Updates: The Trident Café & Booksellers: Mike Smith & End of an Era?

Via elephant journal
on Mar 7, 2014
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trident cafe boulder

Photo: @waylonlewis on Instagram, today.

Update: A lot of good has come out of this hard, but open dialogue over the last 10 days. Tons of love for the Trident and Mike have come forward, and only a few people have been jerks or negative to Noah, whom we all like and hope can lead us forward.

Just had a long, open, honest, fun, friendly meeting with Mike and Noah and three fellow Trident Booksellers and Cafe community members. Things seem to be heading in a good direction. No news as of yet. Mike is still here, helping with training or transition, no one’s sure, yet. But things feel good.

Update: Via Carolanne:

Hello Folks,

Thank you so much for contributing your gentle and passionate reminders on the value of Mike Smith at the Trident Cafe. Some of us had a meeting tonight with the current owners, Ashkon and Noah. Since the meeting was rather sudden, Mike was not there. We plan on meeting with Mike in the near future. Noah will take up the role as general manager in a weeks time. Mike will be working in the Trident this week. Please drop by and say hello to Mike. Ann has a community journal in progress behind the book desk.

As Ashkon and Noah explained it, despite the respect that all of these men share for one another they

could not come to an agreement on the direction of the Trident into the future. Noah and Ashkon feel that the Trident’s economic survival is dependent on Noah and Ashkon implementing their ideas with out Mike who seems resistant to them. Both Ashkon and Noah seem very hopeful and willing that Mike come back to the Trident in some capacity in the future.

We all wish that there was a way that Mike would be able to remain in place at the Trident. That is not going to happen. I look forward to speaking with Mike to understand his thinking on the

trident cafe boulder "no cell phones"change.

Noah, Shawhin (he has the contacts for younger Trident folks)  and I will keep in touch as the Trident moves forward. Your emails made a huge difference to both Ashkon and Noah in re enforcing our desire to keep Mike as an active force in the Trident. Unfortunately, Noah did receive some counter productive hateful emails, but the ones focused on our support of Mike shone through.

Please forward this on to anyone who has been involved in this process.

I hope we all can show our spirit of generosity to Ashkon and particularly, Noah in hopes that he proves to be a welcome addition to Mike’s continuing contribution.

~ Carolanne


Via my discussion with Daniel Gritz (finally, someone willing to go on record), another perspective to round things out more.

“Waylon: not to be a hater, but there is some significant factors in the Trident sale that seem to have been overlooked in perspective. Trident has an opportunity to be a Phoenix—same bird, new life.

I appreciate all sentiments in favor of Mike Smith. He has run that joint for a long time. Nearly all his employees would admit he has been something of a father figure, including myself.
One thing that is [relevant] is the fact that a handful of employees in the business have been there 15 years without ever seeing a raise. While it is not public information as to who will be taking a leadership role in the business, it would appear that some people are finally going to be rewarded for their hard work and dedication.
Also, the ownership of that company has never been able to agree on one thing in over 15 years. I feel like the stubbornness of too many strongly opinionated owners has prevented any positive development in the Trident.
While one of the greatest things about the Trident is that its never changes, it will have to to compete in the downtown marketplace. I feel confident that the ownership and future management will appreciate the balance between respecting the Trident as the age-old icon it is, and blowing a fresh gust through the place in a way everyone knows is right.
Let’s be clear, we all love Mike Smith and have a tremendous amount of respect for him, but if he can’t come to terms with handing over the reins to his children/heirs then why did he lead in the first place?”
Via Mike’s stepson, whom he raised, Robert, a best friend of mine:
“Hey brother. I know there has been some mixed feelings around the Mike/Trident situation. These are my thoughts if you feel they may ease some people.I was lucky enough to grow up with Mike and call him my father. I’m 33 years old and Mike has worked at the Trident for 32 of those years…He raised me in his house. He raised my older brother, and he is the blood father to my sister.
I spent my enter childhood being taught right from wrong by this man. Over the years, one of the lovely things I’ve heard from many people who worked at the Trident was how Mike was (and still is) like a father they never had. Being his live-in, day-in and day-out son through my teens, I always took pride in knowing that his teachings and wisdom had a proper place to be given beyond our doors. Our family comes from a lineage of students and teachers.The Trident has always been a beautiful place for people to work, earn money, and has had a wonderful elder at the ship’s head, guiding people to be mindful, direct, and most importantly kind.
With that said, the hardship of the situation is painful, to say the least. This is clearly a strange time and some adjusting will need to take place. I know people in the community are sad right now. I know this is a change that will affect the community and that is obviously sad.
But I think it’s important to say that in all the wonderful teachings I’ve received from my father Mike, it is most imperative in this time that we all walk with grace. Hold our minds. Be polite. Smile if you have to.
This is where we are. We have a choice to be kind even in the darkest of times. Yes, this is unarguably an end of an era.
But it’s also the opening for a new one. We as a community know how to take care of one another. Let’s remember to do that.
To all of the people who have expressed their love and sorrows for the situation and have shared stories; as one of Mike’s three children I’d like to thank you.
Mike is an amazing person, teacher, poet, father… And I, among many others, will always be grateful for the amazing time at the Trident he taught, worked, joked, played, philosophized, and then joked some more. And I promise, as his son, Mike will be just fine.
Long live the Trident! It will always be a great place.” ~ Robert Mann


Update: Petition! “I hereby request that Noah, who’s a smart, capable guy, do the right thing and re-partner with Mike Smith, the longtime heart and spine of the Trident Booksellers and Cafe, allowing Mike to captain the ship day to day, and that Mike allow Noah as general to make needed improvements to help Trident compete and improve long-term in a crowded cafe and rapidly evolving bookstore business environment.

