Mix and mingle at the Agora in Minturn
Open air gathering spot adding woodfired pizza and Colorado wine to the property
Meet your friends and create new connections at the Agora in Minturn. The name comes from an old Greek term that is defined as a “community gathering place,” and Minturn businessman Larry Stone decided to make this outdoor space a hub for this quaint mountain town.
“In most old-world villages, there would be an agora which just meant a place where social activities, political conversations, sports dialogue, any topic that people would come together for, and we decided to create that here,” Stone said.
The Agora is located on what was a driveway to the adjacent property, which Stone and his wife Jane Rohr own, called Helen’s House, a beautifully restored home that is available for short term rentals right on Main Street in Minturn.
“Jane and I knew that having this space available for the community would be more beneficial to Minturn. The pandemic was a catalyst that gave us a reason to open it up as a community space because the restaurants needed a place for outdoor dining for their guests. So now we’ve set it up to continue that process,” Stone said.
“We’ve had senior citizens in here playing bingo, we’ve had live music and karaoke, the art guild meets here, we’ve had hat painting projects and all types of community projects here,” Stone said.
The public has taken advantage of this new space that opened last year but Stone and some Minturn locals and even a chef from California decided to take it one step further this year. Like many good ideas, it started over a couple of cocktails at Agora the night of June 12. Matt Deem, of Wild Mountain Cellars had been talking to Lauren Ridout of Slapped Woodfired Pizza about some collaborations. Ridout’s pizza company is out of San Diego, but she is at the Agora for the summer doing pizzas out of the new woodfired pizza oven.
“We were talking about doing some collaborations with my wines and her plant-based menu. Then some others at the table started talking about where you could get a good glass of wine and we looked at the barn and the end of the old driveway and thought, ‘we could put a tasting room right there,’ and Larry overheard the conversation and we all started talking about how to make it work,” Deem said.
In addition to the Agora being a place where you can bring in your food and drink from other restaurants, it could also be a place to get Wild Mountain Cellars’ wine. The location also has easy access to the Eagle River where there are some seating areas along the banks.
“One of the nice things about Minturn is that we have an open container law and with Gov. Polis allowing people to order drinks to-go for the next four years, you can get your drink and have it open and come down, then enjoy spirits from whatever establishment you want,” Stone said.
The next day, Deem set things in motion getting the paperwork ready to turn that barn into a tasting room. Deem has been a winemaker for 17 years and currently makes his wine under the roof of Continental Divide Winery in Fairplay. Deem’s license allows him to sell other Colorado wineries’ wines, too.
“I make reds and I make a rose, I have five different varietals and five or six blends, so I’ll have around 12 of my own wines then and will pour certain bottles certain nights. I also want to get a hold of my winemaking buddies and get their white wines in here, too” Deem said.
Pair that wine with a slice of pizza from the specialty woodfired pizza oven Stone bought for the property.
“A stone oven is so amazing because you have the heat from the stone, the air, like a convection oven, and then the heat coming directly from the flame so it doesn’t take very long to make anything. The aromas are amazing, too. We use peach wood and cherry wood from the Western Slope and it gets everyone’s senses going,” Ridout said.
In addition to the woodfired pizza, Ridout’s menu is fresh and healthy. They also serve breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays.
“I strive for 100% non-GMO and organic every chance we get, and we have just been positively surprised at everyone’s reactions,” Ridout said.
Everything on the menu is plant-based but Ridout doesn’t let that take center stage.
“Putting it in a category of vegan or plant-based beforehand can put a different connotation on the customer’s experience. I just want them to try the food, love the food and then talk to me about it. I’ll even say, ‘if you don’t like it, I’ll buy it’ and not one time have I had someone say that they don’t like it,” Ridout said.
Rounding out the team at Agora is Rob Kelly-Goss, a friend of Stone’s since they were 15 years old back in Little Rock, Arkansas. The pair came out to the Vail Valley in 1988 and stayed for the Alpine World Ski Championships in 1989 and Stone never left.
“Larry called me and asked if I wanted to help out at Agora and I didn’t blink an eye,” Kelly-Goss said.
Kelly-Goss is the artist in residence and in addition to the artwork he does for the marketing materials and the art projects at Agora he helps out where he can.
“I’m kinda the front of the house guy who rounds out the team,” he said.
Kelly-Goss did all of the artwork on the sign when you enter the Agora that lets you know about all of the other restaurants in town, and there are QR codes allowing you to order your food and drinks and bring them into Agora if you want something different than the Slapped Woodfired Pizza or the Wild Mountain Cellars wine.
“I felt like the Agora really brought an opportunity for us to come together and be good stewards of our environment and our community,” said Stone, who has been a part of the Minturn business community since 1989. He and Rohr own the Scarab in downtown Minturn.
“There’s nothing like this in all of Eagle County,” Stone said.