Ian Lee wanted to do more than just sell gin — he wanted a place that created a special kind of atmosphere. Just a few years later, there’s nearly always a wait to get into Brooklyn’s on Boulder, which acts as the tasting room for Lee Spirits Co.
Lee started the company with his cousin, Nick Lee, in 2013. The business sells to stores and restaurants across the state. The cousins’ gin empire continues to grow — according to Lee, the company will expand to four states in the coming years.
Lee credits the success of Brooklyn’s and Lee Spirits to his work with other business owners like Yemi Mobolade, co-owner of Wild Goose Meeting House.
“Collaboration is an important aspect of every business; it’s difficult to find success when you can’t play with others,” he said.
The Wild Goose and Lee Spirits Co. help each other succeed, said Mobolade.
“We take care of food for Ian’s business,” he said. “We both have a passion for the city’s growth.”
And that’s where Brooklyn’s on Boulder comes in. The tasting room is modeled after a Prohibition-era speakeasy, and was the first high-end cocktail lounge downtown before Brooklyn’s opened, Lee said.
“It gave business a new spike,” he said. “It made downtown a full-on destination spot. You can spend your entire evening there.”
Lee’s enthusiasm for Colorado Springs makes him the ideal nominee for this award, said Mobolade.
“That’s who Ian is; he loves his city, and he’s great with his own business,” he said. “Ian is deeply invested in this city. For me, this award is long overdue. Someone of his caliber should’ve had this by now. He’s a leader, and he’s not just doing this because of the accolades.”
In addition to running Lee Spirits, he is also involved in several community organizations.
He’s been a member of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs since 2015, a mentor for Connecting Things COS and Leadership Pikes Peak, a speaker for Ignite COS at UCCS and a board member of Peak Startup.
For Lee, attracting young professionals to the downtown area is an important part of his mission.
“As we keep the younger sector here, we need to keep the urban center,” he said. “It’s important that we keep this; Lee Spirits has functioned as a catalyst,” he said.
Lee’s involvement in Peak Startup has also given young professionals a place to thrive, take risks — and to fail.
“Experiencing failure as part of building a new business is important for a young entrepreneur’s development,” he said. “We started Startup Colorado Springs (now Peak Startup) with the sole intention of creating a place to encourage and build a community to take risks and fail.”