Grace Harrison has always had a knack for matching people with spaces — and for creating new spaces when the match isn’t there yet.
Growing up in Eaton, Harrison was immersed in real estate early through the family-owned Keirnes Companies, a real estate development, brokerage and management firm.
Going to meetings with her dad morphed into much more: She got her real estate license right out of high school, started working with her dad at Keirnes, and hasn’t looked back.
These days, Harrison’s LinkedIn profile lists her titles as general manager at Keirnes Companies, general manager at Peak Lifestyle Ventures, and board member at Discover Goodwill of Southern and Western Colorado. But when people ask what she does, “I usually say, ‘Oh, I own a coffee shop and roastery here in town,’” Harrison says.
“That’s kind of what feels the most like home here,” she said. “It’s a hobby — it’s a job too, but it’s really a hobby; it’s awesome.”
At 30, Harrison is launching yet another venture, this time with Colorado Collective founder and Salt+Butter Co. owner Mundi Ross. ALMAGRE is Colorado Springs’ first urban industrial venue for weddings and events, a “blank canvas” where couples can create their own style, and a cocktail bar.
It opens at the end of the month, and that’s not all Harrison has on her plate — she and husband Logan will welcome their first baby in about two months. Harrison’s planning for a few weeks of maternity leave before she jumps back into her ever-expanding whirlwind of activity.
This week, she talked with the Business Journal about her passion for hospitality, learning to take breaks, and starting young.
Apart from working in real estate, the first thing you started was Peak Place. Tell us about that.
Peak Place really grew out of a love for hospitality, a love for hosting people and inviting people into a space where all their needs are met — and I think coffee, beer and wine seems to do that really well. You make people stop and take a break. … In one of the centers that we own, it’s called Peak Lifestyle Center, we really wanted to create Peak Place as a space for our tenants and their customers to call home within the center, but then also for our greater neighborhood.
And it really has created a little neighborhood hub, which is really fun. It’ll be six years in November.
And then Hold Fast grew out of Peak Place?
When we started Peak Place we were using coffee from different providers, and as we grew, we realized that there was an opportunity for us [to roast our own coffee] — to create a business within Peak Place. Some of my really great team … really were passionate about trying to figure that out. They came up with a lot of the ideas and we were off to the races and thought, we’ll supply Peak Place and maybe some of our friends will want to use it — but it’s grown to be a lot bigger. We realized — myself and my manager of Peak Place and Hold Fast, Vinnie Snyder — that we just really love the service side. Going in [to the places where we supply coffee], you almost become like this mini business coach, not because you have it all figured out, but because we’re willing to get in the trenches with people and put together their budgets and make sure their espresso’s dialed in, and show up when they run out of coffee because they had a great week — and celebrate with them when they open their business. We’re connected with everyone from fellow coffee shop owners, to hotels and catering companies and restaurants and offices and different organizations in town.
Tell us about ALMAGRE.
I’ve teamed up with a really dear friend, Mundi Ross, so we are co-owners. ALMAGRE has two pieces: the cocktail bar and the venue. The cocktail bar will be open to the public Thursday through Saturday and the hope is to really bring an elevated experience from a hospitality standpoint and a food and beverage standpoint, to that part of town. I’ve gotten really comfortable with what that neighborhood is, so I’m really excited to keep bringing things to them. From the venue standpoint, we can do weddings for up to 150 people for a ceremony and reception, and we can do [other] events for 250ish. The idea behind that is to really give people a space that’s, to a degree, a blank canvas. We really want to serve our couples and our businesses and organizations that choose to rent out space, and make it really seamless for them.
How far back does the idea go?
I’ve always wanted to open up a wedding venue … and Mundi, unknown to me, had always wanted to do something like that. We’ve been friends for a few years and she ran into me at a coffee shop and I was crunching numbers on what it would look like to open up a venue and bar. She asked what I was doing, I told her, and her first response was, ‘Well, would you partner with me?’ And I thought, ‘I think so — but I’ve never partnered with someone before. So let me think about it.’ Because I don’t want to just say yes and have it not be the right fit. She and I clicked so well but friendships, relationships are always before business. So I thought about it a couple days, then we sat down and talked and planned. That was January — so eight months from start to finish.
What qualities help you keep all this running?
Figuring out how to work hard and play hard; getting a good balance. Some weeks it looks very different, as in there’s no playing, but when you get the lull, when the business is open and it’s thriving — take advantage of the break. That’s not like you just retire and you’re on the sidelines, but go have coffee with a friend, go on a vacation, take a breather, because when it comes back around where you have to work hard again, you’re actually rested and ready. It’s like sprints; you need to prep your body to be able to go on a really long sprint sometimes.
Right out of high school, how did you decide real estate was the path you wanted?
My family is in real estate. Since I was a little girl, I’d always want to go to meetings with my dad. I remember going to Phoenix with him for meetings and I was maybe eight years old, and he would let me have a seat at the table. And I feel like that’s a super important thing — of course for parents, but especially with a team — is if you bring people into your circle, and advocate for them and vouch for them, they end up being more successful and thriving. I was given a lot of opportunity in terms of: ‘Work your butt off. Here’s an opportunity, but you’re gonna have to work for it. If you do, you can run with it.’
Talk about the urban industrial concept — I guess not everyone in Colorado wants to get married on a mountainside?
Totally. … What I’m finding here in town is there are so many creatives, and there are so many people with great ideas that are able to execute them, or they have an idea of exactly what they want. And I think a lot of venues around, while … they do a great job and execute a great wedding, they don’t have that blank canvas feel — all of them already have a style to a degree.
Our urban industrial is white walls and concrete floors, really beautiful finishes — and that is it.
Our tables and chairs and everything has a story and we took a lot of time picking all that stuff out so that people know the care and attention that went into it, but not to the point where it can’t be transitioned for someone’s style.
You’ve been involved with Discover Goodwill for a few years?
Five years. They’re one of our tenants at the center and so I was familiar with them and their clients. Their program there is called Journeys, and they do a really awesome day program for people with special needs. And I love them. That’s how I got connected originally, and then I got connected with some of the people on the board and others that were also big fans of Goodwill.
I was asked to join the board and next year I’ll be our board chair. We’re now a statewide organization which is really exciting … .
What’s your advice for other young people with big ideas?
Put in the work to flesh out your idea to make sure it’s sound, but then just do it. And what that looks like: That doesn’t always mean that your idea looks the way that you want it to — because some ideas that are way bigger than a wedding venue take a ton of money, and so you may not have the capacity to pay for that, or you’re trying to raise money, you’re trying to figure it out — but be willing to give on what the magnitude is, to just start somewhere. You just have to jump in and start.