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Starry Night in Old Town serves coffee with rich history

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Collegian | Samantha Nordstrom
Barista Faith Gill sets a prepared drink on the counter and calls out the order inside Starry Night Espresso Cafe, located on South College Avenue in downtown Fort Collins March 27.

“What is done in love is done well,” Vincent Van Gogh said. This is the quote written on the wall of the Starry Night Espresso Cafe in Old Town Fort Collins. 

The Starry Night Espresso Cafe opened in 1992. Its current owners, sister and brother Chelsi and Justin Wells, said it is one of the longest standing coffee shops in the Fort Collins area. The duo has been running the coffee shop for eight years as of April 1.

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The Van Gogh concept began long before the Wells got their hands on the place, but each set of owners has put their own unique spin on it. 

“It’s been a big heartbeat behind what we do. We bring some of our friends with disabilities in and provide some employment education and job experience. We are partnered with the state’s Division (of) Vocational Rehabilitation to help our friends transition into the world and find jobs. We say all ships rise, so when we rise, everyone rises.” -Chelsi Wells, Starry Night Espresso Cafe co-owner

“It’s fun to play a part of the legacy,” Chelsi Wells said. “It’s been a long journey — Starry Night’s existence —, and we get to be a little piece of its legacy.” 

As the third set of owners of the establishment, the Wells have started roasting and sourcing their own coffee.

“We brought in our own coffee,” Justin Wells said. “We are the first owners to start importing our own beans, and we have different partners in all different parts of the world that we have gone and spent time with personally. It’s our touch on the painting. It’s our brush stroke on ‘(The) Starry Night.’”

The Wells look to honor and represent well the sources they import from.

“We tell anybody who is hired here to leave it better than you found it,” Justin Wells said. “That’s kind of our motto here because there are so many hands that have the coffee before we do that their livelihood relies on us doing something awesome with it.”

Chelsi and Justin Wells both come from backgrounds working with and teaching people with disabilities, and they have carried that into the cafe. 

“It’s been a big heartbeat behind what we do,” Chelsi Wells said. “We bring some of our friends with disabilities in and provide some employment education and job experience. We are partnered with the state’s Division (of) Vocational Rehabilitation to help our friends transition into the world and find jobs. We say all ships rise, so when we rise, everyone rises.”

Despite Starry Night going through three sets of owners, they have still maintained regulars who have been coming in since 1992. 

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“I feel like we got lucky when we got to buy into this place because I don’t think we realized how long lasting it was going to be,” Justin Wells said. “We have people who have been coming here since ’92. We have people who come in all the time and say, ‘I was a barista here in the ’90s,’ and you would be shocked by the amount of people that say, ‘I got engaged here,’ or, ‘We had our first date here,’ or, ‘We have been married for 10-15 years, and it started here.’ It’s bonkers the amount of people that have a story surrounding this place.”

Mia Boudreau is a barista who has been working at Starry Night for almost a year. 

“Just getting to make people smile while I make their drink or, like, making the kids smile and talking to them about their favorite things makes me so excited,” Boudreau said. 

Boudreau is originally from Durango, Colorado.

“I’m from a super small town, so coming here feels like more of a city,” Boudreau said. “I really like that sense of community.”

The aspect of relationships and happy customers is highly valued at the Starry Night Espresso Cafe.

Barista Emma Mendelssohn is a new Starry Night hire as of about a month and a half ago. 

“Oh, my God, I absolutely love it here,” Mendelssohn said. 

Mendelssohn opens every Monday and enjoys people-watching while she works.  

“It’s always fun to see Old Town pick up and kind of just see everyone wake up,” Mendelssohn said. “I love the environment of a coffee shop. Everyone comes in here to do different stuff like school, hang out, work, study, dates — you really see it all.”

Reach Gwendolynn Riddoch at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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