Jamestown's Merc is not to be missed.
Climbing into the snowy mountains Saturday night, it was hard to tell where the earth ended and the sky began. Everything was covered in a thick white mist. After leaving rainy Boulder behind, fat flakes fell as our altitude increased. On the winding canyon road to Jamestown, we could see where parts of the mountain washed away during the 2013 flood; where a bridge fell. It’s been well over a year since the flood, but the work needed to bring this canyon back to life is evident. Guardrails are missing in what feel like necessary parts of the route and some of the neon orange road signs make me wonder if it’s safe to continue on. But we do. And it’s well worth it.
Jamestown is a tiny mountain community of a few hundred people. The houses dot along the roadway into town and amongst the cliffs above. It’s quiet when we step onto Main Street. It’s snowing pretty hard. The smell of burning firewood covers us and the warm lights of the Jamestown Mercantile Co. Cafe beckon us inside. The Merc, as it’s affectionately known, has a general-store-home-cooked-meal feel from the moment you walk in. The floors and furniture are wooden; the interior is painted red and cream. There is awesome artwork everywhere, lamps with fringe adorn the ceiling, and various low-colored lights lend groovy vibes. In the corner near the big front window, the band sets up to play. Families trickle in and out for the dinner rush; a tasty veggie pesto lasagna special tonight. Children run back and forth between the tables. Everyone knows each other here and I love that about these smaller mountain towns.
Joe behind the bar serves me Julien’s Cliffhouse Kombucha on tap. It’s made in a pink and turquoise house on the cliff across the street and it’s amazing. If every bar had this kombucha on tap, I’d never drink a beer. Sipping in the corner, I notice the fringe-lamp lights dim around 8:00pm and the three-piece band I rode up with begins their set. The acoustics are good- The Merc has a PA and the length of the room allows for a solid sound.
The band starts with a few slow songs and then moves into some dancy, rockin’ beats. One of the locals, Matteo, asks me to dance. I noticed Matteo earlier because during the slow songs, he was stretching and contorting himself into yoga poses on the empty dance floor preparing for what I guess is now our time to bust a move. Soon we’re stomping around on the hardwood floor and collecting other people to dance with us. There are gray-haired couples twirling each other and everyone is smiling and approachable. Local or not, you feel welcomed here.
Back near the bar, I meet regular Pat Brophy and ask him about this place. He tells me bands either fall in love with The Merc or they never come back. There is no in between. He says The Merc is “eclectic” and that the culture of Jamestown, although changed from his first days in the 60s, is still different than anywhere else he’s been. He tells me of afterparties up the hill that dwindle into morning and that there is no better place to stare at the stars than Jamestown.
“But don’t write too much!” he says. “We want to keep this place a bit of a secret. It’s where we have to go around here.”
As the band's set comes to a close (there’s a 10 o’clock curfew on Saturdays), people wander over to the tip jar before making their way to the door. The crowd here is so appreciative of the groups who make the canyon drive to play and the band seems equally grateful to escape their regular Boulder gigs for a taste of this place.
Eventually, we load the gear up for the descent back into Boulder. Matteo waves goodbye; an older couple smiles holding hands as they walk home. The snow has stopped and the white blanket of mist is gone. I gaze upward. Above the pink cliffhouse, the stars look like banded agates glimmering against the granite backdrop of the clear night sky. It makes me pause and stare.
Pat was right.
Though in its recovery, Jamestown still needs donations and volunteers for flood relief. Please help their lovely community here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.