Biz Buzz:
Renovation of former floral shop

       After decades as a flower shop, then as a vacant building for about four years, the former site of Dassel's Florist & Greenhouse has been renovated into space for two different types of businesses.

Cheese Haus owner Chris Peissig displays products.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The rear and upstairs at 1380 S. 21st St. houses the Insurance Network of Colorado, a business insurance agency. The ground floor space in front belongs to a new retail store, the Cheese Haus, which focuses on specialty cheese and meats from Wisconsin.
       The 1,725-square-foot building sits on a 18,000-square-foot property at the northwest corner of 21st at Busch Avenue. A parking lot is in back.
       The renovation was led by Jerry Cooksey, the owner of the Insurance Network. He bought the parcel from the Dassel's estate in 2016, along with a commercial property of the same size just to the north.
       Cooksey's agency had been located off Pikes Peak Avenue in Old Colorado City. But he lives nearer to South 21st, and he'd had his eye on the Dassel's site since the early 2000s, he said.
       The building needed upgrades after having been a floral business for so long. “It was a huge remodel,” Cooksey recalled. “We rewired and replumbed and put in a new roof.” A new furnace and water heater also were necessary.
       Other work included customizing the one-time florist retail area for the Cheese Haus, which opened in December.
       Hailing from Wisconsin himself, owner/proprietor Chris Peissig is hopeful his business can become a destination shopping stop. He said his is the only retail store in the region offering premier Wisconsin meats and cheeses. For example, Usinger's, one of the Wisconsin companies supplying his store, has no sales outlet closer than Texas, he said.
       So how did a business like his synch up with an insurance agency?
       It wasn't happenstance. Peissig works for Insurance Network of Colorado. He became an agent there after relocating in 1999 to Colorado Springs - originally living in the Skyway neighborhood, then moving four years ago to the Westside.
       He started thinking about a Wisconsin-centric food store “years ago,” and finally, around the time Cooksey bought the old Dassel's site, Peissig said he decided “I can make this work.”

Chef Jay Gust, inside Tapateria.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Chef now owns 3 restaurants in OCC
       Retired Air Force officer Dave Brackett opened Pizzeria Rustica at 2527 W. Colorado Ave. in 2008. Styled after restaurants in Italy and with indoor-outdoor seating for up to 100 diners, it would prove to be the first of three European-oriented locales he's had a hand in for that part of Old Colorado City.
       In 2010, there was Tapateria (Spanish-themed, with indoor-outdoor seating for 65) half a block away at 2607 W. Colorado Ave.; followed two years ago by Enoteca (a wine bar, with space available to private groups and room overall for 45 people), upstairs from Rustica and using its kitchen.
       Long-time area chef Jay Gust, who joined Brackett in starting Enoteca (the name means “wine store” in Italian), recently became owner of all three businesses.
       “Dave's retirement plan became my ownership plan,” Gust quipped in a recent interview. The different restaurants are like “incubators for having fun with cuisine,” he summarized.
       Gust hails from Wisconsin, migrating to Colorado Springs in the mid-'90s because he “wanted to be a professional snowboarder,” he laughed. “Instead, I became a professional dishwasher.”
       But that exposure sparked an interest in cooking. He worked his way up to chef while employed at such downtown spots as the Ritz, Doubletree, Southside Johnny's and Jose Muldoon's.
       He started working with Brackett in 2012.
       Brackett said he's enjoying having more free time, part of which he's spending as a volunteer with SCORE, which provides consulting for business entrepreneurs. In 2017 he also became the president of the Old Colorado City Foundation, a charitable arm of the Old Colorado Associates business group, which plans events to raise money for the historic business district.

Westside Pioneer article