The Trident is more than a business—it’s a community center for Boulder and all those who love Boulder. It is our role to help make this right.

We will do our part by patronizing and supporting the Trident for years to come. Do the right thing.”

Share this on your Wall, like this, or best email Noah (a brother who I’ve grown up with, good guy) a respectful note (no aggression, which is counter-productive) to Trident Cafe & Booksellers <trident @ indra . com>

Do you have a friend who loves the Trident but doesn’t use FB? Get them this email address.

NOTE: All shares and emails need to happen in the next three days. The idea for this peaceful fun campaign is not mine, but that of several of the many who would like to see the Trident continue to embody community for another generation. ~ Waylon Lewis


Note: I’m still talking with members of the Trident, and learning more. So this story is not as accurate as it could and should be. Mark Inman, in particular, and I have been trying to connect for a few days. It’s important that this story come out in a constructive way. It’s wrong, how Mike is leaving. But Noah, the new principal owner, is skilled and caring and has done his mindful best in every way other than with Mike, and that’s a tough situation–again, no new owner can tell Mike what to do in the Trident. This article will be updated as I get more information.


Update: add a comment below for Mike, or the Trident generally, or leave a favorite memory or anecdote of a moment at the Trident that changed your life. I think it’d mean something to Mike. ~ ed.

Mike Smith is Trident, she said, today.

He’s leaving. He asked me to say nothing publicly a few days back, and I have respected his wishes, but the news broke this evening, so I’ll report. When we talked the other day he bowed his head and cried. To see a strong gentleman like Mike cry in defeat, as he incorrectly called it, is heartbreaking.

I say incorrectly because he has served with honor, and neither victory nor defeat can touch true service with honor.

It’s deeply sad: the Trident is one of the legacy cafes of America. It goes back 35 years. It served espresso to a nation that drank old black lukewarm coffee. It has a big beautiful new and used book store. The baristas are friends, the bright spot of my day. It hosts events, poetry, movies. It’s been the vortex for love affairs, breakups, business connections…it’s been far more to connecting people than Facebook ever could be. It’s a pilgrimage spot for those who have left Boulder.

The Trident was sold five years ago, and though I had no money I do have connections and was able to help two investment groups organize, which helped save it from a brokerage that promised to fire the staff and Mike “first thing.” My friends put offers out there and delayed the process to the point where ownership instead transitioned to three new owners, two of them also Buddhist (not that it matters, but the place is connected to lineage, it is more than a retail shop), who joined Mike in ownership.

And so Mike continued to run the place, day to day, with humor, an urgent sense of tough love, a love for tea and decorum, networking me and countless patrons, clearing tables and dusting in spare moments, talking and listening…his precision and odd caring for all of us…he’s been a father to me. And many others, I know.

I heard a rumor a few months ago it was on the block, again. I immediately emailed the owner who was thinking of selling, and said I’d be happy to once again put together a group to offer to purchase and protect and improve the Trident, and keep Mike’s role there, as this place is a living institution, the heart of my Boulder, and many others. The owner denied any interest in selling.

Since Ozo cafe moved in, a block away, money has been tight. Profits and patrons leaked away. The Trident still did well, breaking even. It had fought of 30 years of cafes, chains, indie shop moving in close by.

Since hearing the news of the sale of Trident and forced departure of Mike, I’ve met with 1) Mike, 2) the former owner who just sold, and 3) the new owner, a Dharma Brother who has all the right ideas and understandably doesn’t fancy the idea of telling Mike what to do. No one could, least of all inside of the Trident.

So Mike’s gone. At 60, bought out and out of a job. He needs a break–he’s taken 3 days off in 30 years, or something. So that’s good. But the manner of his departure is heart-breaking–it’s akin to seeing a still-mighty buck downed by young bucks. The Trident, which stands for tradition, will change. It will improve. It needs to improve. The women’s bathroom should be moved. Storage could be moved downstairs. The bar could be sped up considerably, which would bring the profits back. The patio could be among the best in Boulder.

But it also needs to remain the same, for that is part of what is special about it.


The Trident as we know it has just died. Mike was and is the Trident, as one of his loyal employees said to me today. The last time I saw the employee, a few days ago, this employee was crying. I learned why the next day and said nothing until now. I tried within minutes to organize a new purchasing group—several came forward immediately—this community wants to protect the Trident—and we still may invest if invited to do so. I’d be happy to pay somewhat more than it’s worth for the whole thing (I would make sure my investors got their money back, and then some). But if not, either way, I’d like to be a part of the Trident’s next generation. I don’t want to fall out of love with it. I can’t function without it. My job is incredibly anti-social; I stare at screens 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yes, that’s horrible. But I do so in the Trident, often, and the baristas, community, friends there uplift me out of my own stress. I am just one of many who feels such gratitude: The Trident has this kind of central role in many people’s lives, here.

I’m so grateful to Mike, and his family. I grew up having dinner with them–his sons were my best friends.

