka told BizWest. “But we wanted the second location to be close enough to the first so that we could really be there and have the owner present.”

After an exhaustive search for sites all along the Front Range, the Yetkas found a location in central Superior, where the Downtown Superior development would soon sprout, and “we just kind of fell in love with it,” she said. The “lack of event venues and good wineries and bars” presented an opportunity for Bigsby’s to fill a niche in the community that had plans to build hundreds of homes and thousands of square feet of office space near the Yetkas’ target site at the corner of Coal Creek Drive and Marshall Road.  

The couple was on the verge of signing a lease when the pandemic struck. “Obviously, everything halted,” Yetka said. “We weren’t even sure we were going to make it through with our current business.”

The crew from Bigsby’s Folly — named after the Yetka’s late, beloved golden retriever — and their would-be landlord in Superior “all agreed to get through COVID and see what happens,” Yetka said. 

Fast-forward to late 2021. The Yetkas and the Downtown Superior development team were putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror when the Marshall Fire ripped through eastern Boulder County. 

“Had we been vertical at that point, we would have been gone,” Yetka said. 

The Bigsby’s Folly team regrouped for a few months. In the meantime, Downtown Superior master developer RC Superior LLC, or Ranch Capital, sold the site of the planned Superior winery to Carmel Partners, a multifamily real estate development and investment firm that was not interested in building a food and drink facility and leasing it to the Yetkas.

The couple, who sold their dream home in Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood to launch the RiNo Bigsby’s, decided to buy the land and build a second winery themselves. 

Bigsby's Folly Render 2
An artist’s rendering of the exterior of the planned Bigsby’s Folly Winery & Restaurant in Superior. Courtesy Bigsby’s Folly.

“When we did our first designs around 2019, the cost to do the project was $5.5 million,” Marla Yetka said. Costs have since ballooned, and the project budget is now upwards of $7.5 million.

While the Yetkas were able to secure some small-business loans with relatively reasonable terms, “it’s just a lot more cost-prohibitive than it would have been two or three years ago.”

Superior town officials have stepped up with tax incentives worth as much $1 million over a period of about a decade. Louisville, which could benefit from an economic boost just over its municipal border, will soon consider a measure that would help the Yetkas realize some of those tax benefits in a shorter period of time. 

“The mayor and the town council (in Superior) have just been bending over backwards to welcome us and get the project built there,” Yetka said. “They really want locally owned businesses rather than chains. They want really good-quality tenants.”

When the Yetkas established the original Bigsby’s in a 7,000-square-foot warehouse built in the 1800s, the couple was in their 50s and new to the hospitality industry. Marla Yetka spent her career in marketing and her husband has a diverse resume that includes jobs in engineering, business development, energy and real estate.

“We’d never really been satisfied working for other people and big corporations, so we decided to try something on our own,” Marla Yetka said.

The couple loved Napa Valley, California, and its wines, she said, and thought, “Why can’t we do the same thing for wine that brew pubs have done for beer?”

They found a contract winemaker in California to produce about 80% of Bigsby’s output, with the remainder crafted locally with grapes flown in from the Napa Valley. 

The Bigsby’s concept, which includes a full-service kitchen and bar, caters to walk-in guests as well as events. “Private events make up about 60% of our business,” Yetka said. “We do a lot of weddings, corporate events, engagement parties. We do more than 500 events a year.”

The Bigsby’s team expects that their successful concept in Denver will translate well in Superior, where they plan to build a facility with 5,000 square feet on the ground floor and 2,000-square-foot rooftop patio with views of the Flatirons. 

Yetka said the hope is to break ground in June 2024 with an opening targeted for “no later than March of 2025.”

The Superior outpost is likely to employ between 35 and 50 workers, with “nobody, even in the kitchen, making under $35 an hour,” she said.

SUPERIOR — First it was COVID-19 in 2020. Then, in 2021, it was the Marshall Fire.

Some business operators would have abandoned expansion plans, but not Marla Yetka and Chad Yetka, the couple who co-founded Bigsby’s Folly Winery & Restaurant in Denver’s River North neighborhood in 2017.

“About a year or two after we opened, we knew the concept was viable and we wanted to reproduce it in other areas,” Marla Yetka told BizWest. “But we wanted the second location to be close enough to the first so that we could really be there and have the owner present.”

After an exhaustive search…

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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