Mutiny Information Cafe Looks Back to the Future

The Baker bookstore has expanded its offerings, hosted live music and promoted the local community. Now its founders are going back to their zine roots and launching an indie press.
Mutiny Information Cafe continues to mutate under the ownership of longtime Denverites and friends Jim Norris and Matt Megyesi. They bought the used bookstore from Denver artist and legend Jack Jensen in 2013 with partner Joe Ramirez, who has since left the business.

Mutiny is no longer just a collector of old media like books and records -- it's becoming a catalyst of and contributor to local culture, catering to all ages with arts, music, spoken word, meetings and even madcap, physics-based magic shows. Norris and Megyesi's latest endeavor is Mutiny Information Press, which kicked off with their first book, Mutiny Info Reader, a collection of stories and poetry by local authors.

But the seeds for Mutiny were planted decades ago. "We were doing the zine, The, back then," Norris says. The pair dreamed of someday owning a coffee shop or bookstore.

They were also hobbyist hobos, taking part of a unique counterculture with its own language and art, to travel and visit friends via the forgotten America of the rails. "I did it the first time right after I graduated college when I met a guy at a party," says Norris. "He told me he hopped trains and I told him I'd love to do it, so he took me on. I went out with him and did love it."

Soon Megyesi joined him hopping freight trains across the West. After that, they both went on to other careers: Norris worked in Denver's music scene and eventually became a co-owner of 3 Kings Tavern, a position he left. Megyesi also works as a graphic designer. They've incorporated those passions as well, expanding the store's comic book and record collections.

Still, "The zine thing is where it came out of," Norris says. "When we were doing zines, we worked in coffee shops, the places you dropped zines at were coffee shops or record stores or bookstores. We wanted to put it all in one spot. Even then, I don't think we could dream as big as what it's turned out to be now. It took us the last 20 years of doing what we did just to end up where we are."

More than booksMutiny Information Cafe founders Jim Norris (right) and Matt Megyesi.

At its heart, Mutiny is still a used bookstore that's seen some amazing things come into its collection. "We had Iron Man #2 come in here, we've got New Mutants #98, which is the first appearance of Deadpool," Megyesi explains. "We had the first appearance of Wolverine come through. It's not just the comic books that have come through have been fantastic. We have a copy of Junkie that's been autographed by William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.
We've had copies of Allen Ginsberg poetry books signed by him."

But Mutiny has grown beyond a collection of books with coffee."We're a community-based business," says Norris. "We have a vision of what the neighborhood should be."

"Shop owners come into our store and have meetings with employees or vendors and they come here to meet and talk with people," Megyesi adds. The store also hosts comedy shows, monthly author meetings, magic shows, punk shows and artisan fairs.

Since 2014, they've also held the Mile High Parley, a free event during the annual Underground Music Showcase. "When we first started the Parley, it reminded me of Monty Python's Flying Circus, when they all dress up as pirates and take over the other place," Megyesi says. "That's how I felt about Parley versus UMS. We enjoy the fact that they're bringing music to the neighborhood and everything. We just wanted to take a little bit of time away from everybody and have a little party over here and show off some of the local talent that a lot of people wouldn't be able to see because they're off watching another show or another bar."

"The all-ages thing is super important, so kids can come see something amazing," says Norris.

A backlash to technologyMutiny has expanded its offerings, hosted concerts and promoted community.

As Mutiny has grown, Megyesi and Norris have also redesigned it to meet the community's needs. At first, they had events in the front in the windows. "Since then, we've moved stuff back where we're not making noise pollution for our neighbors, says Megyesi. "You can get coffee, and if you're not into the first band, you're more likely to stick around, hang out out front, then come around for the second band, so people stick around longer."

They're also launching the aforementioned Mutiny Information Press. "We'd like to take public-domain books like Jules Verne or Mary Shelley and get a local artist to do a cover for it, print out a bunch of them and offer them up to schools," says Megyesi.

"So they can get a cheap, locally printed version of Cyrano de Bergerac illustrated by a local artist," Norris adds.

It's also a marketing ploy. "We drop them off at school, the kids see it's from Mutiny, they start coming down here, they see the comic books and books, and see it's a cool, safe place for them to hang out," explains Megyesi.

The new press also is a chance to bring that zine dream back to the forefront. "We just got the copy machine to start pushing that stuff more," Norris says.

"Zines are coming back," says Norris. "I think it's a backlash to technology. Same with the vinyl and books. When you spend 45 to 50 hours a week on a computer, it's exhausting. When you're done, do you want to sit and hit play on your computer and listen to music or do you want to look at your Kindle, for god's sake, with no soul or flavor to it? Zines are local, they're locally produced, they reflect the local art community. They're tactile, real. People want that -- especially literate people." 

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.

Read more articles by Chris Meehan.

Chris is a Denver-based freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. He covers sustainability, social issues and other topics.
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