Old garage doors form the walls of The Wild Goose Meeting House-a coffee shop, bar, and restaurant on 401 N. Tejon St. that is less than a 10-minute walk from campus. Wooden tables and hanging orange lights make the space feel like a kind of matured warehouse, with an intimate evening atmosphere and a casual daytime collaborative workspace, where light floods the room through the garage door windows. On warm and sunny days, the restaurant pulls its garage doors up, creating an indoor and outdoor space that fills with fresh air and the subtle sounds of the street.
Yemi Mobolade, originally from Nigeria, and Russ Ware, originally from Arlington, Texas, came together about five years ago with a shared mission to create a diverse, inclusive community space. Before Ware moved to Colorado Springs, Mobolade had already been involved in projects focusing on community and economic development in the area. He “wanted to go further than the projects he was currently involved in.”
As fate would have it, upon his move to Colorado Springs, he was told by many of a man named Yemi Mobolade, who shared a similar passion for community engagement and involvement. They finally met, “and that was kind of it,” said Ware.
Mobolade and Ware hold board seats on a variety of downtown organizations, taking their eagerness for community engagement beyond the confines of The Wild Goose Meeting House. “[We’re] more driven by community development than we are business ownership per se,” Ware said. “It is kind of a unique place that we’re coming from.”
Mobolade is a member of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the El Pomar Black Advisory Council. The owners express an immense passion and focus on the functioning of our local community. “[We’re] about development of the city, about supporting and developing local businesses, and other community-oriented endeavors,” said Ware.
The mission that brought Mobolade and Ware together has allowed them to create not only a quaint, stylish restaurant with a simple, delicious menu, craft coffee, fresh juice, and craft beer for all people to enjoy, but also a safe and welcoming space in which community members are encouraged to engage in dialogue across all areas and content.
The Wild Goose Meeting House does not organize events, but simply provides a space for those who wish to do so, hence the name. “Not only is this a viable space that feels conducive to that, but it’s also a safe space, and that means a lot to us,” Ware said. “We are very passionate about the diversity of this city … we’re pretty bulldoggish about protecting that.” The main restaurant space is filled with two- and four-person tables surrounding a long community table at the center. Ware talked about this community table as a means of encouraging this person-to-person or stranger-to-stranger engagement.
The restaurant also has a space called “The Nest,” a room at the back that is used to facilitate events ranging from book clubs to LGBTQIA+ meetings. Ware talked about looking across the room and seeing groups of people who might not otherwise be seen together, and the way in which these collections of people say they originally met at the restaurant. He described customers frequently standing at opposite ends of the spectrum politically, religiously, philosophically, yet still coming together to engage and discuss.
It would be senseless, however, not to mention the delightful menu options that accompany the strong community happenings at The Wild Goose. From toasted sandwiches and wraps with homemade rosemary mayonnaise and a variety of cheeses, meats, and vegetables, to fresh salads, soups, local brats, and nachos, the menu remains concise, and each dish feels as though it is prepared personally and diligently.
Ware, speaking on behalf of himself as well as Mobolade, who was out of town, finished his conversation with me by explaining how the seemingly endless, important, and diverse conversations and conversationalists that The Wild Goose Meeting House encourages once were male-dominated, limited discussions at the El Paso Club. Mobolade and Ware are “creating a different kind of space than the city had at that time,” one that strives to challenge, support, and connect us all.