More from Morrison Road:
- The story behind the big guitar that welcomes you to Westwood
- In an area with no full-service grocer, this nonprofit is stepping in
- Taste the Ojos de buey at Contreras Market, a Westwood panaderia
- Meet Mujeres Emprendedoras, the women building defenses against displacement
- A day at the Denver Indian Center, a place of support for its community’s traumas
- Santiago Jaramillo has always been at home here. He’s set on keeping it that way
- Why is Morrison Rd. diagonal?
- The guys at Boogie Down got this Denverite reporter buzzed
- Inside Westwood’s One Stop Bike Shop
- In the face of massive change in Denver, Morrison Road might have a secret weapon: Its art and feel
The Monotones’ 1958 croon “Book of Love” falls from the ceiling as Hector Soto’s ice cream shop opens on a Friday afternoon. The cash register sits on the hood of a classic Chevy sedan, which he drove a few times before he sliced it up and turned it into a front counter. A gleaming, pearl-white bass guitar is suspended above. Its pinstriped belly reads the name of his business: “Bule Bule.”
Soto pulled the phrase from another oldie, a ’60s tune by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs that was originally called “Wooly Bully.” When it hit the charts in Mexico, it also got a revised name.
Soto spent his formative years in Aguascalientes, a city right in the middle of Mexico, where he grew up listening to rock and roll. His family was filled with musicians who played norteñas music, a waltzy genre of accordions, violins and guitars.
“My abuelo, my grandpa, he was in a group for his whole life. He was always with his bass,” he remembered.
Their bands also played Spanish covers of songs by artists like Elvis Presley. His father, also a musician, loved that era’s music.
So Soto had a theme in mind when he opened the storefront on Morrison Road a little more than a year ago. It’s helped keep his family’s spirit alive – and also his livelihood.
When he opened in the narrow building, his other restaurant, Los Mesones, was in a COVID limbo.
“We had to do something else, because we were going crazy with everything, and then we started this place,” he told us. “We were thinking, probably the pandemic is not going to take so long. Probably the next two months. But nope.”
Nope. Even still, Soto said the neighborhood was ready for his new enterprise. It was a hot summer of shutdowns and he had popsicles ready to go out the door.
“A lot of our neighbors waited for this place, and we were so busy,” he said.
In about three months, Bule Bule was paying bills for his beleaguered restaurant near Sloan’s Lake, he said. The homemade ice cream helped his family make it through 2020, and not just in a financial way. His two daughters helped him transform the space into his doo-wop vision, and it made them feel closer.
“Paint, tables. Everything we do, we make together. We feel more like family, more together,” he said. “It means a lot.”
Soto’s shop has the classics, vanilla and strawberry, but he said the neighborhood most appreciates his traditional Michoacán flavors, chiefly his paletas de gansito.
“It’s like a little cupcake with strawberry and chocolate, and they love those kinds of flavors,” he said. “We are very traditional.”
Bule Bule’s owed its success to Soto’s understanding of his customers. He spent a long time getting to know the people here on Morrison.
When he was 15, he left Mexico to work in his sister’s Lakewood bakery. He told us he ended up in Westwood a lot, often to catch a bus.
“When I came from Aguascalientes, I always walked all of Denver,” he said. “I walked too many times here.”
Today, the street is a symbol of stability. It’s a place where his family’s love of music offers a sweet, nostalgic place to make a living. And Westwood has eaten it up.
“We love the place because we have very good neighbors,” he said, as his mother-in-law led his tiny granddaughter into the store. “We love this place for the people.”