Mitchell Roth spent years living in Spanish Harlem while attending college in New York and watched worlds collided as the storied neighborhood underwent gentrification.
Though it’s now the new hip borough for NYC millennials, the transformation of East Harlem did little to eradicate all vestiges of what the neighborhood once was. Now, upscale coffee shops and bistros are sandwiched between age-old bodegas and markets — forcing an integration of business life and the locals who live it.
“I loved it there,” he said. “I knew I wanted that when I moved back to Colorado.”
It was experiences such as those that led Mitchell and his father JW Roth to start Mountain Valley Market, a company looking to saturate the Colorado Springs market with high-end, yet affordable, food options in a communal environment akin to the markets and bodegas of Mitchell’s younger years.
“We’re excited to launch into the Colorado Springs market,” Mitchell said. “I think our best years are ahead of us.”
But even before that, the Roth family had found success in the food industry.
JW Roth started his food-business foray as a major shareholder in the Evans-based meat processing company Innovative Foods and made a considerable amount of money in a buyout. Looking to invest in a unique concept, he founded Southern Concepts Restaurant Group in 2011 and opened three Colorado restaurants, including Bourbon Brothers in Colorado Springs — with Mitchell as president and CEO — but he kept a watchful eye on the food production market.
“As soon as his non-compete [agreement] expired, he wanted to get back into the food manufacturing business,” Mitchell said. “We really looked at the market and tried to understand where it was headed. Prepared foods are the fastest growing segment of grocery … and there are a lot of food startups looking to disrupt that industry.”
So, in November 2015, the father-son team founded Mountain Valley Market and started a capital campaign — using much of their own money — with hopes to hit the ground running.
“We felt like we would be able to grow the business very quickly if we did it right,” Mitchell said.
Since then, CEO JW and President Mitchell have hired a nine-person corporate team and have leased real estate for a large manufacturing facility and multiple retail operations in Colorado Springs.
The epicenter of Mountain Valley’s operations is in the Biblica building at 1830 Jet Stream Drive, where Mitchell said the company is drawing close to completing a 20,000-square-foot production facility focusing on manufacturing a line of healthy prepared foods and grocery items.
“It will probably be one of the most state-of-the-art plants in the state,” Mitchell said. “It’s a food production facility, so we’ll be co-packing … and we’ll be producing all of our own grab-and-go products under the Roth Premium Foods label.”
Mitchell expects the plant to be up and running by the end of February. The company has also leased space in the Lincoln Center at 2727 N. Cascade Ave. and the Wells Fargo Tower at 50 S. Cascade Ave. — as well as counter space in the lobby of the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department — where they plan to create urban, neighborhood markets that offer everything from coffee and pastries to paninis and parfaits.
“We love the Old North End and think it’s a very under-served Colorado Springs neighborhood,” Roth said in reference to the Lincoln Center store, which he expects to open before Spring. “It kind of feels like the Colorado Springs version of Wash Park in Denver. We just don’t have the retail presence and a lot of the eating establishments.”
Mitchell said he expects Mountain Valley Market to employ 45 employees at its plant in north Colorado Springs and another five or six at each store location.
One of those employees, Mitchell said, is a culinary mastermind.
In March, the company hired accomplished chef Christopher Graham as culinary director. Graham — who has overseen the development of products for Whole Foods, Costco and Udi’s — will oversee product development for Mountain Valley Market’s plant as well as its retail operations, according to Roth.
Although the company has yet to build out their new concept, Mountain Valley Market has already entered the market with a series of automated kiosks located in the Denver Tech Center. The kiosks offer products including Noosa Australian-style yogurt, Naked Juice, salads and sandwiches from Etai’s Bakery Cafe in Denver, Mame’s Burritos (also Denver-based) and macaroni and cheese from Oregon-based Reser’s Fine Foods. Mitchell said the company will continue to offer those products until scaling up the production of its own food items.
“It’s a pretty cool concept,” said Mark Useman, the Colorado Springs Commercial (Cushman & Wakefield) broker who represented Mountain Valley Market in the lease of 1,385 square feet of retail space in the Palmer Center. “The plan is to expand them to other high-density office buildings in the Colorado Springs area — up and down the Front Range.”