New coffeehouse, museum reflect Orthodox Church

       The Saints Constantine & Helen Orthodox Church has been a place of worship on North Chestnut Street since the mid-1970s. This year, influences of the Eastern Christian religion can also be found in two new businesses on West Colorado Avenue. An Agia Sophia patron makes use of the upstairs reading
room in the coffeehouse, which is located in the renovated,
1880-built Colorado City city hall.
Westside Pioneer photo
       These are Agia Sophia, a coffee shop/bookstore in the historic building that once housed Colorado City's City Hall; and the Museum of Orthodoxy, a grouping of secular and religious artifacts - chiefly from the Byzantine and Russian empires - dating back to the first century.
       Unlike Agia Sophia, which came out of a church-appointed committee, the museum was the solo work of one of its members, Timothy Buchanan, a retired Longmont air traffic controller who has been collecting diverse Orthodox-related items for the past 10 years.
       “I have an abiding interest in history,” he said. He chose the Colorado Springs Westside for his museum based on a belief that it is particularly open to new ideas and knowledge.
       Items include crosses, icons, pilgrim tokens, money, medals, maps, paintings and texts. Several relics address Soviet Russia's persecution of religion through most of the 20th century. Objects range from the first gold coin with the imprint of Jesus to a 10-million ruble note from the 1920s when USSR dictator Josef Stalin was trying to inflate money out of existence.
       The museum's access gives the feel of entering a place of tucked-away obscurities. The museum is in the basement of the Old Town Plaza at 2501 W. Colorado Ave. (take the entrance next to the Book Sleuth; go down the stairs; turn right and walk down the passage until you see a door with a sign on it).
       Once inside, visitors paying $5 a person ($3 for ages 12-17) receive a tour led by Buchanan, who welcomes questions on any of the artifacts and the political/cultural historical periods they reflect. A typical tour lasts about an hour, he said.
       The museum is open Sunday and Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The phone is 635-1390.
       Originally, the church had considered a smaller, more urbanized location for Agia Sophia than the two-story City Hall building at 2902 W. Colorado Ave. But Matt and Chris Kennedy and Don Ratzlaff - relatives and partners in a photography business - took a liking to the 1880 structure that architect James Dodgen had restored in the late 1980s.
       They bought the building, which has space for their photography studio as well as the coffeehouse that is run through the church. Upstairs, Agia Sophia offers quiet areas for conversation, reading or laptop computers. The interior throughout has the lush style a person might only expect in a private club.
       “It was difficult to find a place that worked, but this was a perfect fit,” said Ratzlaff, who is Chris Kennedy's father and Matt Kennedy's father-in-law. “We couldn't have found a better building. And we're glad to be off the beaten path a little bit because it's easier for customers to find parking.”
       The menu features an array of regular and specialty coffee drinks, as well as smoothies and desserts.
       The book selection came about when they asked an Orthodox faith book-seller they knew in Wichita, Kan., to suggest the best 1,000 books he knew. Admittedly, the list includes a number of publications about the Orthodox Church, but readers will also find authors in a variety of genres.
       “We're trying to create a nice, relaxing place, not only for the Orthodox Church but for the general public,” Ratzlaff explained.
       The business is open daily.

Westside Pioneer article