Some new businesses are opening in downtown Colorado Springs in the coming weeks. They range from shoe salons to chocolate shops to book stores, all trying to find a niche in the downtown area.

Podiatryst Shoe Salon has already opened its doors. Owner Alex Laszar just moved the business from its location in Old Colorado City to 113 North Tejon St. His goal is to “open up a broader range of shoe merchandise to the Colorado Springs area, both in style and size.” He carries women’s sizes 5-16 and men’s sizes 4-14. You can find shoes in goth, punk rock, rockabilly, pinup (40s and 50s), bridal, pageantry, exotic dancer, and costume (cosplay, renaissance, and superhero) styles. He also tries to cater to students, with a 10 percent discount Monday-Saturday and a 20 percent off “Student Sunday.”

His reasons for the change in scenery?

“I was in Old Colorado City which is more conservative and didn’t have the liveliness of downtown,” said Laszar. “It also wasn’t close to students.”

Red Gravy, a modern Italian restaurant, has also opened. Owner and executive chef Eric Brenner relocated from St. Louis, where he and his restaurants won numerous awards, to 23 South Tejon St. Brenner’s claim to fame also includes winning Guy Fieri’s Food Network Competition “Guy’s Grocery Games” with his tomato bisque, something he continues to serve at Red Gravy.

Brenner says that while doing research he noticed a lack of Italian restaurants in the area and decided he could fill that void. He describes “modern Italian” food as “taking a favorite Italian dish and trying to give fresh and new twists on classics,” as well as serving cocktails and local beers along with traditional Italian wines.

A new Japanese and Korean restaurant has also come to town. Bento Heaven, located at 107 North Tejon St., serves sushi and Korean barbecue. It is owned by Alex Lee and managed by his father, Sam Lee, who says the food is made in traditional Japanese and Korean styles.

Hooked on Books is set to open its second Colorado Springs location on April 1. This bookstore also offers writing workshops, poetry readings, and book signings, many of which take place around their locally famous “Big Table,” which they will be bringing with them to the new location.

Also new to Tejon is Cacao Chemistry, a local chocolate shop owned by Travis Ashing, a computer engineer in charge of managerial tasks, and Sam Lang, the main chef. Lang has a history in pastry cooking and studied at the Johnson and Wales School of Culinary Arts. Cacao Chemistry’s first location opened in May of 2015 on the east side of town and their new location, at 109 North Tejon St., opened on Valentine’s Day. According to Lang, Cacao Chemistry “specializes in all things chocolate,” but is founded on the theory that “all flavors that pair well together share similar chemical properties,” which determines how they come up with flavors.

Cacao Chemistry specializes in handmade truffles, but serves other pastries as well. Their signature product is the Cherry Cordial, made from smoked, candied cherries and Stranahan’s Whiskey. Lang says what separates Cacao Chemistry from other chocolate businesses is that “all of our products are handmade, which makes a difference, and we only use a high quality French chocolate called Valrhona.”

Spring is less than a month away and shorts weather is already here. It’s a perfect time for some urban exploring and a great chance to look into the new businesses downtown.

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