Mike deserves far better than this. I’ve reached out without his knowing or asking, because he wouldn’t want me to, he’s so proud and modest, simultaneously–to find him a job that uses his incredible community leadership skills. I’ve offered him one, too, and I mean it and elephant needs it. The Trident has birthed and maintained elephantjournal.com and what we’ve become through 11 long, hard, sad, joyful years.

Many of us are so sad right now.

Mike Smith Kyudo

 Mike practicing kyudo, or meditation in action.


Bob Dylan – Shelter From The Storm from Rolling Thunder Bard on Vimeo.


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51 Responses to “Updates: The Trident Café & Booksellers: Mike Smith & End of an Era?”

  1. Noa says:

    When Tara went off to Nepal, when we were 16, she introduced me to Mike and I was given her job. I worked there for two years as a dishwasher. Whenever I hear Sade, (sweetest taboo) it brings me back to those busy Saturdays dunking white cups in the bleached dishwater, eating day old muffins, downing way more coffee than was healthy. I was Christine then. Joaquin was there and David. I had no parents, lived alone near the Diagonal, so Trident was a place I looked forward to. I was a terrible employee. When I went back a few years ago, no one remembered me.

  2. Frank says:

    The Trident was this magical place where nothing was familiar. I was challenged to hangout with all these "cool" people who had me so curious. There was Steve, Chris, Peter, Susan, Paul, Jackie, Mica, Beth, Jenny, Quimby, so many others whose names I forget. The Trident was the place I came out gay. It represented the bigger world with it's copies of Interview magazine and the New York Times. I fell in love with poets from Naropa. It's really sad to read about the end of something so important in my own life. Things do change all the time, but usually nobody tells me when it is happening. This one, I am witness to. It's the end of a magical moment in my life. I wish Mike the best, I remember sometimes he would notice me and give me the smallest smile. That was a big deal for this little fag from Boulder High. It's sad.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Wow. It is continuing, but yes it is the end of an era: Mike is the discipline and heart and caring and small smile behind Trident.

  3. Paul says:

    wow Waylon. You said it so beautifully and thoughtfully. Thank you. And thank you for your motivation to help purchase the Trident. It really is a special place. What a gift Mike's care has been. A living organism, a community. May the thread of dignity and warmth, the heart of the Trident permeate this transition. Here is a quote of Dzongzar Khyentse's regarding the Khatvanga or Trident in Vajrayana Buddhism. Maybe it will be inspirational in some sense.

    "In a metaphorical sense, the khaṭvāṅga is also an attribute of a wanderer. It symbolises the practice of a wanderer: a tantric practice whereby the world is always looked on as a strange world, as though it were a place never before encountered. It is as if it is your very first time to visit this earth. In short, having the attitude of a wanderer is also similar to being someone with no food, no mat, no Lonely Planet book in your bag; let alone credit-cards, or a mobile phone to call home with. And as tantric practitioners, it is quite important that you always try to develop the attitude of a wanderer in looking at the world." taken from RIgpa wiki

  4. sherri says:

    Why does Mike have to leave the Trident? Mike is such an amazing person he will prosper in due time wherever he goes. Mike is such a hard working human and has trained everyone who works in the shop, so in a way parts of him will shine through the employees. I love the place and want it to thrive, do not want it to change for the worse, and hope that any new management and owners are wise enough to not change certain aspects. Must say that forcing someone out who has been so devoted for so long is uncool (to word it very tamely), it seems to be an unethical move. The place is a community and Mike is a cultivating force and serves a central role and many integral functions there. Aside from that, he is just an awesome person to be around- thoughtful, intelligent, level-headed, sincere, endearingly awkward timing, cultured, caring, funny, professional, aesthetically attentive, and strangely lacking a definitive age. Good job at being human Mike- you are one of my favorite people, I wish I won you in the dad lottery 32 years ago. You are one of the people that makes Boulder a livable place, holding down the fort so the city doesn’t float away. I hope you open a tea shop. I know a lot of people who would love to drink tea with you more often. Love and Support to you.

  5. elephantjournal says:

    There's hundreds of comments re this on Instagram and Facebook about this. Would be nice for memories to be shared here by patrons, past and present–please do so, if inspired.

    • MBVECO says:

      It's unfortunate that what should be a moment to praise and thank Mike for what he brought to Trident seems to have been hijacked by a "he was forced out" narrative – a narrative that is overly simplistic – and a petition which assumes that the people involved haven't already been talking these issues out for many years.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Many people are wondering if Mike and Noah could come to some sort of understanding. Noah and I discussed this and I understand it's hard for Noah to make changes with Mike there. But, too, I know that Mike wanted to make many improvements, he just is already working as hard as he could. So it could be a good partnership!

    From Theo:

    Theo Horesh Here is a petition I sent to Waylon to post at Elephant after revisions. Perhaps you have a few too.

    As patrons and members of the Trident Cafe, we ask the new management of the Trident to recognize that without the community of daily patrons there is no Trident Cafe.

    The Trident simply could not survive in the highly competetive market of Boulder coffee shops without the scores of people who treat the Trident as a home away from home. It is an ecosystem of human relationships, many of which have been built up over decades. It is the complexity of these human relationships and networks that makes the Trident magic. And we believe, it is precisely these human relationships that might make investing in the Trident appealing to a sensitive entrepreneur, who wanted to profit through the nurturance of something that matters.

