Meet your friends and make new connections at the Minturn Agora. 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 mountain town. picturesque.
“In most villages of the old world there would be an agora which simply meant a place where social activities, political conversations, sports dialogue, any subject for which people would meet, and we have decided to create this here,” Stone said.
The Agora is located on what was a driveway leading to the adjacent property, which Stone and his wife Jane Rohr own, called Helen’s House, a beautifully restored home which is available for short-term rentals on Main Street in Minturn.
“Jane and I knew having this space available to the community would be more beneficial for Minturn. The pandemic was a catalyst that gave us a reason to open it as a community space as the restaurants needed a place to dine alfresco for their guests. So now we’ve set it up to continue that process,” Stone said.
“We’ve had seniors here playing bingo, we’ve had live music and karaoke, the art guild meets here, we’ve had hat painting projects and all kinds of community projects here,” Stone said.
Audiences took advantage of this new open space last year, but Stone and some Minturn locals and even a California chef decided to go even further this year. Like many good ideas, it started over a few cocktails at Agora on the night of June 12. Matt Deem of Wild Mountain Cellars had spoken to Lauren Ridout of Slapped Woodfired Pizza about some collaborations. Ridout’s pizza business is out of San Diego, but she’s at the Agora for the summer making pizzas in the new wood-fired pizza oven.
“We were talking about doing collaborations with my wines and its vegetable menu. Then other people at the table started talking about where you could get a nice glass of wine and we looked at the barn and the end of the old driveway and thought, “we could put a room tasting right there,” and Larry overheard the conversation and we all started talking about how to make it work,” Deem said.
Besides being a place where you can bring your food and drinks from other restaurants, the Agora could also be a place to buy Wild Mountain Cellars wine. The location also has easy access to the Eagle River where there are rest areas along the banks.
“One of the good things about Minturn is we have an open container law and with Governor Polis allowing people to order drinks to go for the next four years you can get your drink and have it opened and get off and then enjoy spirits from any establishment you want,” Stone said.
The next day, Deem set things in motion by preparing the paperwork to turn this 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 also allows him to sell the wines of other Colorado wineries.
“I do reds and I do a rose, I have five different varietals and five or six blends, so then I’ll have about 12 of my own wines and I’ll pour some bottles on certain nights. I also want to get my hands on my fellow winemakers and bring their white wines here too,” Deem said.
Pair this wine with a slice of pizza from the specialty wood-fired pizza oven Stone purchased 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 a lot of time to do anything The aromas are amazing as well. We use peach wood and cherry wood from the west slope and it stimulates everyone’s senses,” Ridout said.
In addition to wood-fired pizza, Ridout’s menu is fresh and healthy. They also serve breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.
“I strive to go 100% non-GMO and organic whenever we get the chance, and we’ve just been positively surprised with everyone’s reactions,” Ridout said.
Everything on the menu is plant-based, but Ridout doesn’t let that take center stage.
“Putting it into a vegan or plant-based category beforehand can give a different connotation to the customer experience. I just want them to try the food, like the food and then tell me about it. I’ll even say, ‘if you don’t like it, I’ll buy it’ and not once did anyone tell me they didn’t like it,” Ridout said.
Rounding out the Agora team is Rob Kelly-Goss, a friend of Stone’s since he was 15 in Little Rock Arkansas. The duo came to the Vail Valley in 1988 and stayed for the 1989 Alpine Skiing World Championships and Stone never left.
“Larry called me and asked if I wanted to help out at Agora and I didn’t blink,” Kelly-Goss said.
Kelly-Goss is the artist-in-residence and in addition to the artwork he does for Agora’s marketing materials and art projects, he helps where he can.
“I’m kind of the front guy who completes the team,” he said.
Kelly-Goss did all the artwork on the sign when you enter the Agora that lets you know about all the other restaurants in town, and there are QR codes for you to order and bring your food and drinks at Agora if you want something different than Slapped Woodfired Pizza or Wild Mountain Cellars wine.
“I felt like the Agora really provided an opportunity for us to come together and be good stewards of our environment and our community,” said Stone, who has been part of the Minturn business community since. 1989. He and Rohr own the Scarab in downtown Mintourne.
“There’s nothing like it in all of Eagle County,” Stone said.