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The stars lined up at 5:15 a.m. on June 22nd when Marilyn Megenity sat down with realtors, representatives from the title company, and the partners who bought her place: the iconic Mercury Cafe on 2199 California Street. “The stars were great,” she says of the timing she chose for the closing, and the deal too.
She sold the building she bought at 2199 California Street in 1990 for $ 157,000 for $ 2.07 million. But more importantly, she sold the business to successors who will keep the Mercury rising, and that made this much more than a real estate deal.
Megenity has had tough times before, but last year wasn’t in the charts – astrological or otherwise. A crowdfunding campaign helped make money and musicians ran their own fundraisers, but Megenity knew she had to do more if she wanted the Mercury to survive.
“I was scared of selling the business during the pandemic and was afraid of being too old to run it,” she recalls. So she looked for the right people to keep going. “I’ve interviewed a lot of people,” she says. “We conducted community rituals to find the right people, to attract the right people. I’m really, really happy that I had people to choose from. “
And finally, on a suggestion from members of Itchy-O, Denver’s avant-garde performance group, she hooked up with the right people: Danny Newman and his partner Austin Gayer. Newman, an entrepreneur, bought My Brothers Bar in 2017 with his family (his mother had worked there for thirty years) and a promise to keep the place going as it had for nearly fifty years. Now he, Mrs. Christy Kruzick and Gayer, plan to do the same with the Mercury.
And Megenity will cheer them on. “I’ll be pretty involved in the beginning, but I’m seventy and I want to help a little … forever,” she says. “I just want to come down, dance, and have dinner.”
Megenity opened its first store in Indian Hills in 1975 and then moved to a variety of different locations in and around Denver, changing its name and concept along the way. Good, healthy food was always in the foreground and also served as a meeting point for the community. I first met Megenity when she ran Elrond’s on East 13th Avenue; It was the ideal place for breakfast after spending the night reading the papers. After that, I never missed any more locations.
Marilyn Megenity was named the “Colorado Original” by PBS12. And she is.
The landlord’s problems eventually convinced Megenity that she needed to take control of her destiny and buy a building. And when it found a place on the outskirts of the city center a good three decades ago, the Merc finally became the center of a very special universe. Large and small events were held here – an intimate dinner made exclusively from local ingredients, tarot readings, a small concert, a large concert, dance lessons, political actions, birthday parties, and memorial services. The late Alan Dumas – radio talk show host, DJ, writer, and larger-than-life personality – got married here, and as a maid of honor, I was allowed to lead a group of 24 tie-dyed bridesmaids.
It was just another night at the Mercury, and now there will be many, many more.
Megenity had been concerned with sustainability long before it was cool – she had her car retrofitted to drain kitchen grease – and she came up with a plan that will take the Mercury long into the future.
“I think the future looks really bright for Mercury,” says Megenity. “I think that it can only mean that Mercury will flourish when a young, enthusiastic energy gets excited about taking care of Mercury.”
And she will cheer them on. “I’m going to have a really good week this week,” she says. “No days off this week. I’ll work until you and I feel comfortable … and then I’ll just be a customer.
“I’ve done what I loved all my life,” she concludes, “and I don’t think anyone can do it.”
Just another night at the Merc.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; She has been an editor since then. She is a regular at the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a true journalist in John Sayles’ Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton in flip-flops, and received numerous national awards for her columns and features.