    The Trident is central to the identity of Boulder, and it has often drawn to it the people most identitifed with making Boulder a better place to live. To tamper with the Trident community is to bring a sense of threat to many of the people who believe the strongest in Boulder. To invite the frustrations and mistrust of the Trident community is to degrade the Trident brand in the larger Boulder community. Without any conscious intent on the part of any Trident patrons, this will hurt sales.

    Central to this community is the Trident staff and central to the staff is the manager, Mike Lee. The community that has grown up within and around the Trident is a community that would not exist without their dedication and hard work. As in any community, there is much to criticize in the Trident, much that many of us would like to change. So it would be easy to enter into the community believing oneself able to improve upon it by cutting some of its staff. But firing the most central figure in such an intricate web of relations tears at the fibers that make the community strong.

    We ask that as the new management of the Trident, you press pause, temporarily reverse any personnel decisions you have made, inquire amongst patrons what they would like to see from a new Trident management, and openly explore with Mike and the staff, through the guidance of a facilitator of your choice, how you might work together to make the greatest coffee shop many of us have experienced even better. There are numerous win-win scenarios that do not maintain the status quo but do not surgically alter the community in such an aggressive way. In an age in which dictators are regularly toppled for autocratic behavior, in which political parties are often run from the ground up, and where corporate brands constitute an ever larger portion of their market share, we strongly suggest you begin your tenure as a member of the community and not as a foreign autocrat. The change we are seeing can constitute an ugly trauma or a beautiful process of transformation. We invite you to choose the later.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Joze: Mike let me spend an afternoon/evening selling raffle tickets at a front table for the Kelly Lee Phipps fundraiser. He was kind and generous and sent good wishes and prayers to Kelly. I wish him well and I know wherever he goes he will bring the value that he has to it. Thanks Mike; you are a good human.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Heather: I appreciate your personal input, and full acknowledgement of the situation. I am still hoping that things can change without Mike having to leave completely. I joked about creating a petition to keep him there, because I think everyone can agree that his presence is something that makes the place so special; I think that no matter what physical changes come about in the beloved space, there should always be room for the Mike as well. Noah needs to be aware of how devastating of an impact it will be if he tries to push Mike out fully….I am still holding out that a compromise can be reached, and the change can come without losing the heart of the Trident Booksellers and Cafe

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Sophie: Oh Waylon, my heart just broke when I read this. Mike was a pillar of strength and guidance for me when I "moved in" next door at UO. Can you pm me with more details on what's been happening?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Waylon: Heather, I hope so. I don't know of any way that would happen, but if Noah could effect all the great changes he talked about while leaving Mike to run the store day to day, that could be an amazing partnership.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Alia: Thank you so much for writing this Waylon! And for the behind-the-scenes work you have done/are doing to keep the Trident going. It really feels like my home in Boulder! I can't imagine what my life would have been like for all those years without it! And Mike is a big part of that. Sending appreciation from Boston and will be on the lookout for anything I can do. There is certainly no coffee shop that can compare on this side of the country….

  11. sandrafish says:

    wow, this makes me so so sad… i remember first talking to Mike as a reporter at the Camera almost 20 years ago… then i'd occasionally stop by to see the coffee klatch that revolved around former Camera sports editor Dan Creedon, who sadly died almost a year ago.

    i've had some great conversations with Mike about journalism, politics and the world, but not nearly enough. he's a wonderful man.

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Ian: I do not want to picture Pearl without The Trident. I've bought most of my art book collection there since '91. When I got out of prison it was the first place I came to in Boulder to feel home again.

  13. Andy says:

    The Trident is the essence of the Boulder I fell in love with.

  14. Scott Rockbear says:

    Trident is the ONLY coffee house I will drive 30 miles to get a cup of coffee or tea from.

    And I do that at least once a month. I am hoping that the atmosphere, the feel, the peace of this incredible community continues. I would be sad to see it go. Change can be good, but we need to maintain some of the old essence,the old spirit. Please keep that in mind when any changes ar contemplated.

  15. Lis says:

    Waylon, many thanks for your beautiful piece and for creating a place for people to share their thoughts about what's happened.
    I have been a regular for 30 years now and I am stunned and sick at heart to hear that Mike is being forced out of such a special community that he nurtured for so much of his life. While I certainly don't know the whole story here, I am with many people in feeling like something very wrong has happened. One thing that draws people to the Trident is the sense that it is about people and relationships. To imagine that someone who has given so much life and heart to the place can be just tossed out seems impossible. Change and growth is surely not incompatible with compassion, decency, and respect.
    I cried when I read Waylon's lovely tribute. The gorgeous picture of Mike said it all.

  16. Anon says:

    Throughout my time working at Trident I had often wished there were a chronicle of its' life and times so that the outside world could witness firsthand how uniquely special a place it truly is. From the outside it might seem like a quaint coffeeshop and bookstore tucked into the far west end of downtown Boulder. It might seem like a cozy space to read a classic work of literature or even a place to write one. A place to meet friends and talk about politics, philosophy, or art. About the baby that's on the way, or the loved one recently departed. About adventures that still harbor the taste of prepackaged plane peanuts, or adventures still incubating with each sip of some tea you can't quite pronounce the name of. It might be a place to sit alone and think clearly while surrounded by the chaos of garbled chatter and grinding espresso beans, or a place to shed tears of laughter over tales recounted by an old friend seen far too infrequently. It's a place that has touched the lives of many. Some for only as long as it takes to order a cappuccino, others for over 30 years.

