What do a pretzel bakery, a Snarf’s sandwich shop, a gas station and two carnicerias — all scattered around west Denver — have in common? They occupy former Big Top convenience-store buildings, built in the late 1950s and early 1960s as part of a wave of distinctive, Googie-era architecture.
That pretzel bakery is Brockmeyer’s, which Brock Coffman opened in mid-December at 6340 West Mississippi Avenue. He’s owned the building since 2016, and was running Baker Street Pretzels there before he decided to upgrade to a full-service cafe with Brockmeyer’s.
“It was just a shell when I bought it,” Coffman says of the structure. “It didn’t even have a working toilet.”
Over the past four years, he’s put plenty of sweat and elbow grease into the place. He installed a commercial kitchen and began making pretzels that Baker Street sold to craft breweries, which they could heat in toaster ovens and serve to customers. Then in 2018, when he was just 41, Coffman suffered a heart attack while cycling and decided to make some changes in his life. He quit drinking, paid more attention to his health, and began planning a coffeehouse and bakery he could put in the former Big Top.
Brockmeyer’s makes its home in a former Big Top convenience store, one of fifteen that once existed around metro Denver.
“This thing is called a hexadecagon,” Coffman explains, describing the nearly circular edifice with a tent-like roof that sweeps down in multiple graceful curves from a central axis. “Every one [of the Big Tops] is just a little different. It’s got sixteen sides; there’s a reason we usually use 90-degree angles in construction.”
Shoehorning modern kitchen equipment built for square and rectangular spaces into a building with so many angles wasn’t easy. And the age of the building, which was constructed in 1959, didn’t help matters. But since there wasn’t much left in the interior, at least Coffman didn’t have to worry about reconfiguring walls or doors. He also didn’t have to worry about staying within strict design guidelines, since the building does not have historic-landmark status with the City of Lakewood. William Sayre of the Denver firm Kellogg & Sayre designed the first Big Top; there were once fifteen of them around the metro area, though many have been demolished in recent years.
This pretzel pocket it loaded with smoked pork shoulder.
Now that the work is finished and Brockmeyer’s is officially open, Coffman has returned to making pretzels, a skill he learned after a trip to Europe. “I never was formally trained as a baker,” he notes. “I spent a couple of weeks in Bavaria drinking liters of beer and eating, and…