- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) - After working in the technology field, Durango’s newest purveyor of coffee made a conscious decision to exclude it from his new Bedhead Coffeehouse. He does not offer Wi-Fi to customers.

“I would walk into coffee shops, and Wi-Fi tended to create a ‘1984’ feel,” said Patrick Booth, the proprietor of the coffeehouse at 929A Colorado Highway 3, which opened in April. “Everyone had their heads down, and they were focused on their computers. It didn’t feel welcoming.”

Booth did a lot of homework before opening Bedhead, researching other coffee shops and touring a number in Denver and Boulder. While attending the American Barista & Coffee School in Portland, Oregon, he had an assignment to survey a different coffee shop before class each day and afterward when possible. That helped him narrow down further what he wanted in his business.

“I always had in mind an old-fashioned coffeehouse, when they were almost a place of revolution,” Booth said, talking about European coffeehouses in the 1600s, where the Enlightenment is said to have been born. “There was a debate between clergy, where some thought it was evil, some thought good, and coffeehouses were shut down and opening up. It was alluring to have a place where people could be themselves, a place that brought in an eclectic variety from all walks of life.”

His philosophy for Bedhead has several aspects, Booth said.

“There’s also a spiritual aspect for whatever practice people want to follow,” he said, “and it’s a very simple place, where people can just rest.”

Cutting off the umbilical cord of wireless access doesn’t seem to be hurting business much, he said.

“I can count on one hand the people who left when they found out I didn’t have it,” he said. “It’s so minimal, I’m not willing to change. The majority of customers who come in and ask if I have Wi-Fi, they just sit down and relax with their coffee when they find out I don’t. They’ll take out a book, get out a piece of paper and start doodling - it’s gratifying they’re exercising different parts of their brains.”

One woman sat him down and told him he’d have more business if he offered Wi-Fi, he said.

“I asked her ‘How many people have you met here, how many friends did you make, because I didn’t have Wi-Fi?’” Booth said. “She and her son come in and play chess all the time.”

The games add to the social ambience of the setting, which is clean and uncluttered. In addition to chess, Booth offers the African-stone game Mancala as well as the surprisingly popular Magic 8 Ball. Other games may be in Bedhead’s future.

“The games were my wife’s idea,” he said, “and they’re fabulous from a social perspective. I’m trying to organize a chess club and make the space available to small groups for after hours.”

Bedhead also offers The Durango Herald and The New York Times.

“They’re there to prompt conversation, stir up things and get people thinking,” he said.

Booth has enjoyed observing people’s reactions to his space.

“People will come in and ask for a cup to go,” he said, “and when they finish it, they will have played four games, when they didn’t even have the intention of sitting down. It’s got to have a positive impact on their lives, even if they only turn off for 10 minutes and talk to their neighbor, that’s a start.”

Pre-coffeehouse, coffee had already played a pivotal role in his life.

Booth met his wife, Ruth Cutcher, while standing in line at Durango Coffee Co., while in town to do some mountain biking.

“We didn’t like the coffee,” he said, “so we went up to Steamworks (Brewing Co.) and got a table to talk.”

While he had been pulling shots at home since the mid-1990s, it wasn’t until a project to redevelop Skype from the ground up for then-owner eBay came along that the agility coach - a project manager - began becoming a connoisseur of the bean that has taken America by storm. The Skype team brought in an “influx” of specialty coffees, he said.

“I became kind of a coffee fanatic,” Booth said. “Like some customers, I couldn’t find the coffee I wanted.”

And now he’s making the coffee he likes - no dark roasts, which increases bitterness - and watching his customers get to know each other.

“It’s playing out very much like I had hoped,” Booth said. “I’m hoping to keep the spirit alive, but it’s not something I’m doing, it’s up to the patrons of Bedhead Coffeehouse.”

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Information from: Durango Herald, http://www.durangoherald.com

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