    But although Trident is all of these things, Trident is also none of these things. For me, for scores of people who have worked here, and for hundreds of people who have passed through its doors, Trident is one man. One man who has for over 30 years dedicated his life to this place and these people. Our deepest gratitude for all that you have done doesn't say enough, and our deepest regret for your untimely departure says far too little. Thank you for everything you have done as manager of Trident for all these years, but more importantly, thank you for showing how much you care about us, day in and day out.

  17. Cait says:

    I’m still new to Boulder and Trident. When we moved here, most of the local coffe shops surprised me. Sleek, over-designed, self-conscious. Not what I thought we’d find here. Whichever communities meet there, they didn’t appeal to me. Without yet knowing the manager’s name, the shop’s history, or anything about the regulars beyond their faces, I feel at home at Trident. It’s the kind of place I looked forward to finding in an intellectual town. It fills a niche that’s otherwise surprisingly empty, surprisingly hidden by Boulder’s other identities. I have no way to know if new owners wish to preserve Trident’s vibe. I hope they do. Nor can I know if the person you admire is crucial to it. If he doesn’t return, I hope not.

  18. Katie says:

    I've tried several times to come up with a fitting tribute to Mike, but I don't have the writing skill. So instead I'll make a list:
    1.He taught us there is integrity and purpose, even (or especially) in washing dishes.
    2.Even when he came down on us, he did it in a way that helped us grow. (And we ALWAYS deserved it when we got a chewing out).
    3. Taught us how to chop wood and keep the fire going, essential skills
    4. Let us be ourselves as long as we still worked hard
    5. Became a substitute father for those of us with crappy male role models

    I could go on, just know Mike that there are hundreds of former dishwashers out there who respect you and will miss you at the Trident.

  19. Bryce Navin says:

    If I may weigh in on what's happening at the Trident, I'd like to mention that one of the main tenants of Buddhism (which, for better or for worse, is something that most patrons of the above mentioned business ascribe to) is impermanence. While the Trident has been an institution in Boulder for decades it is foolish to think that a changing of the guard will in some way undermine Mike Smith's impact on the community at large. Do we expect this person to continue scrubbing floors on his hands and knees at the age of 70? 80? 90? Smith's influence on this city will last for a very long time, but the cafe itself is more than just one man. I hope that Mike finds happiness and success in anything he chooses to do and I hope that the Trident itself continues to flourish and serve. I am optimistic for its future and have nothing for respect for the staff and former staff.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Impermanence does not excuse bad manners, as Sue mentioned to me, today.

      Also, impermanence is natural—and the natural world sees fit for the Flatirons to exist for 1000s of years. Would you build a mansion on top of them, and say, "Change happens, whatever?"

      Mike will leave, but he is still only 60, and has years of service and passion left in him. He should leave through training and passing on a baton, not being forced out.

  20. Bryce Navin says:

    Knowing Mike Smith, as I'm sure you do, can you envision a scenario in which he would leave willingly and gracefully? I for one, cannot. Also, I'm not sure how much force was exercised here, as I was not present at any of the conversations or meetings that ensued prior to his ouster. The circumstances that lead to Mike's exit are largely speculation to those of us who weren't intimately involved.

    • elephantjournal says:

      He could stay as captain, with another owner who wanted to help make improvements. Noah himself is not going to day-to-day manager. Why do you assume he must leave?

      It is not speculation on my part: if you read my article, I don't need to repeat that I've had long conversations with all involved parties: Suter, Noah, Mike, as well as further emails. I've also offered to make any corrections. You're welcome to your point of view, which seems fixed.

  21. james says:

    To whom it may concern, the entity “Trident” is just that. An essential keystone in the supportive structure of a vast community with not only roots in the Dharma community but the underlying fabric of Boulder and extended communities. As the roots of an aspen tree are adjoined with others to make an entire forest one; the symbolism and existence of Trident is similar.

    What you have in your hands right now is an opportunity to continue this legacy, to facilitate the growth and evolution of something truly unique and sustaining which is needed now more than ever in our community and communities at large.

    Please think about this.

    Many Blessings!

  22. elephantjournal says:

    Via Kiri Westby, a lifelong acquaintance, colleague, sangha member.

    To start with, a disclaimer: My name is Kiri Westby, I'm an activist and a blogger who's written for Elephant Journal over the years. I'm also a Buddhist, who practically grew up at the Trident, and the new Principal Owner, Noah, is my brother. But these are my thoughts and reactions, not his (in fact, I'll probably get a phone call later asking me to stop commenting online about this!).

    A couple of things about this article are troublesome.

    First of all, Noah and his partner Ashkan are not new owners of the Trident, "coming in and pushing Mike out" as many of the commenters above seem to believe. They have been working alongside Mike as co-owners for more than five years and there have been many hours of negotiations, offers on the table, and proposals about how to make the Trident more profitable. This wasn't a brash or underhanded move, and while there may have been a lot of strong emotions and disagreements, everyone has been heard, given respect and a voice. So I'm not sure why Mike is being depicted as such a victim in this piece?

