Dolores had been sorely missing a bona fide coffee shop for years, but that all changed last autumn when Theresa Howell and husband Mark Looper came to town.
One year ago, the talented couple from Phoenix opened The Pony Expresso on Railroad Avenue (Colorado Highway 145) at a small building that used to be a real-estate company.
Thousands of freshly made coffees, burritos, bagels and pastries later, they are throwing an anniversary party to thank local residents for their support.
On Halloween, Oct. 31, from 5 to 8 p.m. they will be having a costume contest for three different age groups. There will be candy for trick-or-treaters, and free coffee, hot chocolate, and food samples.
"We're throwing a big party to say thank you to the community for supporting us. We had a good first year and really love it here," Howell said.
The couple remolded the brick building into a quaint and comfortable spot to enjoy homemade pastries, specialty coffee drinks, chais, hearty burritos, daily lunch specials and the real-deal, traditionally-cooked, chewy-delicious bagels made from scratch every week.
"I saw there was no fresh bagels in the area, so I learned how to make them," Howell said. "My grandmother taught me how to cook, and I learned a lot in 4-H as a kid ,also."
The crush of people in the morning turns Mark into a blur, existing in two places at once as he deftly handles orders from the convenient drive-thru and walk-up counter.
"I learned the coffee trade in Europe, making thousands of cappuccinos per day at a shop on the Rhine River," Mark said. "Europeans come in all the time, and love it when I make it in their style, extra strong, half-and-half instead of milk for cappuccinos."
The couple has hired baristas to assist them, and ramp up staff in the summer months. The wait is not long, and worth it at any rate.
"We probably get 70 percent of our business from the drive-thru," Looper said.
Customers can text their order in and have it ready when they arrive at (970) 676-1319, or they can call orders in at 882-7950.
Customers can take a break and sit down at one of the indoor tables or relax on an outdoor patio complete with newspaper racks and neighborhood regulars. The patio is dog-friendly as well.
Besides being a great cook, Howell is also an excellent landscape and wildlife photographer. Her prints and postcards are available in the shop at reasonable prices.
One helpful aspect of the Pony Expresso is that the shop is open seven days a week, opening at 6 a.m. on weekdays and at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The Pony Expresso is a new Dolores experience that easily can become a regular habit.
"Come on in and check us out before work, or grab some food on the way to the mountains," Howell said. "Our Halloween anniversary party is a good time to stop in and check us out."