Town Story: Niwot

The town of Niwot is halfway between Boulder and Longmont. Actually, it’s halfway between a lot of things.

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Goldsmith used to own a bike shop in Niwot. Though she moved away several years ago, she still bikes back from Longmont for the Rock N Rails concerts or to visit friends. “People joke that there’s this curse of Niwot,” she said. “Once you leave, you always end up coming back.”

Perhaps one of the things that draws people back is the blend of big-city hipness with small-town neighborliness. Take the Niwot Market, which is a cross between a Whole Foods-type health food store and the old-fashioned neighborhood grocer.

Much of the produce comes from just down the road at Ollin Farms, and at the peak of summer, the place is jammed with boxes of heirloom tomatoes and melons that came from the fields 15 minutes earlier. If there’s something customers want that Niwot Market doesn’t stock, there’s an easy way to fix that.

“There’s a list at the door,” says owner Bert Steele. “Just write down your item, and I’ll bring it in if I can find it.”

The market’s staff is happy to accommodate. Kathy Koehler of the Niwot Community Association says she recently got to the checkout stand only to realize she’d left her billfold in a different purse. The checker told her to go home with her items and just come back later with the $6.11.

Niwot Market rents out space within the store to local merchants like Sachi Sushi and Diane Strong’s Niwot Florist. The
flower stand’s synergy with the market and its customers has worked great in her six years there, Strong said. People go out of their way to support local businesses.

“A guy just brought me lilacs from his tree so I could use them in arrangements,” Strong said. “I said, ‘What can I pay you?’ and he just said, ‘Oh, buy me breakfast sometime.’”

There are a host of restaurants where that breakfast can be redeemed. Kitty-corner from the Grange Hall is one of the most celebrated, chef Bradford Heap’s Colterra. Heap, who has also won acclaim for his restaurant Salt in Boulder, serves locallyproduced food. The vegetables that don’t come from the surrounding farms often has grown in the garden next to Colterra’s wide patio.

On the same block is another great eatery, Treppeda’s Italian Ristorante, which switches from fast casual by day to fine dining by night. Owner Howard Treppeda is the son of a jazz trumpeter, and he keeps his love of music alive by hosting regular live performances in the restaurant. His friendship with legendary jazz pianist Don Grusin helped him gather the resources to spread jazz outside Treppeda’s and onto main street for the Jazz on Second Ave Festival. The second-annual festival was in August, and thousands came to hear jazz greats from across the country play, as well as to eat Treppeda’s famous wood-fired pizza.

There are so many festivals and parades in Niwot, it sometimes seems like everyone you meet is coordinating their own event, from Left Hander’s Day to Lobster Bash to Oktoberfest. And the town is always hungry for more.

Connie Rempala opened The Hitching Post – “The Best Little Horse House in Colorado” – on Second Avenue less than two years ago, but already she’s spearheading a new event: an equestrian Wild West Parade to complement the long-running Nostalgia Day. Rempala dreams of one day having as many as 500 horses in the parade, and though there won’t be that many at the inaugural event in September, it should be a sight to see.

The ease with which Rempala became an integral part of the Niwot community attests both to her business savvy – the store has grown so much that it recently moved to a bigger space up the block – and to Niwot’s welcoming spirit. People who first entered the store as strangers have become friends who regularly stop by just to hang out, sometimes for hours. “People call this Floyd’s Barber Shop,” Rempala said – one of many Mayberry references you’ll hear about Niwot.

It’s a unique state of mind they have in Niwot: firmly rooted in the past, but always eager to try something new. And because Niwot isn’t technically a town, being a Niwotian is, in a sense, a state of mind.

(This story originally appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of Colorado Life Magazine)

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