    Secondly, I don't think it helps the longevity and future community of the Trident to publish a piece that you have admitted, "is not as accurate as it could and should be." It feels inflammatory and reactive and has, in turn, set off a string of fears and assumptions that are simply not true and could do serious harm. Why not wait and publish a tribute piece to Mike and all that he has given our community, including the hopes that the Trident continues to thrive under it's new principal leadership? In the end, the only thing that is hurt is the reputation of the Trident and that hurts sales even worse. Yes, Mike is gone. It's a hard time of transition and some other small things are probably going to change. But the Trident isn't gone…at least not yet and, as pointed out above, there have been several times over the years when it easily could have been. Noah and his partners stepped in and saved it from brokerage five years ago and we should give them the benefit of the doubt that they will keep the magic alive after Mike. They are not outsiders, they are part of the Trident family and have been for a very long time.

    Can't we all just do our best to make The Trident better than ever, supporting some of the changes mentioned above, rather than condemn them before they begin? I should hope that for all it has given us, we could at least give it that fighting chance.

    My 2 cents,

    I'll address your concerns one by one, friend, since we are friends, you could have contacted me directly with any concerns. Or corrections. But you didn't. If anything I have stated is incorrect, let me know, I'm happy to fix. The misunderstanding you mention above is on the part of some of the public, not what I said above.

    This is not reactive, I waited a week and only published once the word was already spreading, full of confusion, out on Facebook. It is full of sadness, but not anger. I love Noah, as I say.

    I make it clear, above, that Noah and his partner have been partners, with Suter, for years.

    Noah's actions, not I, can hurt the reputation of the Trident.

    "Yes, Mike is gone." The Trident that we know and love can and should evolve, but without Mike, like any leader, the Trident we know and love will be gone. That is your husband's doing. He may do a lot of good things, too, that need to be done, as I acknowledge, above. As I also say above, I understand why it would be difficult to tell Mike what to dol, and, again, met with Noah before publishing this–instead of being reactive.

    I welcome Noah's work–he'll make great improvements. I don't welcome Mike being unceremoniously unseated.

    Mike is depicted as victim because he is out of a job. He is not a victim, however, he is a human and deserves to be treated as such.

    • I am under the impression that all of the partners have the Trident's best interest in mind. In speaking to Waylon and others, I don't view Mike as a victim. Simply as a man that wants to do the best job he can for an institution that he has lovingly attended to for much of his life. The Trident would exist in name only if Mike was not a part of it's future. I don't pretend to understand the events that led to this place, but I am gratified to see the hundreds of comments in various places from people hoping that there can be a less extreme outcome. This doesn't look like an us vs them senario. Just an outpouring of love and support for this gentle man and the institution that is dear to us all.

  23. Shawhin says:

    Beautiful note, Waylon. We’re so lucky to have your voice. So humbled to be surrounded by such cool folk.

    I don’t feel comfortable with a transition to an improved Trident. Here’s why: three years ago, after frequenting Boulder’s wonderful, newer cafes for a year, my wife and I stumbled into the Trident for the first time for a hot chocolate on a cool summer night. Nothing remarkable at first. We took the seat in the back of the café by the window that looks out into the yard. A group was playing Turkish fusion tunes in the back and people were dancing. There was something so magical about it. We’ve experienced magical moments in a few corners of the world, but something about that moment at the Trident was different. Anyhow, over the years, doing all my reading and writing at the Trident, I only found myself drawn deeper and deeper into its spell. Even the odor of the men’s room became something intentional in my musings to myself.

    The Trident and the people there are as close to a wonderful magical-ness as I’ve ever encountered. I’ve experienced how Mike’s intention has built the Trident into what it is. Without him, all that will be lost.

    I’m for improvement… but I don’t believe the Trident can be improved. The cool cafes I’ve experienced are not in the same league as the Trident. New bathrooms and a revamped, de-Miked Trident will relegate its magical world to just another cool café.

    Mike is magic and because of him, all our days at the Trident and our interactions there are magic. And I want to do whatever is in my power to do to keep Mike at the helm… until he decides it’s time to go.

    Right now, it’s not Mike’s time to go. I imagine when that time comes, we will all rejoice with him.

    Right now, it’s time to take action, and, I think, to help Noah and Ashkan make a better decision.

    So, respectfully, I vote against settling with the decision. I vote for mobilizing in as many avenues as we can.

    • elephantjournal says:

      I love that you and others, including myself, are working for open dialogue in the face of a few who call for less. Don't talk publicly, hush hush, move on, nothing to see here. You're a good man. We can all work this out to mutual benefit. We are a community.

  24. Kim Sproule Wright says:

    this truly breaks my heart. Mike at the Trident: it is one of the most consistent touchstones in my life. I worked there from 1989 until 1995 or thereabouts and Mike was instrumental in my personal growth along the Buddhist path but also simply in maturing and growing up and taking my place in the world. He taught me so much and has the most gentle heart and kindness I've known. if he teased you, it was a gift. you knew he liked you. and we all had that same simple wish–for Mike to like us. His compassion is enormous. I honestly hate to think of the Trident without him. My life has taken twists and turns but I could always show up again at the trident in my 20's, 30's now 40's and there is Mike– his presence at the Trident has given Boulder so much ground and depth. I hope you know Mike how incredibly important you are & have been to the fabric and culture of our Boulder community all these years. I wish you many many blessings and will miss being able to pop in on you whenever I want to remember who I am, where I've been and where I am. so much peace and love to you

  25. Arn Rasker says:

    This is very sad news. We all enjoyed Mike and his sense of humor. His attention to detail and his understanding of each and every customer and their interests and needs is a special quality. I know mike has been struggling with coffee issues since he was forced to sell the coffee that the new owners were producing when the ownership changed five years ago. It’s not an easy task to be in Mike’s shoes, and I hope the new ownership recognizes this and brings Mike back soon. I love the Trident, and have been a patron since the late 70’s. Mike is the single individual who deserves credit for keeping the social atmosphere at the Trident consistent and exceptional over the past decades. I very much hope the new owners will swallow their pride, and sit down and work things out with Mike. It would be a worthwhile effort, and might result in a stronger relationship than they could ever gain by throwing in a replacement. Mike will be a tough act to follow…why not give him an encore instead?

