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Brown Shuga's

An unlikely café in south downtown turns 1

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If you haven't heard about Shuga's, it's because you haven't heard about Shuga's. Hidden away deep in south downtown in a quaint little hut that used to be a corner store, Shuga's has defied the "location, location, location" rule of business and thrived almost entirely on word of mouth. And here's the word: great coffee, food and drinks in a hip, loungey, smoke-free environment.

Alexius Weston is Shuga's. Like so many Springs residents, Weston was a military brat who wound up here for her last two years of high school, then moved to Seattle shortly after graduation. A decade later she came back to the Springs to be near family.

"I ended up back in Colorado after living in the Northwest for 12 years, and there was a niche to fill," said Weston. "There was just nowhere I really wanted to go out, so I wanted to make a space where anyone could come and enjoy themselves."

With her much-touted spicy shrimp soup and eclectic afternoon menu, Weston has been able to court a devoted lunch crowd looking for alternatives to the usual downtown fare. The fact that it's slightly out of the way hasn't mattered much, Weston said, because the quiet neighborhood has ample parking and many business people enjoy the walk.

At night, Shuga's becomes a magnet for people from all over the city looking for something to do. Though Shuga's offers a full bar, it's smoke-free with no televisions. Instead, Weston has tried to offer a steady variety of events throughout the week.

Tuesday nights Weston rolls out a slide projector and patrons are welcome to load up their slides and project them onto the wall at the back of the room.

Wednesday nights she has recently introduced "Vespas and Dusty 45's," a retro night where "Quadropheniac" modsters can spin their vinyl collections.

Thursday nights Shuga's hosts live music -- everything from punk to blues.

And Saturdays have typically been a DJ night, though Weston says she may scale it back.

While it may seem particularly surprising that such an oddball caf has made a go of it in a town often resistant to anything beyond the traditional bar-and-grill formula, Weston said she did her homework.

"I'm just trying to create unusual and different things to do here. That's all."

The birthday bash on Friday will be a cocktail party with slides on the wall, DJs, lots of Shuga's underwear and T-shirts for sale, and birthday cake all day long.

-- Noel Black

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