Open Door Tea Shop will close its brick-and-mortar location to pursue a broader mission

The little shop will become a social enterprise and plans to work with more women and more other businesses.

Open Door Tea Shop owner Kristin Cardenas speaks to a reporter in her Cole establishment, Aug. 14, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Open Door Tea Shop owner Kristin Cardenas speaks to a reporter in her Cole establishment, Aug. 14, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Open Door Tea Shop will close on Friday, but it’s not all bad news.

The business near the corner of Bruce Randolph Avenue and Franklin Street in Denver’ Cole neighborhood is expanding and changing in ways that seem to stun even the woman behind it all.

“It’s super exciting. I am so incredibly excited. I can’t even tell you the partnerships and opportunities that Open Door Tea Shop, the actual brick and mortar, has really established for us,” owner Kristin Cardenas said. “We’ve had opportunities for growth much faster than I anticipated. … This is honestly the biggest opportunity of my life.”

What started late last year as a tea shop that employs the formerly incarcerated and displays the art of people serving long or life sentences will become a social enterprise. And in case that sounds vague or made-up to you, here’s a definition from the Social Enterprise Alliance: “an organization that marries the social mission of a nonprofit or government program with the market-driven approach of a business.”

Patty Moncada and Wendy Luna walk into Open Door Tea Shop in Cole, Aug. 14, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Patty Moncada and Wendy Luna walk into Open Door Tea Shop in Cole, Aug. 14, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Open Door doesn’t own its space and there’s no chance for Cardenas to buy it, so she and her team decided that rather than continuing to sink capital into the shop — which currently employs six formerly incarcerated people — they’d look for bigger ways to serve their mission.

Cardenas can’t discuss specifics about location or partnerships just yet — contracts still need signing — but here’s what she said Open Door will be working on:

  • a women’s recovery home in partnership with Tribe Recovery homes;
  • increasing employment opportunities for women;
  • increasing opportunities for system-affected women to heal through the arts;
  • distributing inmate artwork to facilities nationwide through prisonarte.com.

Open Door will also be working with Coffee at The Point, which will serve Open Door’s five different chai teas, and Rolling Pin Bakeshop, which will offer a 15-week paid internship to local kids.

Coffee and tea cups hanging at Open Door Tea Shop in Cole, Aug. 14, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Coffee and tea cups hanging at Open Door Tea Shop in Cole, Aug. 14, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“We are going to be working with more women — women who’ve been incarcerated and are currently incarcerated,” Cardenas said. “… It’s really mission-driven and the enterprise is really going to be focusing on employment and workforce opportunities with women, and we’ll be aligning them with community resources and programming throughout the Denver metro area.”

She’ll be able to reveal more about those partnerships in the next few months, and things will really be finalized and going in earnest by early 2019.