  26. Sarkis Love says:

    I LOVE the Trident…It has been a supremely magical place for me, a sanctuary, my home in Boulder no matter what was happening in my life. I just left Boulder (after 15 years!) 2 days ago to move to California, and Trident was the last place I went before I left town…My heart and prayers go out to Trident in this time of transition, to Mike, and to all the staff who've served all of us over the years…

  27. elephantjournal says:

    I'm getting some heat and anger from those connected with Noah, whom I respect and like, for posting the above. Here's my response:

    I’ve offered to correct anything that’s incorrect.

    I have as already said talked with Mike, Suter, and Noah.

    Noah is not a villain. I know that. Anyone who’s sane knows that. There is a lot of emotion, and that’s a testament to the power of the Tridnet and Mike’s role there.

    I have no desire for anyone to send Noah mean emails—that’s not productive or kind or accurate. I asked folks specifically not to.

    I’m happy to make any changes to anything, I don’t enjoy writing this stuff. If Noah or his family would like to write their own perspective, I’ll link and feature it on elephant—I haven’t featured this post about the Trident except on my personal FB wall, pretty much, so happy to give Noah's reply and thoughts and perspective more attention.

    I do think Mike leaving this way is not the right thing, but I have sympathy for Noah's role and I like his ideas for changes and I like him as a human being.

    Important: I waited a full week until publishing, though I supposedly do journalism, and real journalism would have broken the news a week earlier. I waited out of respect for Noah's request, and Mike’s request, and as I’ve already said in what I wrote, I only published anything once I saw confusion already breaking out on Facebook.

    Much of Trident's staff has come forward and said what I’ve reported above is not only accurate but heartbreakingly so. I take no pride in that and am happy to change anything that is inaccurate. I’d like a happy ending for all here. Let’s do it.

  28. Shawhin says:

    more thoughts on rejecting the decision… as put in an email to trident @ indra:

    Dear Noah, Ashkan, and co,

    Fiends: I write to ask you to reconsider your decision regarding Mike. I'm not privy to details behind the decision, but, as I'll struggle to articulate, I don't think that matters.

    The Trident means a tremendous amount to a considerable number of people. The source of that meaning is, unequivocally, Mike. Without Mike, regardless of the best designed improvements, the Trident will loose the meaning that it has patiently built since it's founding.

    The Trident is an institution in Boulder–that much is obvious to you, I'm sure. I believe that it is a national and a global institution too. It represents a rarest breed of cultural space that cannot be encapsulated in the typologies of bookseller or cafe. The Trident is as powerful and meaningful an institutions as a temple, at least in as much as it profoundly touches the lives of those who interact with it. (As someone who make's his living studying the social meanings of space and place and the contemporary transformation of cities, I am out there enough to really believe this.) I see people from Boulder and visitors from abroad whose lives are deeply touched at the Trident by Mike directly (through conversation, say) or indirectly through the ethos he's imbued the Trident and its staff with.

    Asking Mike to leave the Trident is a bad call on the order of bad-call-ishness of decisions to destroy museums and temples (the more formally recognized institutions of culture) that have occurred throughout history. You are tampering with something that serious! And if that sounds too crazy to take seriously, consider the more tangible thought that you would be dismantling Boulder's last such cultural institution.

    Inasmuch as the Trident is a regionally, nationally, and globally unique place, and inasmuch as Mike is the force behind the Trident being what it is, I would offer that the decision about Mike should not be in our hands, as such.

    So… I urge you to imagine and then consider rejecting the feeling of inevitability of your decision. (And Mike and co, I wonder if you too might consider rejecting the inevitability of the decision.)

    I've heard the process cannot be reversed. That's not true: while the Trident is as big and cosmically significant as I'm arguing it is, the process behind changing the decision is manageable and doable.

    please reconsider your decision regarding Mike,
    a customer

  29. TrideUltra says:

    I'd love to see the Trident turn around and thrive – especially with Mike back at it if he wants to be, as he wants to be.

    I think a *HUGE* part isn't blaming Ozo, but seeing change for what it is. Ozo has TONS of power strips. Maybe the romanticized Trident doesn't have room for unromantic reality that sometimes you or your device(s) need some electron flow…but I'd suggest this has a lot more to do with cash flow than one might think. It's not rocket science.

    Mike or not, install some power, watch the occupancy spike (by people willing to pony up for some caffeine to get their electrons flowing).

    • elephantjournal says:

      Ah, no one's blaming Ozo for being awesome at what it does. That it's a block away is a bit intense, I wouldn't have done so in their position, but I get it, it's Pearl Street. 🙂 The great thing about competition and challenge is it should wake us up and inspire us to improve further, which often involves not change for sake of change, but become more fully and wonderfully ourself.

