Leukemia patient fulfills dream of opening black-owned teahouse in Five Points

TeaLee’s at 611 22nd St. is anticipated to hold its grand opening Feb. 10.
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TeaLee’s co-owner Louis Freeman (left) and Macia Frazier, Feb. 8, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) coffee shop; food; five points; denver; restaurant; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite;

TeaLee's Teahouse at 611 22nd St., Jan. 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The owners of TeaLee's Teahouse hope to create a spot in Five Points that pays homage to the neighborhood's historic role as a cultural center for the city's African-American community.

TeaLee's is anticipated to hold its grand opening Saturday at 611 22nd St. The teahouse and bookstore will serve afternoon and high teas, offer literature with an emphasis on African-American involvement, sell gifts and provide meeting space for community members.

Denver native Rise Jones and her husband Louis Freeman are opening the shop named after a nickname of Jones' grandmother. Jones and Freeman previously operated FreeMan’s Market in Park Hill and he co-founded The Hue-man Experience bookstore in Five Points.

"This has always been my community from Five Points all the way up to Park Hill," Jones said Wednesday. "I wanted a business in the neighborhood where I was raised."

The bar at TeaLee's, Feb. 8, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jones was previously diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening form of leukemia blood cancer around 2011. Near the end of the 61-year-old's recovery period, her husband turned to her and asked: "What do you really want to do with your life?"

"Indirectly, I answered, 'I want a teahouse.' What I really meant … that is, what I clearly understood was my intention to create a black-owned (and managed) business so that we could trade with each other while spending our dollars multiple times with our neighbors," Jones wrote on the company's website.

TeaLee's LLC was registered with the state and a lease was signed in 2015. Then the couple ran into unforeseen construction and development issues with their landlord and bureaucratic delays from the city. In July 2017, they launched a fundraising campaign on the GoFundMe platform. Over seven months the company raised $3,635 — 6 percent of the $60,000 goal.

Jones screamed with joy in November when she finally received the green light from the city to open. Freeman estimates more than $160,000 has been invested in TeaLee's during the last two years.

TeaLee’s is planning to host events “in rhythm” with the cultural pulse of the Five Points. The lower level seating capacity can accommodate a total of 17 people and the upper level mezzanine can serve 13 people, according to the website.

"I see us filling a void in a community that so desperately needs this kind of institution," Freeman said. "There's no outlet for black information that's authentic in this community."

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at [email protected] or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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