Mutiny Information Café co-owner Matt Megyesi first got sick the night Alicia Cardenas died. Megyesi and the Sol Tribe Tattoo & Piercing owner had been friends, and neighboring business owners on South Broadway. Sol Tribe, like Mutiny, had been a community staple, and Cardenas a leader in the South Broadway community. That night in December, when he learned that she had been one of the victims in a mass shooting that killed five people across Denver and Lakewood, Megyesi threw up several times.
His wife, Stacey Megyesi, said that in true Megyesi form, he tried to joke through it.
“He kept saying, ‘I swear it was that Little Caesars Pizza,'” she said.
Colin Shattuck, a friend of Megyesi’s and owner of Sportique Scooters on South Broadway, said that after news of the shooting broke, community members gathered at Mutiny to mourn, and to discuss what had happened.
“It became during that process a very important place for community healing to take place,” Shattuck said. “And Matt’s kind of at the center of that world.”
But the event weighed heavily on Megyesi, and in the weeks that followed, he remained sick. He developed cold symptoms, Stacey said, but tested negative for COVID.
When he didn’t get better, Stacey started to worry that something was wrong. One day last month, he told her he couldn’t see.
“I just got to that point where I said, ‘We’re going, and you don’t have a choice,'” she said. “I really think that if we would have waited another day he might have died.”
She took Megyesi to the hospital on Tuesday, Jan. 18. On Jan. 20, his heart stopped, due, Stacey said, to untreated high blood pressure.
“I guess his stress just got so bad that that blood pressure skyrocketed,” she said.
In the last few weeks, Matt Megyesi, a central figure in Denver’s arts, South Broadway and Vespa scooter communities, has been in the hospital, moving in and out of consciousness and in and out of the operating room. He contracted and recovered from pneumonia, and underwent a temporary tracheostomy to make it easier for him to breathe and speak and complete physical therapy.
Because of COVID, only one visitor is allowed to see him at a time. Stacey and Megyesi’s mom visit him in shifts. Some days, Stacey says, Megyesi has been able to breathe on his own, and even to speak. One one occasion, he sang some “oohs” along to a hip-hop song.
Still, Megyesi has remained virtually unreachable by community members who’ve come to love and depend on him.
“It all happened so suddenly,” Shattuck said. “One day, he’s posting about having had the symptoms of a heart attack. The next thing you know, he’s posting from the ICU, and then he’s under, and has been under for three weeks, and completely completely outside of our community’s ability to communicate with him.
“Which is probably the most frustrating and scary part,” he said. “Is that nobody can see him. Nobody could talk to him.”
Megyesi’s illness is a blow for South Broadway, a community still recovering from the December shooting and mourning loss of Alicia Cardenas.
The block is also seeing the departure of another neighborhood staple, Hope Tank, whose owner Erika Righter has been a vocal advocate for the survival of micro-businesses along the corridor.
“It’s definitely crazy because all of those places do so much with and for the community,” Stacey said. “And so to have the tattoo shop, and then Erica say that Hope Tank was closing, and then this happening to Matt… I mean, it’s definitely been, I think, stressful for a lot of people.”
South Broadway is a block that is always churning- new businesses opening, old ones closing. Change is commonplace, but Shattuck says the fear now is that rent will become so high that only big chains can fill vacancies. Already, he’s seeing more chains like Voodoo Doughnuts and Giordano’s move in.
It’s a shift that makes places like Mutiny Information Café even more important. The shop, a black and red brick building on the corner of South Broadway and Ellsworth, is considered by many a countercultural bohemian holdout in a quickly changing city. The store’s charcoal-colored walls are hung with posters, painted with references to pop culture and decorated with art by local artists. It’s a coffee shop, a community gathering place and a used book store serving local coffee, cereal, comics, zines, pins, patches, records and collectables. There, you can also find a collection of pinball machines, and a photo booth. All of this is presided over by the shop’s mascot, Biggie, a fanged black cat with large yellow eyes.
“With so many places that we have lost as a community — old Denver places like Paris on the Platte and Muddy’s and some of the and all these traditional Denver, bohemian places — Mutiny Information Café has slid into that role beautifully,” Shattuck said. “It’s a uniquely Denver destination that no other city has. There’s no other place like it. And it’s a treasure that belongs just to us. And that makes it special in a time when we’re seeing old Denver disappear before our very eyes.”
In Mutiny, Megyesi and co-owner Jim Norris have helped to foster a safe, inviting and judgment-free space. Because the shop doesn’t serve alcohol, all ages are welcome. It attracts all kinds of people — writers, students, artists, geeks and more straight-laced types just looking for a place to work. The shop has gained a reputation as a big supporter of local arts, hosting in-store concerts by local performers, poetry readings, film screenings and live podcast recordings, and also has offered services like a community fridge and drives for supplies during the 2020 racial justice protests.
Megyesi and Norris became fast friends after meeting in a coffee shop in the ’90s. They started collaborating on a zine, and traveled the country together, hopping trains.
For some time they worked for Norris’ dad in construction. Meanwhile, they were dreaming of opening their own coffee shop, one that might combine all of their interests and values.
“We’d just kind of dream about it while we were working at somebody else’s coffee shop, while we were digging holes, building fences,” Norris said.
Time passed. For several years, Norris owned 3 Kings Tavern on South Broadway. While there, he’d walk down the street to where Mutiny is now to chat with Jack Jensen, the owner of the space, then a bookstore called Mutiny Now!
