Mugful of Memories:

Mugs Café and the Alumnus Who Brought a Unique Flavor to Fort Collins
The front entrance to Mugs at CSU in Fort Collins, Sep 9. Mugs at CSU is opened everyday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m..
The front entrance to Mugs at CSU in Fort Collins, Sep 9. Mugs at CSU is opened everyday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m..
Sophia Stern

In 2002, a senior at Colorado State University, McCabe Callahan, opened Mugs, a cafe that would later become a CSU and Fort Collins Landmark. In the spring of 2001, Callahan had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy, where he was first introduced to the internet cafes and the cafe culture that are so vibrant in Europe. 


Back in Fort Collins, he was working at the Wired Bean, where everyone had to plug their computers into the wall, as there was no wireless internet. Following his worldly travels, Callahan wasn’t sure of what he wanted to do, but the idea of opening a cafe was beginning to grow within him.


Shelves sit at the entrance of Mugs, filled with merch and other objects, Sep 9. Along with their merch, Mugs sells other goodies such as stickers, handmade mugs, coasters and more from local stores around Fort Collins. (Sophia Stern)

“Seeing the coffee scene and the community it creates, I just wanted to create a place of my own where everyone could come and hang out and gather,” Callahan said. Mugs opened in 2002 as the first wireless internet cafe in Fort Collins.



McCabe’s wife, Marli Callahan, also attended CSU and graduated in 2004, two years after McCabe. Marli was working at the ever-popular Jeju Sushi while McCabe was working on Mugs at their then-only location in downtown Fort Collins. She worked at Mugs for a couple of years, but she and McCabe were both seeing other people at the time. She then moved back to Summit County, her hometown, and then to San Francisco for a year.


Marli returned to Fort Collins in 2008, and that is when McCabe and she began to date and were married in 2010. “She has been involved in Mugs since 2004… [and] deeply invested since 2008.” 


Opening Mugs had its fair share of roadblocks. 


Being 22 years old and opening a business is a hard thing to do. “You really don’t have the resources…I didn’t have the money to start Mugs,” Callahan said. “I signed up for a whole bunch of free credit cards, and I got a free T-shirt [too] for signing up on campus.”


“The hardest challenge to overcome was figuring out the financing in the beginning, but after doing it all, I don’t regret anything; it just took a while to climb out of that situation,” McCabe said. 


The window inside Mugs’ Laurel Street location Sept. 9. (Sophia Stern)

In 2007, McCabe hit rock bottom when he had to close his businesses and re-group. At this point, he only had the downtown location of Mugs and wasn’t planning on opening anymore until he was truly ready. 


Around this time, he heard of a building across from Danforth Chapel on South College,  coming on the market. After working only a few years in the downtown shop, he still needed funding to open a new location. 


One day he was talking to a customer behind the counter about wanting to open a shop next to CSU, and the customer responded, “I’d love to see another Mugs in town; I’ll throw in some money for you.” 


More and more customers started to chime in, and pretty soon he had a handful of people willing to chip in money to help open another Mugs. To McCabe, this was “a testament to the community coming together to support something they believed in.” Together, they helped make the Mugs CSU location a reality. 


Mugs was a “desire to do something fun” for McCabe and his friends. They just wanted something that could be a part of the community, and that has stayed true through all its years. 


“The staff is always kind, and they look forward to hearing about your day,” CSU student Ruthie Evilsizer said. “I enjoy getting to know everyone there, and the atmosphere is great for getting schoolwork done”.


“It’s really just about the people we gather together; our employees are our family…,” Callahan said. McCabe mentions how, when the cafe was started, everyone was the same age, so 


My favorite thing [about Mugs] is just having real, authentic, [and] raw conversations with people… just getting to know people over time.”

— McCabe Callahan


It felt like friends just hanging out. Now McCabe and Marli are more like the mom and dad of the shop.


“We still get to hang out with people, have fun, [and] share experiences…Together, together was always the big premise of Mugs, and so I think we are still honoring that,” Callahan said.


“I get breakfast about once a week there,” Fort Collins resident Kody Gelske said. “It’s a great atmosphere, and their sandwiches are honestly incredible”.


A Pumpkin Chai and Avocado toast on a table at Mugs Café, Sep 9. Mugs at CSU offers a variety of drinks along with both a breakfast and lunch menu, filled with food options for everyone. (Sophia Stern)

The cafe has a local art program that switches out every month, and ‘Mugs Market Place’, which features local artists who create jewelry and sell it at the shop. “My favorite thing [about Mugs] is just having real, authentic, [and] raw conversations with people… just getting to know people over time,” Callahan said. 


Whether it’s employees or customers, McCabe appreciates the authentic conversations he can have with people at Mugs and works to get past the “I’m doing good” conversations. Mugs recently celebrated Dan Bennet, who has been going to both locations for 20 years. They let him come into the shop, stopped the line, and let him come behind the counter and make his drink for the day. Bennett was even able to bring in all his friends and family, and they enjoyed free drinks for the day. 


Being able to create meaningful connections and give back to the community that helped him so much means the world to McCabe. “Having those relationships is definitely my favorite part,” Callahan said.


Mugs inspire us to continue growing these relationships throughout the years to come and to continue to remain ‘unplugged’.

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