The spirit of a building is something only truly understood by discovering the memories and lives within its walls. “When we revitalized Tom’s Tavern, our goal was to respect the legacy of Tom’s, the authenticity of the building,” says Carol Vilate, Designer, who spent months renovating SALT. Tom was a pioneer of Pearl Street and the community of Boulder holds a lot of memories inside those walls. As we embark next door, we again are privileged to step into the history of Boulder and the story of Pearl Street Mall.
I met Marie and Richard Snyder, Owners of 1043 Pearl St, at their home in Erie, Co to hear the story behind the building of our new seafood restaurant. The Snyders are some of the last private owners to own property on the mall since the 1940s. 1043 has been in the Snyder family for close to 75 years.
A time when homecoming was the biggest event in town. Everyone in town lined the streets to cheer for band parades, horse drawn carriages were standard modes of transportation, and wooden hand painted advertisements hung on the sides of brick buildings. “In 1940, Pearl Street was one of the only business sections of Boulder,” said Richard Snyder. “They called it ‘art deco’ after the advertisement was built,” he said shaking his head with a smile referring to the glass paneled sign out front. Pittsburgh Plate Glass put the Saunders Glass and Paint Co display up as an advertisement for their products. When Roger Berardi, of Juanita’s, petitioned to remodel the front of the building in 2010 the historic committee and long time residents of Boulder strongly opposed.
The Daily Camera called it a “historic conundrum”. The historic committee argued that the design of the building was art deco and deserved preservation.“It was not an architectural statement, it was simply a product display,” Marie Snyder explained.
Long time Boulder residents strongly opposed the remodel in honor of the memories they shared at Juanita’s; sitting at their favorite table and walking into the unique front entrance. Richard showed me the glass block saved from the display they built into the shower of their front bathroom in their Erie home and the big yellow circle they still use as a tabletop in their basement.
As a Boulder native myself, I was excited to hear his stories of what Boulder was like in the 40s; especially since we both shared the experience of a having a family business on Pearl Street. He painted a very different picture than what the West End holds today.
Richard Snyder’s grandfather, Carmon C. Saunders, started Saunders Glass and Paint Co. in 1920. In 1938, Richard’s grandparents were in a car accident and Richard’s grandfather was killed. His grandmother was seriously injured so Richard’s parents, Gerald and Hazel Snyder, moved to Boulder to care for her and run the paint shop on Pearl Street when Richard was just three months old. “My parents didn’t know a thing about running a paint shop and it was stretch to get it open but, we did it,” Richard said. Pittsburgh Glass and Paint Co. was instrumental in getting them established after Carmon’s death and remodeled the outside of the building, from the original design of the open windows in the late 1800s (as it currently looks today), as a display for their products.
“I can still remember sitting in the front window and watching the coal trucks make their deliveries down the west end of pearl. Every business had an iron gate with a lid they would open to dump the coal into the basement furnace.” Later, it became so dangerous for them to even go down into the basement because there were open flames. “Open flames!” We all laughed at the absurdity. “We just stopped going down there,” Richard said.
“Tom (Tom Eldridge of Tom’s Tavern) put on the cinder block addition in the back of his building which he turned into his laundromat for a number of years. When I needed some money, or his kids needed some money, we would go to the laundromat and get quarters. Tom did a lot of that,” he remembers fondly.
“There was the tavern (Tom’s Tavern), the plumbing shop, grocery store, the Arnett Hotel, a little sandwich shop, part store, and Crouch Motors on our block,” Richard recalls, “you could rent it (Hotel Arnett) out by the day or by the month.” The hotel occupied the block between what it is now Pasta Jays and The Kitchen.
According to the Historic Preservation Committee, the commercial block comprising 1043-47 Pearl St. was constructed prior to 1883 and is considered part of the Downtown Historic District. Little historic information is available about the building and early tenants. However, by 1883 the main floor of the building consisted of two equally-sized spaces split by a (still existing) staircase providing access to the upper story. At that time it was known to be used as a skating rink. It then functioned as plumbing store from 1890 until 1922. An ornate onion shaped (possibly glass) awning was installed. The existence of such an ornate entrance over a plumbing shop was unusual for that time and place. Vilate gasped when she saw it, “I wonder if we could bring that back!”
