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  • Sandra Dallas

Golden Business Spotlight: J.C.'s Cafe

By Sandra Dallas

Photos by Povy Kendal Atchison

“We provide food for the body and food for the soul,” says Chris Ross, who operates J.C.’s Café with her husband, John, and daughter, Shannon Rucker.

John Ross and his daughter Shannon Rucker

Indeed, the café is known for its healing atmosphere as much as its wholesome food. The walls and ceiling are decorated with objects from customers. One wall is dedicated to military paraphernalia, including a uniform worn by the deceased son of a J.C.’s patron.

Other donations include a hat, and ax from the Colorado School of Mines and a quilt made by a customer who died. Her husband brought it to the café. Then there are the names, dozens of them, scrawled on the walls, and prayers. The prayers are for those who dine at J.C.’s, their friends and families and maybe some for the café itself. J.C.’s is a beloved place, treasured not only by paying customers but those in need of spiritual help or a free meal. The Café’s Thanksgiving feast for the homeless is well attended.

Like many mom-and-pop eateries, J.C.’s has been threatened by COVID. Customers, who included Mines students, military police and fire department employees, and locals were forced to self-quarantine for fear of catching the disease.

“Kids went home, and people were terrified,” Chris explains. Revenue dropped nearly two-thirds. Chris, who once made seven to nine pans of biscuits a week—60 biscuits to a pan—found herself baking as few as three pans. COVID laws shuttered the café from time to time.

To survive, J.C.’s emphasized take-out and was gratified on Mother’s Day when it sold 150 meals. That wasn’t enough. Instead of turning the corner—“2020 was the year we were supposed to make a profit,” Chris says of the café she and John purchased in 2011—the business ended the year in debt. A Go Fund Me page raised some money, and Chris has applied for a Small Business Administration loan.

The dining room is open now. Customers are returning to J.C.’s—the military and the cops and the kids from Mines who “talk to me about their problems and need a helping hand,” says Chris. She is determined to stay, despite debt and increased costs for such things as sanitizing products.

“I am supposed to be in this community,” Chris believes. To remain open, however, “I need prayers and word of mouth.” The SBA loan wouldn’t hurt either.

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