Mutiny Information Cafe Revolts Against Digital Formats in Baker

Jim Norris, Matt Megyesi and Joe Ramirez have turned Jack Jensen's old Mutiny Now! bookstore in Baker into Mutiny Information Cafe, a 24-hour spot that's a used bookstore -- and much more.
By any measure, 126,000 books is a lot of books. That's Matt Megyesi's estimate of the total number of tomes at Mutiny Information Cafe in Baker.
Located at 2 S. Broadway, Mutiny has been a bookstore for over 25 years, says Jim Norris, a longtime fixture in Denver's music scene and one of the owners of 3 Kings Tavern down the block from Mutiny. It was Ichabod's for some of the 1980s and most of the 1990s, closed after police caught onto, yes, a stolen book ring in 1999. Jack Jensen took over and christened it Mutiny Now! after that debacle.
In the seven and a half years since 3 Kings opened, Norris says he would pay Jensen regular visits to inquire about buying the place. Jensen's negatives turned affirmative last December and Norris got serious about going into the used book business. He teamed with Joe Ramirez, a local soundman and musician who's worked for Norris at several venues, and Megyesi, an artist and graphic designer with whom Norris published indie zine The in the early 1990s.
Back in those halcyon days of photocopied zines, Megyesi and Norris first discussed opening a bookstore together. When Jensen changed his tune on selling Mutiny 20 years later, they revisited the dream, and Ramirez sensed a great opportunity and came aboard as Mutiny's third partner.
"You have to be patient and wait for the right situation and the right opportunity," says Ramirez. "How could we say no? There was so much potential and such an amazing location."
The trio negotiated a deal to buy the business from Jensen and took over on Feb. 1, 2013. The first three months of business has soared past initial projections, and the first employee came aboard in May. 
Outdoing expectationsMutiny Information Cafe at Ellsworth Avenue and Broadway.
"I'm just blown away," says Norris of his first three months at Mutiny. "We had a number we wanted to hit every day, and we're beating it."
Jensen had operated Mutiny as a solo operation, and there's only so much one person can do. Three proprietors created entirely different opportunities. 
It follows that Ramirez, Norris and Megyesi have been keeping Mutiny's doors open 24 hours a day, or close to it, and hosting such events as crocheting get-togethers, poetry readings and musical performances. The coffee bar has been revamped, and the new proprietors have moved into comic books and used records.
"Extended hours has made a big difference," says Megyesi, noting that Jensen kept hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week.
"It's starting to get overwhelming," echoes Ramirez. "We're open all of the time -- there's somebody here all of the time. I don't know what goes on at night. I'm the morning guy."
Breathing new life into "dead formats"
The digital revolution was supposed to push the printed page the way of the dodo. But that's a tall order: More than 100 million different books have gone to press in the history of publishing, so there's a huge amount of analog inventory out there. And it doesn't take much prodding to get people to come in with a box of used books to sell.
Or used records. Jensen didn't focus on vinyl, but Ramirez, Megyesi and Norris have been buying and selling it at a fever pitch in recent weeks as serious collectors have started bringing in rarities and relics. They've even launched a boutique in-house record label.
"We're dealing in dead formats and people are loving it," says Norris. "Especially in this neighborhood, people just eat it up."
For the record, Megyesi says Dune by Frank Herbert is the most common used book in Mutiny's orbit, and Jack Kerouac's On the Road is the most requested.
A work by former owner Jack Jensen hangs on Mutiny's wall.Keeping Baker weird
A decade ago, Baker's main business district was home to five bookstores. Now there are three, as gentrification has raised rents and the Kindle has cut into paper book sales. Norris sees Mutiny and its peers as integral to the character of Baker, but there's a tricky balance. 
"In the seven and a half years 3 Kings has been opened, Baker has exploded," he says, noting that property values have essentially doubled since 2009. "It's grown into something exceptional."
Amidst this ongoing urban transformation, Norris says the neighborhood needs to maintain its edge to remain true to its roots, and that means used bookstores, leather shops, greasy spoons and funky boutiques -- Baker wouldn't be Baker without the warts-and-all feel of Broadway.
He says that there's a sense of community that helps keep Broadway weird in Baker. Jensen "turned down $500,000 offers" for Mutiny, he notes. "He didn't want it to go to the wrong people."
While Megyesi says he wants to continue to foster Mutiny as a gathering place community forum, he also sees the written word and the printed page as Mutiny's focal points. "What I like about it is it is a bookstore, and everybody likes books," he says. "They travel, and they want a book. They go to the park, and they want a book."
"It's going to be a bookstore forever and ever," says Megyesi of Mutiny's future. "It's just got that energy."

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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