  30. Heidi Bickelhaupt says:

    I have been part of the Trident family for many years. I had a severe injury last July, which has kept me out of work. The Trident community has been there to support me from day one. The level of compassion and enduring integrity that Mike Smith has instilled within us all is very much like a lesson from a teacher to well learned student. In the same frame of thought I believe that the legacy of the Trident is and will continue to stay vibrant and true to these teachings through our actions towards each other within the community. As progress and change are inevitable in regard to the economy (especially in Boulder), it is natural that the Trident would undergo a transformation as well. I have an exceeding level of confidence that the community and internal structure of the Trident will continue on with the resolve to provide decency, intellectual and spiritual elevation and kindness in the time that is approaching. These things are the legacy of the Trident. These things are stronger in each of us because of the Trident and will continue to be as the lessons have been well instructed and well learned. Oh and yes…. I love you Trident!

  31. Paul says:

    I have lived in Boulder from 1974 I was born and grew up in Boulder; I frequented the Trident often it is a lovely place. What I realize is that this spot is bigger than just one man. I understand the effect that Mike had on the Trident but it was all of Boulders long time residence and Trident supports that made the Trident what it is today. I have meet and known Mike over the years and know how passionate he is about the Trident, so much so that he many times refused to consider or even discuss changes to the beloved coffee house he worked in. Mike many times would deny any changes that would help the Trident financially or in a ease of use way or anyway really. As a longtime patron of the Trident I would love to see it stay the same but change must come to keep it alive, alas when there is no room for change, no compromise to be made, there is an impasse. I know from my own personal conversations with some of those involved that Mike has been offered a number of compromises over the years to better the Trident and he has always stood by his stanch stance of not changing, and though I respect and appreciate him I want the Trident to stay and prosper. If Mike was willing to make changes I am sure he could have stayed but in the end it was his decision not to stay for, he seemingly could not abide by any coming changes. It is hard to understand but for me I want the Trident to continue and the grim fact is without change it is no more and for me, Mike or no Mike I want the Trident in its spot, not to be lost to Boulder because it one man could not change. Change is the world. How are we going to change? With or without the Trident, for it will be without Mike because he has decided to go, it is a loss but hopefully this sweet piece of Boulder history will remain.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Missed this. Sorry not to have been there, I might have expected or hoped for a text or phone call or email, but…glad you all had a nice meeting.

      And thanks for the emails, brother–looks like we'll all meet soon.

  32. Jan Kabili says:

    Mike is a special person who has made the Trident what it is–a community. Mike, please don't go!

  33. NDFootball says:

    Mike is more than a manager. He's the Trident's household deity.

  34. melanie says:

    Going to the Trident without Mike being there would not be going to the Trident. It is pretty much that simple.

  35. dan says:

    The number one thing that created the loss of business and current situation at the Trident – the espresso and coffee sucks. Many long-time customers left well before the the appearance of Ozo, and this problem has now gone on for years. The problem was brought up directly and repeatedly with the owners. Please don't tell me about "Boxcar" and "flavor profiles". Mike was getting it done with Allegro years ago, setting the standard. I would suggest using Ozo as your yardstick in taste and also speed of service, keep the rocking teas which is all Mike's doing and the beautiful vibe. Get a toaster, get modern pastry/display cases, TWO machines- sell the best and quit being loyal to crappy suppliers. The bathrooms can wait on a bit of cash flow later. Just think of how Zen-like it will all be when everything else just follows!

  36. Linda says:

    Our coffee klatch has met daily at the Trident for 30+ years. That's 11,000 days of enjoying the many kindnesses of Mike Smith, the heart and soul of the cafe and bookstore. That's also 11,000 days of patronizing this business from a group of about 35, whose attendance would vary depending on the day. These previously loyal customers are trying to decide on alternative venues. Thank you, Mike, for making Boulder a better place for all of us, cliched but true.

    • Shawhin says:

      oh noooooo, not you guys too (tears)… I, silent groupie of the coffee klatch will be even more devastated (hard to imagine) without you guys there… IDEA: let's recruit Mike to the coffee klatch!!! Holy sh.., that's genius. Make Mike a mandatory presence at the Trident… every morning from 6:30… his drinks on me.

  37. Trident says:

    Dear friends, family and community,
    We are writing to acknowledge that recent events and changes to the Trident Booksellers and Café are taking place. One of these changes is in the ownership structure of the business. Noah Westby, the new majority owner, has assumed the role of general manager. Mike Smith will continue to help with this transition and work within the Trident into the future. As we work through this transitional time we ask only for your patience and continued support so that we can move forward that preserves the tradition of the Trident while finding ways to meet the challenges of these times. The love and outpouring of concern from friends, family and community has been touching and deeply supportive.
    Thank you,
    Noah Westby
    Mike Smith
    Staff of the Trident

  38. Shawhin says:

    @ Linda: oh noooooo, not you guys too (tears)… I, silent groupie of the coffee klatch, will be even more devastated (hard to imagine) without you guys there… IDEA: let's recruit Mike to the coffee klatch!!! Holy sh.., that's genius. Make Mike a mandatory presence at the Trident… every morning from 6:30… his drinks on me. I'm willing to fight for the right to buy his drinks for the rest of time.

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