Duke’s Good Sandwiches and Scratch Family Bakery brings a little New York and Italian to Wilton Street

Where can Denverite and East Coast expats go to find an establishment that serves hot sandwiches like hot dogs, peppers and fresh mums or a twist on the infamous chopped cheese?

Five points of course.

On Wilton Street, between 27th and 28th Streets, near some other New York-inspired restaurants, is Duke’s Good Sandwiches, a recently opened venue in the strip run by Five Points residents Michael and Dan Sawyer.

They don’t just have sandwiches. Duke’s is located at 2748 Wilton Street in the rear. Up front, the couple also operates Scratch Family Bakery and Market. They have the regular goods: cookies, brownies, something for vegans, something for gluten-free people as well as Italian favorites, like biscottis and cannolis.

Kevin J. Petty / Denveret

The Sawyer moved to Five Points about six years ago, and according to Dan, the couple had considered opening a business in the neighborhood for about two years. It would be their way to indulge in an area they have grown to love. But the thought came and went, until around 2020.

Michelle Sawyer was a pediatric nurse for 28 years and later worked at Aurora Public Schools for four years. But one day she didn’t like it anymore.

“I got to a point where I can’t give 100% and that’s what you really need to work with kids. So, if I wasn’t there, I knew I needed to step back,” Michelle said.

Dan Sawyer was going through a similar phase. Worked in textile industry with digital printing equipment for 30 years. Throughout his career, Dan has traveled all over the country and his dining adventures gave him the idea for Duke’s.

Dan Sawyer makes shredded cheese at Duke's Good Sandwiches on Wilton Street in Five Points.  June 24, 2022.
Kevin J. Petty / Denveret

“I go to places like Philly’s Cheesesteak Place and Italian Roast Beef that have window service and I love those places,” Dan said. “It’s simple. They do two things and they do it really well. Looking around the neighborhood we live in, I thought it would be perfect here and Michelle called me in.”

“He comes home with crazy thoughts all the time and I say ‘No, no, no,'” Michelle added. But this time, the timing was right and I said, “Let’s do it.” So I called his cheat.”

The next time Dan comes home from a business trip, Michelle tells him she’s quit her job and that they’re going to go ahead with the sandwich shop idea.

The bakery baby Michelle.

“It’s always been in my head from the back since I was younger,” Michelle said. “I am not professionally trained. I am just a home baker… I grew up baking with my mom and grandmother. They are Italian and they taught me everything. We love good desserts and feeding people.”

Michelle Sawyer's bread-themed tattoo.  June 24, 2022.
Kevin J. Petty / Denveret

Once the idea was implemented, the couple faced some challenges to open doors.

Similar to other local businesses in Wilton, such as Melody Market, appointments with the city on permits and construction took a significant portion of the time. And in the event of a pandemic, the couple said planning officials are lacking in communication.

“We don’t have a lot of experience working with construction, permits and all that,” Michelle said. “So, I don’t know in the past what it was like, and COVID certainly didn’t help but I think the city could improve the process.”

The couple said the waiting game cost them.

Chocolates for sale at Scratch Bakery on Wilton Street in Five Points.  June 24, 2022.
Kevin J. Petty / Denveret

“We were paying rent every month that we weren’t open,” Dan said. “It looked like smaller places like us, and Melody Market was put on top.”

Denver Planning and Community Development officials said the department does not specifically track small business permits but overall, there is a backlog of permit applications.

The ministry also said it has seen an influx of permit applications. The agency is in the process of hiring more planners, implementing new ways to retain staff and changing how projects are assigned to speed review times.

“Volumes today are much higher than they were before the pandemic,” a recent CPD news release said. “While city employees continue to work through projects already on hold, new projects will take longer than usual to complete.”

About 18 months later, Duke’s and Scratch opened.

A simple duke as Dan meant. Three hot sandwiches, including ground beef, and one cold sandwich, caprese champ with a vegetarian option.

A sliced ​​cheese sandwich at Duke's Good Sandwiches on Wilton Street in Five Points.  June 24, 2022.
Kevin J. Petty / Denveret

“We try to use as many local products as possible,” Michele said. “We found a really good gluten-free bakery in town and got good, locally made vegan cheese.”

What is Duke’s main course? The Denver Chopped cheese.

“I didn’t want to do a Philly steak because the only place you can get a good Philly steak is Philly,” Dan said. Same with Chicago roast beef. So, I had to find another unique sandwich that fits here. I think this neighborhood has a New York vibe with the bagel and New York pizza place. So, I looked to see what kind of sandwiches were popular in New York.”

Brief history lesson (debatable): Cheese mince is a bodega with minced burger, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and whatever else you want. The burger is placed on the grill, sliced ​​and topped with American cheese. Then the cheese is cut with the meat. Cuts. cheese. Throw it on a roll or champ. he did. It’s something of a Harlem that has gained popularity in recent years and as with all things delicious mystery, putting people spin on it and raising the price.

A look through the service window at Duke's Good Sandwiches on Wilton Street in Five Points.  June 24, 2022.
Kevin J. Petty / Denveret

Duke makes it clear though. This is the Denver Chopped cheese. It has the basics but with pepper. Another tribute to Michele’s Italian roots.

“We thought that a combination of crunchy raw onions and a little vinegar with a bite of pepperoni would be a good addition. Something different,” said Michelle.

Dan laughed.

“We don’t want to offend New Yorkers. I’ve already had two New Yorkers tell me they’re not the same thing.”

And that’s what Duke and Scratch stand for – a homage to different experiences, cultures, and societies.

And that’s what Sawyers is looking for, to continue being a part of Five Points.

Five spots of Scratch Bakery are seen on Wilton Street.  June 24, 2022.
Kevin J. Petty / Denveret

“Larry at the auto shop and Fatima at the Wilton Street Café…not only became our neighbors, they became our friends,” Michelle said. “It’s one thing for us to start and open our business and be successful on our own but we want to see the entire community benefit from that as more businesses open. Hopefully every one of them will come, and it will spread throughout Wilton Street, the neighborhood and the community.”

Dan added, “It was my dream and I hope to be a destination…come to Five Points, get a sandwich, get a cannoli, and go to Cervantes to see a show. Go to Coffee at the Point…All I know about the restaurant business is eating places.” Which I love to dine in and interact with the people who are waiting for you…I love that close interaction with the people who have built the business and invested their lives in it and making quality products. We try to do the same.”

Dan Sawyer sits inside Scratch, the bakery attached to Duke Good sandwiches on Wilton Street in Five Points.  June 24, 2022.
Kevin J. Petty / Denveret

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