“I’d stop by once or twice a week just to talk about books,” Norris said. “And I’d tell him, anytime you want to get rid of this place I’ll grow my hair out to a pompadour and put on some Buddy Holly glasses and take his place.”
Then, in 2013, Jensen offered to sell to Norris, Megyesi and their friend Joe Ramirez, who Matt and Jim later bought out.
“For the last eight years, it’s been the two of us,” Norris said.
Stacey said Mutiny is “everything” to its co-owners. Friends say Megyesi has poured “his heart and soul and every minute of his life” into Mutiny.
“It’s not just a job,” Stacey said. “It’s their way of life. They live it, they breathe it.”
She said there’s not much money in the business, and sometimes Megyesi and Norris go without pay to make sure their employees get a paycheck.
“They’ve kept the business from closing. They’ve kept employees there,” she said. “But they have done that by sacrificing personal things for themselves.”
Last month, community members started a GoFundMe to help cover the Megyesi family’s medical expenses.
Since January, it’s raised more than $36,000 in donations. And on Feb. 17 there will be a benefit for Megyesi at HQ on South Broadway with drinks, live music and a raffle to raise money for the Megyesi family.
“It’s ironic that somebody who has such a loving and giving heart, that the heart stopped,” Stacey said.
After he got sick, Stacey decided to update the community via Facebook, where she writes daily public posts about Megyesi’s condition and reflecting on their relationship, often alongside old photos of Megyesi and their family.
One of the first things that draws people to Megyesi, or “MegaC,” as friends call him, is his authenticity. He has no pretense. Stacey says he’s “larger than life.” He can be a bit of a hothead when it comes to people being disrespectful in his shop, but mostly, friends say, his honesty comes off as lighthearted, and people are made to feel comfortable by his amiable nature and his sense of humor.
“Even in the ER,” Stacey said. “He had the people in the ER who were treating him in this emergency situation, and they were like, ‘You are hilarious.'”
Megyesi has a vast knowledge of pop culture — superhero movies, comic books, Star Wars and Godzilla.
“When I’m at the hospital, I always say, ‘You’re kind of a big deal,'” Stacey said — a reference to “Anchorman,” one of Megyesi’s favorite movies to quote. “He’s my guy. And he is kind of a big deal. He’s my big deal. He has been for all these years. But now that this has happened, I realized what a big deal he is to other people, too.”
Friends say he is a hardworking, dependable and active leader in the communities he’s a part of, whether it’s South Broadway, the local arts scene or the scooter community.
“MegaC is a very consistent person,” said Phil Lombardo, one of Megyesi’s best friends and a member of the scooter community. Lombardo is one of the key organizers of Mile High Mayhem, an annual scooter rally in Denver, and says that in the last few years Megyesi has volunteered to take the the lead on getting the word out, running the event’s website and social media.
“He’s always been a bit of a leader,” Lombardo said. “He likes to be involved, and he likes to make things happen. He definitely puts himself out there and makes himself available.”
For Norris, Megyesi is “the difference between dreams and reality.” Norris himself is a dreamer who says he gets bored with the idea of money. Megyesi helped ground their dreams for Mutiny, to make them happen by taking care of the financials and the computers.
“He’s exactly like having a brother. And for a lot of the kids around here, he’s a father figure,” Norris said. “He’s like that kind of person that’s the writer, director, producer and also stars in the movie.”
He says their friendship is made up of a 1,000 moments together that, added up, make “something really bright.”
“He’s got me through two divorces, two kids. Starting a business together, working with my family. My family just adores him,” Norris said, choking up. “He’s just my best friend.”
Norris and Mutiny’s staff have been holding down the fort in Megyesi’s absence.
“Matt’s got huge shoes to fill,” Norris said. He says Megyesi typically does “the important things,” like the finances. “His perseverance and intelligence got us through the whole COVID deal, the first run.”
Still, Norris says Mutiny is doing okay, and that the staff has really stepped up in Megyesi’s absence.
“I’ve been hiring and firing people in town for 30 years. And they’re the best staff I’ve ever worked with,” Norris said. “We just signed a long lease. Everything is groovy on our end. So Mutiny’s gonna be here a long time. There’s always going to be kids and artists and people that want to publish and play music and read poetry out loud, and we’re not going anywhere.”
He said that if anything, the Sol Tribe shooting rekindled his sense of purpose.
“After a few weeks of floating around lost after the shooting, we need to come back stronger and stick to our message even louder,” he said.
People close to Megyesi said his illness has led them to reconsider their priorities.
Some say it’s reminded them to hold on tight to their friends, and appreciate them more when they’re around. Some say they’re going to be more conscious of their own health going forward.
“I think the takeaway is to acknowledge your health and how important it is. And visit the doctor regularly and know that little nagging problems can turn into life threatening ones before your very eyes,” Shattuck said. “All you can do if you want to do something for him is monitor your own health, and make sure you’re healthy enough to be there for him when he is able to get out of that hospital bed.”
Stacey says she hopes people see that there are so many good and funny and important and giving people out there like Megyesi.
“When I see him, I don’t see anything else,” Stacey said. “But somebody else just walking past him might not know how important he is for their community. They might not know, just looking at him, what he has done.”
“I’m just lucky because he let me join for the ride,” she said. “You know, I’m the lucky one, and all of his friends, because we’ve had this opportunity to know him and love him.”