In the 70’s, the Snyder’s had plans to remodel the paint shop display, but there were rumors about a Pearl Street Mall. The Mall became a reality and property owners on and around Pearl St. were required to pay for an assessment to cover the costs of building. “The Mall was the beginning of the end of our type of business. The building was designed for service businesses and the Mall made it difficult for our types of businesses to survive. Not everyone wanted the Mall. It hurt our business because we weren’t a walk-by type of business,” Richard said.
“When we finally decided to close down, we tried to sell, but it was a family business and the personalities were in the walls,” Richard said, “and his 76-year-old mother was working there six days a week,” Marie chimed in. I couldn’t help but flashback to my own 75 year old grandmother climbing a 9 ft. ladder to make the final paint touches on the wall of SALT. Safe to say, I know exactly what they meant.
Richard’s family ran Saunders Glass and Paint from 1940 – 1982. Richard came back every summer and eventually worked full time at the shop with his brother all his life. In December of 1982, Saunders Glass and Paint closed after 60 years of doing business on Pearl St. and passed the torch to Juanita’s.
Even though Pearl Street came at a high cost for local businesses, the Snyder’s say, they welcome the change, “We are excited for Boulder.” “Along with the open space, that mall was really the start of Boulder,” Marie said fondly, “it has evolved into more of a destination point, it attracts tourists and it just attracts types of businesses where people want to eat. Everyone was excited to get a new restaurant on Pearl Street. There were no restaurants west of Tom’s at that time.”
Little did they know Boulder would take the award for the Foodiest Town in America by Bon Appétite in 2010. They were right about one thing: Pearl Street Mall became a serious destination for culinary enthusiasts.
“We know a lot of ‘Boulder bashers’,” the Snyder’s say about other longtime residents who have opposed the growth on Pearl Street, “but Boulder has been good to us.”
Vilate won the Historic Preservation Award for her efforts in restoring 1047 Pearl, Tom’s Tavern. SALT is the first restaurant to have won the Historic Preservation Award in Boulder. The Snyder’s also won the historic award for their restoration to the front of Juanita’s in 2010; restoring it to the original design of the late 1800s.
When we built SALT, Vilate left the windows open during construction to hear the stories of this community and their connection to Tom’s Tavern. “We are thrilled to honor and revitalize 1043 too,” Vilate says. Vilate has plans to use the glass from Saunders Glass and Paint display possibly in the bar downstairs and is dreaming of a way to recreate the ornate awning.
As I listened to the Snyder’s story, I remembered my own late nights spent in the restaurants opening SALT and working hot summer days in the garden at Colterra. My sister and I have worked every position in the restaurant since we had Chautauqua Dining Hall — for the past fifteen years. Bradford and Carol’s ten year old twins are becoming quite the farmers too. Colter Heap, is quickly becoming an expert in mushroom hunting with his dad. He aspires to be a chef like him one day.
Buildings hold generations of stories. As we step into our new home at 1043 Pearl, we remember the Snyder family who once opened their parent’s dream of a paint shop on Pearl Street and look forward to continuing our family’s dream in the same place. As Boulder continues to grow, as we step into this adventure, the building connects us to the spirit of the skating rink, the plumbing shop, the Snyders, and to long time Juanita’s regulars. We are in the business of creating memories around great food and we are inspired to continue our story in this building. “We are looking forward to having the Heap family occupy the building. We know they will take care of it,” says Richard and Marie.
“We are excited to move into the space. It’s been my dream to have a restaurant on Pearl Street Mall and that dream has come true for our family with SALT and now next door. In a town I was born and raised in, it’s perfect.” – Bradford Heap.
— Daughter of Bradford and Carol, Camille Bradbury is a freelance writer born and raised in Boulder, Co. She enjoys the occasional bingo match and early tee time on a Colorado golf course.